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Real Business : Issue 3 2008
By its nature, travel offers exceptional mobility. Honnus Cheung CPA enjoyed a high-flying career in Big 4 accounting firms and working for Yahoo! in Asia, before last year accepting an offer to become CFO, Asia- Pacific for US-based online travel media business Travelzoo. The company, a global market leader, provides travel deals for 12 million subscribers worldwide. Her regional role involves establishing and running busi- nesses in Singapore, China, Japan, Taiwan and Australia, and includes legal, human resources and operational responsibilities. With 10 direct reports, part of her job is outsourcing and tapping the right profes- sional skills in each location to ensure local knowledge of taxes and regulations. She also must source and retain the right talent for future expansion. Her team of travel experts must work with local travel companies (including hotels and airlines) to come up with the most concise, factual and no-frills TRAVEL IS A GREAT TRAINING GROUND FOR FINANCE PROFESSIONALS ADAM KOLOKOTSAS TANNER MENZIES RECRUITMENT Five-star service Brett Sweetman CPA Park Hyatt Hotel, Melbourne It’s a stretch for 33-year-old Brett Sweetman CPA to decide what he enjoys most about being finance director of Melbourne’s luxury Park Hyatt Hotel. It’s not the celebrities he meets – although checking in U2 and the Rolling Stones was fun – or exploring distant places. The last meeting of the hotel chain’s Asia-Pacific finance directors was in a Chinese resort, and the company’s global reach offers almost limitless potential world- wide. It’s the variety that makes him excited about his job. Working in a 240-room five-star hotel means there’s never a dull moment – 24/7 – for Sweetman, who puts in a 55–60 hour week. About 70 per cent of his work time is spent behind a desk. And the rest? “When we’re busy, everyone’s hands-on,” he says, so if the hotel is short-handed he may work the front desk, tote a bag or two, or even plate up food in the kitchen if that’s what’s required. Not only does it help him to understand the 18 operations, “but when I need cooperation with the numbers, the people in different parts of the hotel are happy to provide it,” he says. With a tight two-day month-end to close all accounts, he works with a staff of eight, including an accountant and a materials/ purchasing department, along with a shared service centre for accounts receivable and payable. As part of the executive team, he liaises with marketing, the director of rooms, and food and beverage staff to ensure both guests and the hotel receive five-star value. Sweetman, who worked in hospitality while at uni, swapped table service for an assist- ant accountant’s role at Melbourne’s RACV Club when he graduated and undertook the CPA Program. Later he worked for a catering company at Telstra Dome sports stadium. Notably young for his role, Sweetman says passion counts when you work in hotels: “It’s definitely not a job for someone who likes routine.” information for global users. Understanding foreign exchange is also important. “We need good connections with banks and business partners and to keep a constant eye on currency fluctuations,” she says. Cheung, who spends about 50 per cent of her time away from home, says her job is high momentum because it combines the travel industry’s dynamism with the immediacy of the internet. However, there are fringe benefits, like the inside running on how to travel, where to stay and the best deals. Is it glamorous? “Yes, as we always stay on the top of the best-value offers and I enjoy my previous leisure moments in the most cost- effective way,” she enthuses. Discounting has eliminated some of the industry’s perks, notes Noon, although airline employees still enjoy less than half-rate standby fares, while those in agencies can check out new properties and tours for com- paratively token amounts. A world of possibilities awaits. ¦ NET GAINS Tourism Research Australia from Tourism Australia at www.tra.australia.com Australian Bureau of Statistics, Tourism theme at http://tinyurl.com/5bzr54 REAL BUSINESS ISSUE 3, 2008 JAMES BODDINGTON
Issue 1 2009