The SHY Iinterview: Richard Quest, CNN.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon ~ thetransitcafe.com
Wednesday, 25th October 2006
He loves asking questions and travelling - hates breakfast buffets and hotels that overcharge - YSH finds out what makes CNN's Richard Quest tick.

Richard Quest and Sleepy, his fellow frequent flyer (Photo).

Q: What is the biggest buzz you get out of what you do?

A: The ability to ask people questions and they feel obliged to answer them. You can ask pretty much anything you want.

For example, take the haze that you have in Singapore now. I would get the chance to talk to the experts and ask the difficult questions and feel sufficiently briefed on the subject.

Q: What happens when someone refuses to answer your question?

A: You have to work out why – is it because they can't or it's commercially sensitive. For example, I asked a Singapore Airlines executive how much compensation they'd get for the A380 delay. I knew he wouldn't tell me but – he might.

But if someone should answer, then you go for the jugular.

Q: What do you dislike most about what you do?

A: I love the travel – cabin crew, door to automatic – it means you're on the way. But I guess it's the loneliness of it. Your friends back home are having parties and you're boarding another 747. The tiredness of it too.

Q: What is your most perfect travel moment?

A: Mr Quest, you've been upgraded to 1A. Seriously, a really good beach with a copy of the Financial Times and nothing to do.

Q: What irks you most about travel?

A: (Laughs) Bathroom doors. I don't really want to talk about that (to find out more, visit his blog on CNN Business Traveller ) but what I learnt from it is how vulnerable we are on the road, how terrible it must be when someone has an accident or a heart attack. You're on the other side of the world, all alone.

Also stuff. Ten minutes to set my laptop up, $16 for 24-hour Internet access, and hotel breakfast buffets – they are loathsome. Someone ought to do away with that.

Q: What do you think of hotels charging the rates they do for Internet access? Most business travellers are up in arms over that.

A: Hotels only have yourselves to blame. Remember how they raped and robbed us with telephone calls. And what did we do? We bypassed them with our mobile phones. Now they have a new little profit centre called Internet access. I don't have a problem paying to access but I hate it when they overcharge us, and more of us will find a way to circumvent that. The technology is there.

Take this hotel, I can buy for a single day or three days or a week and I want to scream, you b…... You have worked out the average stay is five days so I either have to buy five single days or a week and overpay … Then I think well, this is not called the Charitable Hotel. It is a business and it has to make money.

What I won't forgive is the hotel in the US that charged us $5 for a bottle of distilled water. That's offensive.

Several hotels have come up with an all-in rate – breakfast, Internet – and be done with it. But unfortunately many companies won't go for it, they want to keep their costs down.

I mean, if you were to tell your company the room is either $100 or $140 with breakfast and Internet included, the bean counter would say take the cheaper room.

Q: What is your most treasured souvenir? ?

A: Sleepy, my little teddy bear. I was covering a political convention in Philadelphia in 1996 and we were staying at Travelodge. Everyone at other hotels had baskets of fruits and we got baskets of candies which was brilliant – and there was Sleepy sitting on the bed. (Sleepy incidentally has just been enrolled in Singapore Airlines' PPS Club on the day Quest was in Singapore.)

Q: Who's the living person you most admire?

A: Dalai Lama. He has suffered so hugely yet to still have the grace and goodness he exudes. When I interviewed him, I had to put a nasty question to him and I was nervous about asking it. I said, forgive me for asking but your critics say you're past it and your non-confrontational approach does not work with the Chinese authorities.

He laughed and said, I have heard all these criticisms before and I've heard worse …

Donald Trump. He can take the worst situation and make it sound good. He's someone who can talk about a pile of excrement and make you think you're buying gold dust. In a world of cynicism and skepticism, to have someone say, this is the best, biggest, brightest is good. He is irrepressibly happy.

Q: Dalai Lama and Donald Trump, two ends of the spectrum

A: Yes but one similarity – passion.

Q: What is the quality you most admire in others?

A: A combination of humility and courtesy. I can't stand rudeness. I'm guilty of it. I once snapped at a flight attendant. I was in a bad mood, tired, jetlagged. I had to go up and apologise after the flight. I can't abide discourtesy.

Q: What is the talent you would most like to have?

A: To write better. When I read a script by Christiane Amanpour or Michael Holmes (both CNN anchors) or Alan Little of the BBC, I realise I am very mediocre when it comes to writing. I wish I could use language to elevate and invigorate the way they do.

Q: What's your favourite word?

A: Can't think of one.

Q: What's your least favourite word?

A: That's a crappy question. Any word is the right word in the right situation. Ambiguity. For example, "momentarily" – most people think it means "in a moment" but it means "for a moment". "Dilemma" – most people think it's a choice but it's a choice of two equally unappealing options – like between a rock and a hard place.

Any occasion when people who should know better misuse language, when they don't search for the right word/

Q: What's your favourite noise?

A: Waves

Q: What's your least favourite noise?

A: Building construction. I hate it. I was in Dubai. And someone talking loudly on a mobile phone.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement?

A: Keeping my job.

Q: What's the one thing you would say to kids?

A: I don't give a stuff what you do but do it with passion.

Q: Do you think it's harder for kids to get excited about travel these days the way, say, you were excited about your first trip?

A: When I was young, you had a two or three-week holiday in Spain if you were lucky. I didn't go longhaul until I travelled to the US in 1984 on a scholarship. Now kids are very blasι – but that's just us middle class folks talking. Not all kids are blasι and there are still many people who get excited about the idea of getting into a 747.

Q: What's the one thing you must do before you die?

A: I am not going to tell you because it's too personal.

The SHY Report
A regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry by one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, Yeoh Siew Hoon.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company's mission is "Content, Communication, Connection".

She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published "Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries". Her motto is ‘free to do, and be'.

Contacts: Tel: 65-63424934, Mobile: 65-96801460

Yeoh Siew Hoon's other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com. Get your weekly cuppa of news, gossip, humour and opinion at Travel's Busiest Junction.
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