May 07, 2008

Look to the sky: a profile of Zest-O's Fred Yao

ALFREDO M. Yao is a man who rarely rests.

He says the last vacation he had with his entire family was two years ago in New Zealand, and remembers a few regional cruises with his wife. He tells the BusinessMirror he would rather be on his toes, working, on the lookout for new business opportunities. “I always tell my children, ‘Never be complacent.’ Work as if someone’s burning his heels behind you. You have to keep running. That’s my business philosophy, that’s my secret. I just don’t sit down. I’m not complacent, even to this day. There should be some threat from competitors, from other brands…. You shouldn’t be able to sleep.”

For someone who stresses that “vacations are not for me,” Yao, ironically, is now Philippine tourism’s latest champion. He recently completed the purchase of Asian Spirit, a 12-year-old airline primarily flying between Manila and Caticlan, and is looking at buying another carrier, Southeast Asian Airlines, with the intention of merging both companies. He has also bought the Legenda Hotels and Suites in the Subic Bay Freeport, and is just waiting for its former owners to turn over the property to him. Last year he was appointed by President Arroyo as special envoy to develop tourism between the Philippines and China, which is why he is now looking into the possibility of expanding Asian Spirit’s regional routes to include Xiamen and Shanghai.

“I just thought it’s a good opportunity [buying Asian Spirit]. There’s a lot of room to grow here in local aviation and tourism market. There are so many unexplored areas. Our country is so beautiful, we have a lot of resources, all we need is to develop these sites, put in the infrastructure, then bring the tourists there. I think tourism will help boost the economy,” he says.

(For the rest of my interview of Fred Yao, pls. click here.)

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