Remembering Franz Wyder.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon - SHY Ventures
Monday, 1st November 2004
When I saw the email marked "Franz Wyder", my heart skipped a beat. I don't know why but instinctively I knew it would be to tell me that a dear friend's heart had stopped beating.

Wishing with all my heart that I was wrong, I opened the mail. Dated October 28, the mail from Albert Cheong, general manager of the Traders Hotel, Singapore, said, " I have just received the sad news from Xian that Franz Wyder just passed away after lunch this afternoon."

And with that, yet another light has gone out of the Asian hotel industry.

You could say Franz was the first European hotelier I ever met. He was general manager of the Rasa Sayang in Penang when I first took up reporting as a cadet reporter for The Straits Echo.

I would often cover events such as important weddings or state functions at the Rasa Sayang. It being the grandest hotel Penang had ever seen, the Rasa Sayang was often the address for the island's small community of social, business and political elite.

And I remember Franz, a small, sprightly man, with his twinkling, piercing eyes, always smiling, always welcoming. Perhaps subconsciously Franz influenced me to join the travel industry – after all, I thought, if all general managers were like Franz, hospitable and accessible, life as a travel journalist would surely be sweet.

Franz would move on after Penang to other Shangri-La hotels; he opened the Shangri-La Bangkok where he would stay for many years but in my mind, he was always associated with the Rasa Sayang.

He played an instrumental role in the early years of Shangri-La, staying with the company from 1974 to 1991.
While he was in Bangkok, I remember someone calling me to tell me that Franz had collapsed after a squash game. He had a heart bypass soon after that but he was soon back on his feet, and back to his fitness regime.

I know he had a tough time finding another fulfilling job after he left Shangri-La and eventually, he landed up in Kota Kinabalu with the mandate to open the ambitious Nexus Karambunai Resort.

I remember running into him at a trade show when he was telling me, with his usual brimming enthusiasm, about his new project in Sabah. Sceptics were dismissing the project as a white elephant, too big and too grand for its time. But Franz was a believer, being the professional he was.

Today, the Nexus Karambunai is one of Sabah's best known resorts but is definitely a scaled down version of its original ambitions.

Our paths did not cross much after he left Sabah, but they crossed again after he rejoined Shangri-La in October 2002 as general manager of the Shangri-La Golden Flower, Xian.

It was like a son had returned to the fold.

When I saw Franz again earlier this year at Shangri-La's General Managers conference in Hong Kong, it was like the 20-plus years had flown by and we were both back in Penang, young again. Well, at least, he looked the same as I remembered him.

His sense of fun was still there. He heckled me during my presentation when I jested that I found it strange that hoteliers preferred to run in gyms even when they were managing resorts, when they had whole beaches to themselves.

"Have you ever tried jogging in Xian?" he shouted from the audience.

This year, we were in constant contact. I was doing research on Shangri-La's early years and Franz was the one with the earliest memories and best stories.

His recollection of the tiniest detail astounded me. He remembered names of the first ever corporate team of the then Kuok Hotels group. He recalled the first offices they worked from. He related how certain names were conjured up.
I meant to visit him in Xian next year. I guess it was not meant to be. It proves that meaning to do something is not good enough. What counts is doing what one means to.

I believe Franz did that. He was meant to be a hotelier, and he did it. He was meant to return to Shangri-La, the company dearest to his heart, and he did.

In leaving us earlier than he should have, he has left a void in the lives of those who knew him.

Reading Bob Dylan's "Chronicles", I came across a line which made me think of Franz. "Some people seem to fade away but then when they are truly gone, it's like they didn't fade away at all."

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

Five Reasons Why You Should Sponsor The SHY Report ~ Click HERE.
 Latest News  (Click title to read article)

 Latest Articles  (Click title to read)

 Most Read Articles  (Click title to read)

~ Important Notice ~
Articles appearing on 4Hoteliers contain copyright material. They are meant for your personal use and may not be reproduced or redistributed. While 4Hoteliers makes every effort to ensure accuracy, we can not be held responsible for the content nor the views expressed, which may not necessarily be those of either the original author or 4Hoteliers or its agents.
© Copyright 4Hoteliers 2001-2024 ~ unless stated otherwise, all rights reserved.
You can read more about 4Hoteliers and our company here
Use of this web site is subject to our
terms & conditions of service and privacy policy