XXIV - 2015

Song Hoi-see crosses time zones to build pay-in airport lounge empire


PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 November, 2015, 11:54am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 December, 2015, 10:33am

When travelling, Song Hoi-see always brings along a watch showing different time zones. "As we operate in different continents, I travel extensively back to back across various time zones. When I arrive at a destination, I need to know the exact local time and the time of my businesses in other cities so that I can catch up with what they are doing and talk with them if necessary," says the founder and CEO of Plaza Premium Lounge. 

Song's company opened the first pay-in airport lounge in Hong Kong in 1998 and his empire has expanded to 120 locations at 35 airports around the world over the past 17 years.

Apart from time zones, he also needs to deal with different languages, cultures, laws and regulations. These all require excellent time management, which Song believes is very important for a business leader. "When I have a meeting, I usually set a time limit of half an hour and try to finish on schedule. I bring up the major points and discuss the key issues, and leave my team to follow up on the loose pieces after the meeting," he says.

Song says a business leader needs to be highly disciplined in what he or she is doing. He maintains a daily habit related to time. "Before I go to sleep, I spend about half an hour thinking, deep thinking, about what I am doing and what I am going to do as the next step. Then I spend 15 to 20 minutes practising meditation before I go to bed. I do it every day unless I need to go out in late evening."

To live a healthy lifestyle, Song exercises at least twice a week, either going to the gym or running along Bowen Road near his home on Hong Kong Island. He is also very cautious about what he eats, particularly at airports. "When you are travelling, you tend to eat a lot of unhealthy food at airports, such as deep-fried food, because it is easy to prepare." This has prompted Song to start an airport dining division with an emphasis on providing healthy food to passengers.

He started his pay-in lounge business out of frustration that most passengers who flew economy class had no lounge access at airports. 

"I noticed this inefficiency gap in airport service and took the opportunity to create the industry's first lounge open to all passengers for a fee [apart from its own lounges, the company now also operates lounges for airlines such as Cathy Pacific and Singapore Airlines]. Then we moved into meet-and-greet services, transport, hotels and airport dining after seeing the opportunities."

Song says the travel industry offers lots of opportunities as long as you put your heart and mind into listening to your customers and observing what they require. "Today, when the younger generation have a problem, they only complain without looking into the opportunities. My business was founded out of my bad experience; if I had just complained and walked away at that time, I don't think I could have built this business," he adds. KC

Portugieser Sidérale Scafusia

"This is the most complicated mechanical watch ever made by IWC and ... it gives me inspiration to solve problems in my business."


Imperial Tourbillon

"This is one of my all-time favourites because of its sophistication in craftsmanship. The tourbillon is only held by a single pivot resting on a movement bridge and is highly visible."