KWEK Leng Beng, executive chairman of Hong Leong Group Singapore and chairman of London-listed Millennium & Copthorne Hotels plc (M&C), received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Hotel Investment Conference Asia Pacific (HICAP) in Hong Kong on Thursday.
Mr Kwek is the first Singaporean to win the award. The last time this award was given out was in 2011, to Marilyn Carlson Nelson, chairman of Carlson Inc.
"The HICAP Lifetime Achievement Award honours exceptional individuals who have distinguished themselves through their accomplishments and contributions to expanding, enhancing and advancing the hotel industry in the Asia-Pacific region and the world," Hong Leong Group Singapore said in a release. Each year, the HICAP programme planning committee puts forth names of potential recipients for consideration with the award given only when the committee agrees on a deserving individual. Recipients are determined by a special committee comprising senior-level industry participants.
In presenting the award, Peter Barge, retired chairman and CEO of Jones Lang LaSalle Asia Pacific, said: "I doubt whether the hotel industry has ever had anyone at the head of a major company who has had the depth and breadth of industry experience and who understands Asia, its people, its potential and its cycles, like Kwek Leng Beng."
Mr Kwek entered the hospitality industry with a single hotel in Singapore in 1971. Hong Leong Group currently owns/operates more than 36,000 rooms in over 150 hotels across 24 countries. With hotels in key gateway cities such as London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Bangkok and Shanghai, the group's main hospitality company, M&C, continues to expand. It has more than 8,000 hotel rooms in the pipeline.
Mr Kwek said: "I am very surprised and humbled to receive the award from my peers. Its timing is remarkable, coming in Singapore's Jubilee Year.
"I remember how the government galvanised us to go into manufacturing and hospitality and other non-traditional activities to create jobs and grow the economy. Many of us were happy to plunge into this new field although we were newbies when it came to hotels.
"Being in the property business, I didn't know anything about hotels. We have come a long way since then," said Mr Kwek.