by Andrew J Wood

Peter Morrison President of Skål International on-line from New Zealand, welcomes all Skalleagues to the Asian Area AGM, a grouping of 44 SKÅL clubs stretching from Mauritius to Guam

The Skål Asia AGM took place this week. Normally it would be held during the Skål Asian Area Congress (SAAC) however the Congress slated for Phuket back in June was cancelled by the AA in March 2020. 

For the first time due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was without a home, instead the 49th SAA AGM was conducted on-line and turned out to be the highest attended AGM in recent history. 

During the zoom pre-meeting period, warm friendly “HELLOs!” and genuine joy was expressed at seeing friends we had not met for so many months of covid-enforced lockdown or since last year’s conference in Bangalore or even longer. 

The virtual meeting was attended by 3 members of Skål’s Managing Executive Board (EB) namely World President Peter Morrison (NZ) and Directors Fiona Nicholl (AUS) and Vijay Mohan Raj (IN), along with Skål International (SI) CEO Daniela Otero. 

We were honoured to be joined by ISC board members VP Denise Scrafton (AUS) & VP Niel Els (ZA). 

Also in attendance were SI Past Presidents Lavonne Wittman (ZA) 2018-19, Richard Hawkins (SIN) 1999-00 and SI Hon President Uzi Yalon (IL) 1993-94. 

It was heart-warming to see joining the virtual meeting, former Asian Area Presidents Mohamed Buzizi (BH); Gerry Perez (GU), Jason Samuel (IN) and Jano Mouawad (BH). 

National Presidents Ranjini Nambiar (IN), Wolfgang Grimm (TH), Tsutomu Ishizuka (JP) and representatives Dr Elton Tan (PH) and James Cheng (TW). 

It was also good to see former secretariat Joan Bechard (MU) and former SAA Sec Arun Raghavan (IN).

This was my 18th SAA AGM that I have attended, many of the attendees have, over the years, become good trusted friends. 

The meeting host, AA President Sanjay Datta opened the meeting with a warm welcome and quickly introduced World President Peter Morrison, who in the time honoured Skål tradition offered the Skål toast. Peter went on to say as SI President he has, due to the pandemic, met more Skalleagues around the World by being online this year than he would have done otherwise, but looks forward to being able to meet us all in person when we are allowed to travel once more. 

Next the awards presentations led by Past President Richard Hawkins, chairman of the international panel of judges, consisting of Uzi Yalon, Gerry Perez and Jano Mouawad. The winners were announced after careful deliberations in the weeks prior to the AGM – the following were winners of the 4 SAA awards 2020:

💠 1. Goa won Club of the Year reflecting their tremendous efforts this year

💠 2. SKÅL ASIA’s Personality of the Year 2020 was awarded to President Robert de Graaff of Phuket for his contribution to Skål. Robert is a founding member of the club

💠 3. The Environment Award 2020 was awarded to Anana Ecological Resort Krabi Thailand, for their outstanding commitment to Sustainability. The judges said that the standards were very high this year and to pick the winner they particularly looked at the achievements of each entry. The vote for Anana was unanimous

💠4. Goa and Singapore shared the Young Skål Best Club Award 2020. Richard excused himself from the judging as Singapore is his home club

Congratulations to all winners. 

I was delighted as Area VP Southeast that 3 from 4 winners were from my area – Southeast Asia. 

Due to the ravages of Covid-19 the AGM agreed to the proposal this year to reduce the Asia portion of the annual membership fee by 50 per cent, during Jan-Dec 2021, from 6 Euros to 3 Euros per member (payable by the club) for all clubs in good standing. 

During the bid for next year’s conference there were 2 entries. One from Srinagar, Kashmir Northern India and one from Bahrain. India has thrice held the Congress in 1980 (Bombay), 2011 (Delhi) and 2019 (Bangalore) and Bahrain four times in 1983, 1991, 2000 and 2017. 

Bahrain back in 2017 was famous for promoting single or twin room rates per room not per person and with no single supplements; free visas, all meals and gala dinners and free transfers, effectively halving the cost of attendance for 2 delegates sharing one room. They repeated the same offer for next year’s Congress in 2021.

During presentations from Bahrain and India they were both unfortunately zoom bombed.

Earlier this year Zoom’s founder and CEO Eric Yuan wrote a blog that they had focussed on security fixes however hackers still crash video chats and harass users, a trolling technique known as zoombombing. Zoom went from 10 million daily users in December 2019 to more than 200 million in four months, today estimates suggests users have doubled.

“We did not design the product with the foresight that, in a matter of weeks, every person in the world would suddenly be working, studying, and socializing from home,” the CEO of Zoom wrote.

After the AGM Skål Thailand’s National President Wolfgang Grimm wrote, “Dear Sanjay, Thank you for conducting our 2020 AGM digitally. Technical challenges to the side it was a great display of joint purpose and fellowship. We demonstrated our efforts to our Skål world leaders and can be proud of our achievements in Asia.

“A lot is still to be done and we have to make sure that the voices big and small of all of Asia is being sought and implemented. The presentations of the 2021 Asia Congress could have been communicated before the meeting for consideration.

“Thailand salutes the Bahrain bid as it graciously facilitated bringing our partners included in the package. It also allowed less affluent Skalleagues to share the room and spirit of Skål.

“May I respectfully suggest that Srinagar considers the above concept and the huge visa fees to increase overseas participation, now that they won the Congress?”

With regard to turnout everyone agrees that it was excellent.

Past President of SKÅL ASIA Gerry Perez said, “Personally, I do not recall ever seeing the high number of official participants to an Asia AGM as we did yesterday. Kudos to you and the Exco for a job well done! Kind Regards, Gerry.”

Andrew J Wood

Vice President

Southeast Asia (S.E.A.)

Skål International Asia


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SKÅL ASIA: With members in 44 Clubs, 29 grouped in 5 national committees and 15 affiliated clubs, the Skål Asian Area is the most diverse Area in the world of Skål, spanning from Guam in the Pacific Ocean over more than 10,000 km to Mauritius in the Indian Ocean with clubs in 17 fascinating countries in between. The Asian Area accounts for almost twenty per cent of all Skål International’s global members. 

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Skål is a professional organisation of tourism leaders around the world, promoting global tourism and friendship. It is the only international group uniting all branches of the travel and tourism industry. Its members, the industry’s managers and executives, meet at local, national, regional and international levels to discuss and pursue topics of common interest. The first Club was founded in 1932 in Paris by travel managers, following an educational tour of Scandinavia. The idea of international goodwill and friendship grew and, in 1934, the “Association Internationale des Skål Clubs” was formed with Florimond Volckaert as its first President, who is considered the “Father of Skål”. Skål International today has approximately 14,000 members in 345 Clubs throughout 102 nations. Most activities occur at local level, moving up through National Committees, under the umbrella of Skål International, headquartered at the General Secretariat in Torremolinos, Spain.

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