A50BR_David Thompson A50BR_David_Thompson Cooking

Nahm took top honours at the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in Singapore. Aside from being named The S.Pellegrino Asia’s Best Restaurant, it also earned the title of The S. Pellegrino Best Restaurant in Thailand. Chef David Thompson

Congratulations on your win. With Nahm at No.1 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, a lot of attention will be placed on the Thai food scene. What changes can we expect to see there in 2014?

There is more talent moving into the region, not just expat talent but local talent. Chefs are becoming a lot younger and that’s encouraging more creativity. The next generation is doing some fabulous things. Those kids are really thinking about food in a far more serious way than ever before.

Bangkok is becoming a great city for restaurants. I think in the next five years, Bangkok will be on the world map when it comes to its restaurants. Everyone knows about its food, but I think its restaurants will share some of the limelight.

More and more Asian restaurants are breaking into the World’s 50 Best List. What are your thoughts on this and do you think we will ever see an Asian restaurant or a restaurant from Asia at the top of the list?

I can’t say how close we are from achieving a No.1 spot, but increasingly as Asia becomes the centre of the economic world, all the luxurious accoutrements that are attached to that sort of financial success will come over here, including restaurants. In Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand, it’s always had a good food culture, but not necessarily a good restaurant culture. Bangkok is going through an explosion now. In the next five or 10 years Bangkok will really blossom because there are a lot of exciting, interesting and world-class concepts emerging.

What issues do you think will dominate culinary conversations in 2014? 

I think the provenance of ingredients will become a focus. When I was cooking Thai food in Australia many years ago, there was a wealth of [locally produced] Thai ingredients and I thought they were wonderful. But when I started cooking and tasting ingredients that were grown in Thailand, it made me aware of the importance of the soil and the environment. Even if you have the same varieties of fruits and vegetables, they taste different from one country to the next.

You have a new restaurant, Long Chim, opening in Marina Bay Resorts, Singapore. What else do you have planned for 2014?
I do a lot of research into old Thai recipes and try to excavate or exhume them to bring them back to life. In Thai cooking, there’s a vast repertoire and I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface. I’ll just continue to discover.

If someone said ‘I don’t like cooking, not one bit’, how would you convince them otherwise?
I wouldn’t be bothered to convince them. You either love it or you don’t. I go through stages like anybody; this career is like being married – but to a kitchen. I can entirely sympathize with someone who doesn’t like cooking. At other times I can’t imagine anything more alien, but each to their own.

If you could only eat one thing in your life, what would it be?
I don’t think I could limit it to just one. I adore chocolate, I will get out of my grave for durian, crusty bread warms my soul and I love the smelliest of blue cheeses you find in France.  




Kudos to three hotels who caught our attention recently for the work they’re doing to raise educational standards. In our book, these initiatives earn high marks for CSR relevancy, increasing employer-of-choice appeal and reaching out to the next generation travellers:

Ritz Carlton announced the expansion of its already successful ‘Succeed Through Service’ program by making the learning tools and resources available to all. Launched with America’s Promise Alliance in 2009, the project invites Ritz-Carlton employees to mentor students in low income communities “to follow their passions, imagine futures not previously envisioned, understand the value of giving back to their community, and learn valuable life skills that will help them forge a path of success.” Now anyone with a heart for helping kids can use the tool kit as a guide. Brilliantly simple, and simply brilliant.

Hilton Worldwide kicked off the second year of its ‘Teacher Treks Grant Competition’ with two programs: the Travel Grant and the Teach Abroad Grant. The Travel Grant rewards 10 teachers with the opportunity to visit another country for up to three weeks to explore and experience another culture firsthand. The Teach Abroad Grant targets English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers the chance to travel to a Hilton Worldwide hotel to provide three-week educational workshops to Hilton employees in emerging hotel markets. Another brilliant initiative.

Closer to home, Hong Kong’s Hotel ICON, Asia’s ‘teaching hotel’, was recently honoured at the prestigious United Nation’s World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Tourism in Madrid. The hotel was praised for its “commitment to integrating teaching, learning and research.” Since opening two years ago, the award-winning hotel has served as a valuable resource centre, offering hoteliers, students and the public invaluable trade insights and industry knowledge, as well as fostering innovation in the hospitality industry. To that, we say “Well done!”

Asia’s 50 Best Manifesto

How are votes calculated for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants? Who gets nominated? What’s the criteria? The answers in the attached video.


Asia 50 Best Restaurants – Forum and Workshops 2014

Expect a delicious mix of spicy exchanges and a hearty dose of star power at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Check out the A-list lineup of chefs presenting at the all-day forum on February 23rd.


