In addition to her day job, Ben Montgomery is also a member of the Executive Board of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), PATA Foundation Board of Trustees, and of the Thai Hotels Association (THA). Chi Lo chats with Ben today not about sustainability within her job, but about practicing it in every day life – particularly by participating in the community, and ensuring that future generations are equipped with the values that guide the way.
CHI: You are quite active in the tourism and hospitality community in Thailand, with an eye towards human capital development. What drives you and how do you do it?
BEN: For me it’s about relationships – human connection! I contribute my time to tourism and hospitality associations and participate in various committees including the human capital development committee and the board of directors at PATA, as well as on the Executive Committee at the Thai Hotel Association. I also work with youths, student chapters, and universities when I can. I believe in the value of the human relationship, and in relation to sustainability, the value of human capital – giving our youths a good foundation that leads to responsible actions and caretaking for our society and planet. Hospitality is a very high human capital-intensive business. When I talk to youths, I talk to them about soft skills and think about grooming them as a whole by sharing my values.
CHI: When you speak to the next generation of leaders, do you speak specifically about sustainability issues?
BEN: It’s not necessarily about the ‘green stuff.’ To me, it’s about shaping good people. If they are good, they will take care of the world anyway. They’ll take care of their friends, other human beings, peers, and also themselves. So, I invest time in my kids and youths.
With my girls, the first rule is: treat people the way you want to be treated. It always comes back to that.
CHI: What else do you teach them that you think are valuable to today’s youths being good citizens?
BEN: In Thai and most Asian cultures, kids just study, study, study. Does that make them happy? Does that help them become good people? I want my kids to be well-rounded and happy. I want them to be humble, and understand that they can be themselves and not somebody else – that they can fit in as they are.
Having grit and discipline means that they understand they may not be able to do something today, but with practice, patience, grit and discipline, they can get to where they want to be.
CHI: You travel quite a bit with your family as well – how do these values extend to tourism in that sense?
BEN: We teach our kids to treat other people the way you want to be treated. When you go to new places, you try other people’s food. You need to be polite and respectful, and respect needs to be earned. If you want to be respected, you should act accordingly, too! And also, food creates linkages.
CHI: Always! There’s nothing better than sharing a meal. So how do you exemplify these values?
BEN: Be open. Set expectations. I say, “this is me and I wear different hats.” My job allows me to do two things that sometimes overlap, and I don’t have to do things I don’t believe in.
Going back to human capital development, my message to my kids is that education will help you get a good job. You should not have to rely on someone else.
CHI: Any advice to tourism professionals with families trying to do the right thing?
BEN: Ask what your family what they want! Communicate! Crises can also become opportunities for us to communicate.
Our kids – they need us. If we make ourselves available, they will use us. If we make ourselves busy, then I can see the risk of losing the connection.
Love what you do. Sometimes you have to make a living, but if half of what you do is not enjoyable, it affects the other half. We do a lot as moms, but how will you raise a happy kid if you’re not happy?
CHI: Thanks, Ben. This is very uplifting. I hope everyone can practice the golden rule, and kindness and respect of their surroundings. This is a great basis for sustainability.