2018 marked a banner year for Asian-American representation in the American mainstream. With the release of Crazy Rich Asians—the first Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast in 25 years—along with tons of new Asian talent in television, music, food, and even politics, it seems the “bamboo ceiling” is finally beginning to splinter.
While travel remains one of the most stubbornly white industries, embracing diversity is becoming a bigger priority than ever before. According to the latest annual report from travel industry analysts Skift, “companies are finding that speaking out about multicultural acceptance, diversity, and inclusion isn’t a risky move, or even the new normal—it’s the new mandatory.”
It makes sense from a business perspective: America’s non-white population is growing faster than ever—with Asian-Americans forming the fastest-growing group. Since 2000, the Asian-American population has grown over 80%, and is projected to have a spending power of $1.3 billion by 2022, according to Nielsen. And they’re spending a not insignificant amount on travel: Nielsen reports that Asian-Americans are 43% more likely than the average American to travel internationally.
So what does that mean for Asian-Americans who work in the travel space? For one, having a broad understanding of cultural nuance—for example, the fact that many Asian-American families tend to travel in large groups with extended families—can help brands tap into and market towards Asian-American groups with ideas that are both sensitive and relevant to them. And beyond good business, those who’ve found success can do their part to reshape the travel industry in the image of a multicultural America.
In celebration of Asian Heritage Month this May, we’re spotlighting eight Asian-American entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and personalities who are revolutionizing the global travel industry. Here are the names to know.
Jen Rubio, Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer, Away
Motivated by a broken-suitcase incident, Jen Rubio, an early employee running social media at Warby Parker, joined forces with colleague and fellow Forbes 30 Under 30 alum Steph Korey to launch Away, the cult-loved, direct-to-consumer luggage brand. Rubio, who was born in the Philippines and grew up in New Jersey, once had dreams of becoming a lawyer, but found herself drawn to the marketing world through a college stint at Johnson & Johnson. Fast forward to 2019: Away hit a $1.4 billion venture-capital valuation last month, reaches over 400,000 followers on Instagram alone, and puts out a bespoke travel magazine called Here.
Jay Roberts, Co-Founder and CEO, Domio
If you prefer traveling in a group, Domio is a company you should know. Founded in 2016, the tech-hospitality startup bills itself as the “Airbnb of group travel,” offering curated vacation rentals (and round-the-clock concierge services) geared towards groups of young travelers. Last year, Domio announced a $50 million joint venture with private equity firm Upper90 to launch a line of apartment-hotel hybrids, dubbed “apart-hotels.”
Born in South Korea, Jay Roberts was adopted by an American family and raised in California. His adoptive parents tragically passed away while he was attending UC Santa Barbara. He later earned his MBA at NYU’s Stern School of Business, before working at Training the Street and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. He founded Domio was Adrian Lam, after renting out his spare apartment in New York.
Angela Dimayuga, Creative Director of Food and Culture, Standard International
After cutting her chops and making a name as executive chef of Mission Chinese Food, Chef Angela Dimayuga entered the hotel game last year with this splashy new role at Standard International. Now overseeing a multi-disciplinary program of food, music, and art at the 16 Standard and Bunkhouse properties worldwide, the proudly queer, lesbian, and Filipinx-American chef is pushing the boundaries of what a global hospitality brand can offer in terms of cross-disciplinary programming.
Take for example No Bar, Dimayuga’s recently unveiled New York City gay bar at the Standard East Village, which serves up pitch-perfect cocktails and fancy bar bites alongside takeovers by the likes of Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon and Lil Deb’s Oasis and weekly moderated viewings of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Leo Chan, blogger, Levitate Style
If you want to know how to “quit your job and travel the world,” you should talk to Leo Chan. Now a leading menswear and travel influencer, Chan started his blog, Levitate Style, back in 2014 while working at Morgan Stanley and Barclays. In 2016, Chan and his girlfriend and partner Alicia Mara both quit their full-time jobs to travel the world for five months aboard the Cunard Queen Elizabeth World Cruise—and the rest is history. Born in Hong Kong, Chan moved with his family to the United States the age of 10. He says he’s proud to be an immigrant and the first in his family to attend college.
Katherine Lo, President and Founder, Eaton Workshop
Born in Hong Kong, hotelier Katherine Lo comes from a bona fide hospitality family—she’s the daughter of Hong Kong billionaire Lo Ka Shui, who owns the luxury hotel chain Langham Hotels, as well as niece to real estate tycoon Vincent Lo. In 2011, Lo was named executive director for Langham Hospitality Group, overseeing the opening of the iconic IBM building, which houses the Langham Chicago, in 2013.
As Forbes reported, the Eaton Workshop is Lo’s first independent venture, bridging her various passions—she’s previously volunteered for Greenpeace and worked as an accomplished filmmaker—within one beautiful space. Its first U.S. location, Eaton House DC, opened in October of 2018 in Washington DC as a working club and 209-room hotel targeting activists, artists, and entrepreneurs. There’s also a location in Hong Kong.
Erina Pindar, managing director, SmartFlyer
Raised between Jakarta, Singapore, and Charlotte, North Carolina, Erina Pindar brings a multicultural, global approach to travel. As managing director of the luxury travel agency SmartFlyer, Pindar acts a brand ambassador for the company, overseeing the agency’s expansion into the United States as well as its latest expansion into Australia. She also heads up SmartFlyer’s Affiliate Program and designs custom itineraries for top-level clients.
Humphrey Ho, U.S. Managing Director, Hylink
As the U.S. managing director for China’s largest independent advertising agency, Humphrey Ho helps American brands reach their ever-growing base of Chinese consumers. Spearheading the opening of Hylink’s American headquarters in Santa Monica, where he resides, Ho has scaled the operation up to 40 employees and secured the company’s key spots with industry leaders like Brand USA and Hawaiian Airlines. In September of 2018, Ho successfully launched Hylink’s subsidiary, Hylink Travel, a Shorty Awards-winning agency specializing in social and digital campaigns for travel brands.
Susan Ho, Co-Founder and CEO, Journy
Journy is a New York City-based travel startup pairing travelers one-on-one with their own personal trip designer who can create custom itineraries complete with hotel bookings, restaurant reservations, and activities. CEO Susan Ho, a Forbes 30 Under 30 listmaker, founded the company along with fellow Asian-American female co-founders Leiti Hsu and Stephanie Park. Prior to that, she served as VP of Operations for Fab.com and consulted with major startups like DigitalOcean and Blue Apron. Originally from China, Ho’s family moved to the United States when she was three years old.