Terminal Indulgence


Can your holiday experience start at the airport? Hard to imagine, right? A place associated with body scanners, long waits and nutrition-free food, is fast becoming a destination for luxury shopping, modern dining, and relaxation.

Take Hong Kong. Two airport lounges opened this month, both designed to enhance the airport experience.  Cathay Pacific‘s new The Bridge boasts a residential-style interior designed to make passengers feel relaxed and “at home.”  That is, if you’re a member. And to those who aren’t or have been reduced to tears when they’ve lost their lounge privileges (‘fess up!), fret no more.

Plaza Premium Lounge (PPL) just opened a swanky new facility in the West Hall that flies at the face of privilege. The pay-in lounge (read: open to EVERYONE) includes all the requisite features today’s traveller expects in a lounge (ie. free Wi-fi) but with loads of added extras: a food court serving  local cha chaan teng favourites and gourmet fare like slow-cooked meats; a business centre with private workstations; and little details that mean a lot, from bathrooms stocked with  organic aromatherapy products to self-serving wine dispensers showcasing wines from around the world.  It’s those thoughtful extras that turn a potentially stressful experience into a wholly satisfying one.

Realising the amount of time we spend in airports today held literally captive, brands have a whole strategy for ‘travel retail’. (I’d venture to say we have more luxury brands in one hall at the Hong Kong airport than your average “Main Street, USA”. ) Celebrity chefs are catching on, too, with the likes of Wofgang Puck and Suzanne Goin opening eateries in US airports.  Nothing is spared to give road warriors a modicum of comfort and convenience – whether it’s spas, dry cleaners, hair salons, tailoring services, and more.

What’s next? Think personal shopping services, wine concierges, medical check-ups, dental cleaning, a fitness centre for quick work-outs…the sky’s the limit!

New Study Reveals Wellness Tourism a $439 Billion Market, Representing 1 in 7 Tourism Dollars

SRI International Report Released at 2013 Global Wellness Tourism Congress Shows Wellness-Focused Travel Will Reach $678.5 Billion by 2017—Nearly 50 Percent More Growth Than Global Tourism Overall


New York, NY and New Delhi, India–October 9, 2013 – A new study presented at the inaugural Global Wellness Tourism Congress (GWTC) found wellness tourism is a near half-trillion dollar market, representing 14 percent of total global tourism revenues ($3.2 trillion ) overall. According to The Global Wellness Tourism Economy report, the category is projected to grow on average 9.9 percent annually over the next five years, nearly twice the rate of global tourism overall, reaching $678.5 billion by 2017, or 16 percent of total tourism revenues.

The study also noted over one-half of growth in wellness tourism through 2017 will come from the Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern/North African markets, and India will be number one globally over the next five years, clocking a 20 percent-plus growth through 2017. And wellness tourists are higher spenders, on average, spending 130 percent more than the average global tourist.

The study was conducted by SRI International, in conjunction with the Global Spa & Wellness Summit (GSWS), the industry’s leading education and research organization, which presented the GWTC in New Delhi, India. The study is the first to benchmark and analyze this fast-emerging tourism segment and, according to SRI, is expected to be eye-opening for governments and tourism industry stakeholders worldwide.


“For decades, the very concept of a vacation has been associated with excess: too much eating, drinking and too little sleep—leaving too many travelers less healthy when they check out than when they checked in,” said Ophelia Yeung, lead author of the study and co-director, Center for Science, Technology & Economic Development at SRI. “This new research clearly reveals that more people are now choosing destinations that help them keep or get healthy while traveling, while a smaller (and also growing) segment are also now taking trips with the specific, sole purpose of improving their personal well-being.”

Definition & Methodology: SRI defines wellness tourism as all travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal well-being. The wellness tourism economy includes all expenditures made by tourists on these types of leisure and business trips, including lodging, food and beverage, activities/excursions, shopping and transport.


Percentage of Global Trips:While wellness tourism represents roughly one in seven total domestic and international tourism dollars (14 percent), it represents 6 percent of the number of international and domestic trips—or 524.4 million.

Powerful Impact on Jobs and Economies: Wellness tourism is directly responsible for $11.7 million global jobs, which delivers $1.3 trillion in global economic impact—or 1.8 percent of the world’s GDP in 2012.

A Strikingly High-Yield Tourist: Wellness tourists spend, on average, 130 percent more than the average global tourist. An international wellness tourist spends roughly 65 percent more per trip than the average international tourist; the domestic wellness tourist spends about 150 percent more than the average domestic tourist.

