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Wind beneath her wings

Published on Friday, 01 Jul 2011
Jo Jo Chan
Director and general manager, Hong Kong Wing On Travel Service
Photo: Berton Chang

Efficient, systematic, goal-oriented while being ladylike - these are the quintessential qualities of today's career woman. Jo Jo Chan, director and general manager of Hong Kong Wing On Travel Service, has relied on these qualities to succeed at one of the city's largest travel agencies.

Starting as a personnel manager at Wing On Travel after finishing an MBA more than 15 years ago, Chan worked her way up the corporate ladder while gaining exposure to the company's various departments, including customer service, marketing and business development.

"I am one of the lucky ones to have been given so many chances to discover new horizons in the tourism industry. My time with the company was filled with excitement and challenges and has passed by so quickly that I barely noticed it had been more than 15 years," Chan says.

She was appointed to the company's board of directors when Ctrip, a leading online travel agent in China, acquired 90 per cent of Wing On Travel in 2010. Chan now oversees the overall management and operations of the company, including its overseas subsidiaries, and is responsible for formulating key business strategies.

"Tourism is a huge industry and Hong Kong is just a starting point. I see tremendous opportunities lying ahead in the robust Greater China region," she says. "It is now difficult to seek stronger growth within Hong Kong, but China has become a stepping stone for us to expand."

Chan joined Wing On Travel when the company had only about 100 staff and was still running under a traditional family business model. With her training in business administration and management, she was eager to see if the company could adopt a more systematic approach to improve its management. But her ultimate goal was to boost the standards of integrity and professionalism in the travel industry.

"At the time, you didn't see many university graduates entering the tourism industry as it was considered as less professional. But I didn't think that should be the case," Chan says.

She introduced a management trainee programme and began recruiting graduates, who were required to hone their skills in tour guiding as well as crisis management through a series of in-house training and assessment programmes. "A good company is one that provides its staff with a clear roadmap to pursue excellence," Chan adds.

But setting high standards for herself and meeting the demands of her work can be exhausting. "I had to be on alert as an emergency can happen any time. I am required to make decisions very quickly in order to reduce loss and provide the best arrangement for our customers," she says.

Hours after the deadly earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March this year, Wing On Travel was the first travel organiser in Hong Kong to announce the cancellation of tours with full refund, Chan points out.

To cope with her stressful work, she has turned to social dancing. "The Latin music is heart-lifting and seeing myself improve makes me happy. I became more serious in my learning and started participating in competitions to help me do better." 

From being an HR manager to a company director, Chan has seen Wing On Travel grow from 100 to 700 people and from a family-run business to a quality-certified listed company. Chan is now working hard to upgrade the staff's professionalism and develop its online business. "All these have kept me very occupied," she says.

Asked about her family life, she says: "I am spoiled by my husband. He has been allowing me to focus on my work and has never complained."

But Chan knows she needs to improve on the domestic front, so she has set a goal for herself to travel with her family more often - at least once next year. One can bet it will be organised by Wing On Travel. 


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