How I Travel: Paul Hutton of Hilton
Some of us dream to travel, others travel to dream. For Paul Hutton, the vice president of operations of Southeast Asia at Hilton, the latter holds true. The man has been exploring the world since he could remember—the result of being the son of an ambassador. Since then, Hutton, who was born in Switzerland but grew up in Australia and all over the world, has clocked 35 years in the hospitality industry, a field the Glion Institute of Higher Education graduate passionately pursued a career in after staying in many beautiful hotels around the world during the trips with his father.
And like his father, Hutton’s career with Hilton sees him constantly travelling—mostly for quick overnight trips on a weekly basis—and sometimes, moving around the world. At different points in his career, he and his family have called Africa, Hong Kong, Romania and the Middle East home. “It’s the most remarkable and rewarding career out there,” he enthuses, before adding that the satisfaction is from getting to work in a diverse environment and being able to give back to the local communities. “There’s also a certain magic to the job," he says, "Regardless of age, everyone loves a good hotel story.”
There is still one destination the world traveller has yet to check off his bucket list: Canada. "Like Australia, it is a British colony, so it’d be incredibly interesting to see what elements of colonial heritage still remain after all these years. I would also most likely be exploring the wilderness and relishing the changes in climate.” He shares more of his travel stories here.
Paul Hutton (PH) Bora Bora, with my family. From the mountains emerging from the water to the abundant marine life, the island was truly breathtaking. We stayed at the Conrad Bora Bora Nui, which is easily one of the most stunning hotels out there. It made our trip feel so surreal.
What do you love most about travelling?
PH I’m a big foodie, so I love checking out the local food scene wherever I travel. And I know I’m not alone in this. It’s no longer just about shopping; people are now increasingly looking for more experiential trips, and hotels are noticing this trend and constantly seeking to differentiate themselves by providing guests with unforgettable dining experiences. In Singapore, for instance, hotels are introducing local hawker fare to their menus.
Most memorable travel experience?
PH A few years ago, when I did a road trip from Bucharest in Romania to Bordeaux in France. My wife and kids flew directly to Bordeaux, but we needed a car from there, so I thought to drive 3,000km on my own from Romania to France. It was an unforgettable experience because of how lonely it was—I didn’t have phone service so I had a lot of time to reflect. The journey also made me think about the truck drivers who have to undertake this difficult task every single day.
And the worst?
PH This could be a delicate answer, so let’s just say they were all learning experiences.
One place you’d visit over and over again?
PH Ho Chi Minh City, which has such a rich colonial history. It’s amazing to see the French influence that still inheres in the city’s architecture, in the boulevards and avenues. It’s a wonderful place both to visit and to do business. Luckily for me, Hilton has a few exciting projects coming up in there. The name “Hilton Saigon” in itself evokes a sense of place and excitement for me.
Three things you always travel with?
PH My gym kit, a book and the newspaper.
What do you normally read on the plane?
PH I’m an avid reader, so much so that I’m often reading a few books at once. In fact, my wife sometimes gets mad because I can have as many as six or seven books by my bed! One of the books I’m currently reading is An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield. I also always carry the newspaper of the day. Reading on the flight is a habit I seem to have passed on to my children, and a fellow passenger recently complimented me on the fact that all three of my teenagers were reading books!
Favourite travel companion?
PH My wife, Lynne, and our three daughters.
Aisle or window seat?
PH Always on the left side aisle, so that my right arm is free to type on the laptop.
Favourite travel app?
PH Any weather app.
New travel trend?
PH There has been a huge upward trend in single travellers these days. It’s not that they haven’t always existed, but that their needs and demands are now different. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, solo travel appealed mainly to bucket shop tourists. Now, single travellers are after more high-end vacations. In fact, whole travel companies have sprung up solely to cater to the single traveller, while plenty more destinations, hotels and travel agencies are gearing up to embrace this trend.
Best travel tip?
PH This is my ultimate tip for dealing with jetlag: when you’re travelling to somewhere with more than seven hours of time difference, on the first day of arrival, plan your day as though it is still the time from where you had flown in from. This always does the trick for me.