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An Interview with General Manager Finalist Richard Hatter

Having led an expat life since he was two years old, General Manager finalist Richard Hatter learned the value and distinct skills of being a “Third Culture Kid” in the hospitality industry. Join us to discover how Hatter utilised his international outlook to excel as a hotelier and an adjunct associate professor.

“Growing up as a ‘third culture kid’, I made it my absolute priority to always give back to the community and ensure that opportunities were available to ALL”


1. Can you describe your childhood and where and when your initial interest in hospitality began?

My great grandfather was in the pub business and owned several inns in Portsmouth, UK, so I was born into the bustling hotel business.

The hospitality industry is my life passion. With my parents, I began travelling at the young age of two, moving to Singapore in the 1960s. It was a fantastic six years in Singapore being an expat kid. In those days, it took four days to fly to Singapore via Rome and Karachi. Sometimes, when we did the voyage by ship, it would take three weeks and we would stop-over at Cairo, Egypt via the Suez Canal. The long journeys truly made me appreciate the meaning of travel and experiencing different countries and cultures. 

Family Photo, taken in Tanzania, 1966-70

After Singapore, following my father who joined the Ministry of Overseas Development in Tanzania as the head for a teacher training college, my brother and I were sent to a boarding school in Arusha for four years. When my brother and I lived in Korogwe in the late 1960s, we would arrive to school by travelling on an old EA bus or by a stream train, which took three days. The journeys were always an adventurous ride, during one trip, the bus diverted from the road and rolled over! 

Being an expat at such a young age, I led a nomadic childhood that exposed me to all kinds of hotel properties and people of the hospitality world. Having to quickly adapt to and make foreign places my home has truly taught me the value of hospitality and ignited my passion to dedicate my professional career to this industry. 

Executive MBA with Distinction, Global Hospitality Leadership, 2013-2015


2. What opportunities have you experienced that you feel have been the most valuable part of your career development as a hotelier?

In terms of opportunities that were valuable to my career development as a hotelier, I can narrow it down to three key things: the career opportunities, the one-of-a-kind friendships, and the learnings of how to truly care for others.

Career opportunities

I have always wanted travel to be a core part of my life, and as a result I chose an “international hospitality career.” I have lived in nine cities outside the UK and had the privilege of being the General Manager of five-star hotels in the United Kingdom, the British Virgin Islands, Bahrain, Dubai, Indonesia, China, Singapore, and now at Hotel ICON Hong Kong. 

Prior to joining Hotel ICON in 2009, I held various senior management positions and corporate development roles with Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts from 2000 until 2009. I was tasked to oversee the renovations and re-branding of over 30 hotels, while managing the expectations of demanding hotel owners. Looking back, it was a remarkable journey. I will forever be grateful for my mentor, Edward Kuok for guiding me with his wisdom through the victories and challenges during my years at Shangri-La. Especially, during the economic turmoil caused by the stock market crash in 2008, Edward was able to help me overcome the difficult time by offering his utmost support and knowledge.  

Growing up as a “third culture kid,” I made it my absolute priority to always give back to the community and ensure that opportunities were available to ALL regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or country of origin. Hence, while I was not directly responsible for training, I always committed myself to grooming the mid-level managers to take over more senior roles. Additionally, as a result of my keenness to develop others, I became instrumental in organising new personnel, training and planning structures for Shangri-La during my tenure.

Students of Subject Code HTM 2303 ‘Hotel Operations’


The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, owners of the Hotel ICON, had a vision to build a research and training hotel that groomed the next-generation of hoteliers. The vision for the ICON brand aligns with my own value of developing others, and that is why I was thrilled to be part of the team to forge a creative path for the brand that defined its purpose.

In designing the ICON brand, I collaborated with a small “Ocean’s Eleven” team, including Ian Lee and Susana Fok and owners who entrusted me with confidence. We spent 16 months curating the brand essence, design and visual identity. Other key inspirational figures in this journey of formulating the brand identity are Board Chairman, Victor Lo, the President of the University, Professor Timothy Tong and the Dean of School of Hotel and Tourism Management, Professor Kaye Chon.

Experience has taught us that we can build a brand on our own as long as we are persistent in our principles and our core values.

Key Learnings

Together with my team, I put in place inventive-based learning that creates outstanding ambassadors for the region’s tourism industry. I also initiated our human capital service philosophy and training initiative called “We Love to Care.” By enhancing our skills and knowledge around the mission, “excellence in customer service and an understanding of emotional intelligence”, “We Love to Care” has guided the ICON team to focus on creating personalised experiences, ensuring each guest feels at home on the property.

Topping-Out Ceremony for the Redevelopment of Pak Sui Yuen, 2010


3. Can you share one particular memory that you have experienced during your time as a hotelier that made you realise this was the right industry for you?

As an Adjunct Associate Professor, during my first lecture at the School of Hotel Tourism Management (Hong Kong Polytechnic University), the students in my class originating from different countries made me acutely aware of the unique talents and abilities of “third culture kids” and what they can bring to today’s multicultural workplace. Children who have been exposed to more than one country have an increased global perspective to their peers and are far more interested in travelling the rest of the world. Not surprisingly, growing up overseas as a “third culture kid” and working abroad for so long, one tends to feel at home everywhere. As a hotelier in a multinational business world, my ability to build cultural bridges is an invaluable quality in my roles as a mentor and teacher.


4. What attracted you to apply for The Hotelier Awards and what does the platform mean to you and your team?

The award aligns with my impetus to continue accelerating talents at Hotel ICON as ICON leads the way in developing the future generation of Asian hospitality experts, employing the hotel as a “live” innovation laboratory, always experimenting and connecting with innovation.

I am enthusiastic about an affiliation with the Hotelier Awards because of the potential opportunity to network for the leadership development of our graduates and the management team.

Resident Manager at Shangri-La Hotel, Surabaya


5. How are you planning on leveraging this opportunity to inspire the younger generation in Greater China to work harder at developing their career in the hospitality scene?

The Hotelier Awards brings together the top achievers in the hospitality industry, and this recognition provides a collective motivation for us all to continue to grow as future hotelier leaders.

Following the finalist announcement, I feel recognised for what I have been doing for the hotel property and for myself as a hotelier. I am excited in continue developing the next generation of hoteliers in Hong Kong to contribute to the city’s position as an “Intellectual capital”.


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