“Primary” vs. “Secondary” Wellness Tourist Markets: SRI made a distinction between “primary” and “secondary” wellness tourists: the former defined as those taking a trip entirely for wellness purposes, the latter engaging in wellness-related activities as part of a trip. Not surprisingly, secondary-purpose wellness tourists constitute the significant majority (87 percent) of total wellness tourism trips and expenditures (86 percent). And while wellness tourists spend dramatically more than the average international or domestic tourist across the board, a secondary-purpose wellness traveler spends less than a primary.

Domestic Wellness Tourism Dominates: While tourism authorities tend to place an outsized focus on inbound, international travelers, domestic wellness tourism is actually significantly larger than its international equivalent—representing 84 percent of wellness tourism trips and 68 percent (or $299 billion) of expenditures. International inbound wellness tourism represents a $139 billion market (32 percent of total).

Europe and North America Dominate…For Now: While over 50 percent of the projected growth in wellness tourism through 2017 will come from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East/North Africa, the SRI study found that today’s typical wellness traveler is well-educated, well-off, middle-aged and hails from Western and industrialized nations. Europe and North America drive the outbound international wellness tourism segment, with five countries—the U.S., Germany, Japan, France and Austria—currently representing 63 percent of the global market. Additionally, the U.S., France, Austria, Germany and Switzerland drive the most inbound, international wellness tourism arrivals. Countries that attract the most domestic wellness tourism trips include: the U.S., Germany, Japan, China and France.

Spa Tourism Critical, but Not Majority of Market: Spa tourism is a core component of wellness tourism (41 percent of market), but non spa-related wellness tourism (whether “healthy hotels” and cruises; baths/springs; fitness, yoga or lifestyle retreats; travel to nature parks/preserves; organic/natural restaurant expenditures; and other “healthy” lodging and retail) represent 59 percent of the market.

“Wellness tourism is poised to reshape tourism as we know it. So many 21st century forces are fueling it, including the rise of chronic diseases and the unprecedented stress of modern life,” noted Jean-Claude Baumgarten, GSWS keynote speaker and former president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council. “What people want to achieve during their ever diminished time off is undergoing a sea change, with millions more every year demanding destinations that deliver physical, emotional, spiritual and environmental health—along with enjoyment.”

SRI’s complete The Global Wellness Tourism Economy report, which includes data on regional/national wellness tourism markets and future category growth, will be released at a media event in New York City on November 7, 2013.

About the Summit: The Global Wellness Tourism Congress is presented by the Global Spa & Wellness Summit (GSWS), an international organization representing senior executives and leaders from over 40 countries, joined by a common interest to drive economic development and understanding of the spa and wellness industries. Delegates from diverse sectors, including hospitality, tourism, health and wellness, beauty, finance, medical, real estate, manufacturing and technology, attend the organization’s annual Summit, which is held in a different host country each year. After just seven years, the GSWS is now considered the leading global research and educational resource for the $1.9 trillion spa and wellness industry.

Food Pursued


“Four Seasons” and “food truck” don’t naturally go together. So it’s with amusement that we read the luxury hotel brand going pedestrian — slummin’ in the hood, so to speak — with a food truck that’ll make the rounds in California, Arizona and New Mexico. The truck, called FS Taste Truck, will be making pit stops at neighborhood hot spots, farmer’s markets, and local events serving fare created by their hotel chefs. Four Seasons says it’s a way to keep their chefs engaged in something that is relevant, fun, unexpected and “will foster the notion that Four Seasons does things differently.”

(Clever campaign, now that we’re throwing out the book on fine dining.)

What’s interesting is that while other hotels are building farms into their backyards or remaking their mini-bars into artisanal hampers and restaurants into quasi art galleries, Four Seasons took a bold move to break out of their gilded, controlled environment and take their message to the streets in a way that makes the brand more accessible and – dare we say – mass.

There’s a bigger context to this this story as well: the growing culinary tourism trend and how hotels are tapping into it. It’s no longer enough for hotels to host celebrity chefs or offer farm-to-table inspired menus. Increasingly, people are travelling for food experiences (check out our Future of Food study) and this trend will continue to grow.

These foodex (food explorers) are more informed, seek authentic and unusual experiences, and have hi/lo palettes that crave roadside grease spoons as well as swanky fare from World’s 50 Best restaurants.  Some will pay a premium to stay in farms rather than fancy hotels, and will hire ‘food sherpas’ (cleverly coined by NYT food writer Jeff Gordinier) to plan their travel itineraries.

So as hotels cook up their F & B strategies, a bit out-of-the-box thinking may serve up some wonderful surprises.

(Image source: Four Seasons)