[Member News] An Update on the Asian Trails Family
This CEO story is about the people who make Asian Trails what it is today: our employees. I would like to dedicate this article to the 450 Asian Trails staff. This is to say thank you for being part of the Asian Trails family in these difficult times and to tell my readers what colleagues have been doing during their work and free time.
Most of our employees have been operational on a fifty per cent work schedule and reduced salaries since 2020 and life has changed substantially for the majority. Working from home has been a challenge, with limited infrastructure in many of our countries of operation. Trying to balance work and family life has not been an easy task.
We have not only supported our employees financially, but also helped to look after their physical and mental well-being. Each country’s managing director has helped with tips and tricks on how to exercise and eat a healthy diet, on staying connected with colleagues and friends, on keeping busy and entertained, on developing new skills and also learning how to deal with social media and constant negative Covid-19 news.
We have a focused agenda on what objectives we want to achieve during these testing times. We never lose sight of our long-term objectives and our strategy, but steps to achieve our pre-defined goals have been adapted to ongoing situations. I always recommend a focus on small steps, even if these may seem inconsequential, since lots of small steps will bring us up the ladder to reach our targets. It is important to never stand still.
With our clients at the centre of everything we do, constant online communication remains critical. With a preference, we conduct this personally through one-on-one calls. We also continue with activities that improve our client’s knowledge of our destinations and products. We arranged webinars such as fun cooking classes and language lessons just to mention two examples. It is not just about keeping engaged on the business side of things, but also about simply keeping in touch.
A distinct focus at Asian Trails is the improvement of our technology and connectivity. Our teams are working hard on taking us to the next level of technology and there will be a lot of news on new developments in our newsletters next year.
Product improvement and the creation of new excursions and multi-day tours have kept our product teams busy. In line with our ‘Explore and Trails’ product philosophy, we look forward to welcoming customers to our improved themed Sustainability Trails, Family Trails, villa holidays and many other new and updated programmes. When our borders reopen, we will be operating new walking excursions with our partners Vox City Walk. These fun itineraries involve hop-on hop-off walking tours in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Hanoi and they include self-guiding options.
I am really proud that many of our employees used their free time to get involved in volunteer work. Covid-19 hit developed nations very hard and with limited help from most governments in South-East Asia and officials overwhelmed by their tasks, many private organisations took it upon themselves to help.
Our colleagues volunteered in many ways, such as organising logistics for Covid-19 isolation centres, finding oxygen and filling oxygen bottles through private sources, distributing food packages and donating clothes to the poor, organising and supporting activities at an orphanage, undertaking administration work at local councils, helping to connect medical teams with patients, donating items in short supply, assisting with a suicide awareness campaign and taking care of abandoned animals are just some of the selfless intervention activities.
Many employees acquired new skills and learning a new language proved popular among many. We organised English, French and Thai lessons in some offices and numerous staff took online courses in Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German and Italian. It was lovely to hear a Thai and a Vietnamese converse in Spanish and correct each other’s pronunciation: welcome to Asian Trails’ ASEAN friends meeting European languages!
Besides English lessons, we also organised classes in social media skills, as well as in geography and history. A passion for history inspired one of our employees to create a history Instagram account to share his love of old pictures and information on the kingdom of Solo/Surakarta.
Taking up new hobbies kept many of our employees happy and entertained. The most prominent one is probably cooking, since many wanted to improve their culinary skills. Baking bread and cakes also seems to have been popular, with home-baked fresh croissants regularly making their way into the office. Reading books was a favourite pastime for many who took the occasion to read a tome that had been sitting on a book shelf for years. Quite a few of our employees who live in houses with adjoining land planted and harvested their own herbs and vegetables and some even started to raise their own livestock.
Some employees started small businesses borne out of their hobbies, such as selling vegetables online, or baking cakes for special occasions. A few helped out at their families’ or friends’ businesses and some took part-time jobs to make ends meet.
Music is another pastime that attracted quite a following. From learning to play a saxophone to composing original songs involving the whole family; and from taking singing lessons to recording songs, a lot of musical activity has been taking place. I am sure that some of our next staff parties will involve music and singing contests!
Traveling to unknown regions of one’s own country, when not in lockdown, was an occasion for many to learn about new sites and attractions. Some took up photography and others helped their families or friends in the countryside to renovate homes.
I was also happy to learn that our corporate social responsibility activities helped to create awareness and find their way into private homes. Some worked out entire new plastic reduction strategies and pursued plastic-free lives. Enterprising initiatives included recycling plastic and food cans into everyday objects. One employee even created a kitchen table out of plastic bottles. One of our offices created their own ‘coffee experience’ where locally grown coffee replaced international brands and three-in-one plastic sachets were ditched in favour of milk and sugar jars. Re-usable food containers were also taken from home when buying street food and plastic straws were made obsolete. Some employees participated in community rubbish cleaning and other awareness campaigns. Some offices organised art days – turning everyday objects into pieces of art and painting wooden racks that had been stuck for years in an attic.
Last but not least, keeping fit has been important to many of our employees. Jogging has had quite a following. Others got on their bikes and some pursued yoga lessons. Since gyms are closed in many Asian countries, employees became inventive in exercising at home in front of TV screens, following YouTube, or their online gym instructor.
Learning new meditation techniques helped many employees to calm their minds. One of our managers even trained as a licensed health coach and offers free assistance in staying healthy through nutrition, sleep and movement strategies.
I could elaborate on our employees’ activities on many more pages, but that would make for a very long story. To protect the privacy of our employees, I have not mentioned any names, but if readers would like to learn more about specific activities, or the initiatives I have mentioned, please get in touch with me and I will connect you with the relevant people.
The Covid-19 situation has brought mental and physical stress to everyone. I am glad that Asian Trails’ family members, out of their own personal initiatives, made the sense of belonging together even stronger and the company’s ‘learning from each other’ culture more prevalent.
Colleagues communicating with each other, their cheering each other up and sharing their experiences made the loss of personal social interaction during lockdowns and work from home periods easier to bear. South-East Asia seems to be one of the last regions in the world still heavily impacted by restrictions and lockdowns, but there is light at the end of the tunnel with re-opening strategies starting to turn into reality.