Ho Ren Yung on returning to the family business

Sharp-eyed guests at Banyan Tree hotels and spa may notice something different about its body and aromatherapy products.

The products now come in curvy bottles, made of PET recyclable plastic, and in a luscious shade of dark green evocative of banyan tree leaves. All the gift packaging has been replaced with sustainable materials such as fabric wraps and tote bags made from recycled plastic bottles.The ingredients used are now close to 99 per cent natural.

The relaunch of the brand's body and aromatherapy products is the work of Ho Ren Yung, assistant vice-president of Banyan Tree Spa and Gallery.

Ms Ho, 32, is the daughter of Ho Kwon Ping and Claire Chiang, founders of Banyan Tree Holdings, a leading international hospitality brand that manages and develops premium resorts, hotels and spas.

She returned to the family business in 2016. Ms Ho had previously worked as a management trainee in Banyan Tree Mayakoba in January 2009, and from May 2009 to December 2010 was made pre-opening manager. She was promoted to associate director in January 2011. She then left Banyan Tree to co-found Kennel, a collaborative work space, and later to start MATTER, a socially conscious clothing company.

Banyan Tree has over 20 years of championing artisanal craft, ecology and sustainability. Why is there a need for a reformulation of its products?

The products were good. but there is always a need for improvement. In the past, we launched products based on the location of our openings, using ingredients found on the site. But now, the focus is more consumer-centric, people are looking for ways to better inject wellness into their lives.

The meaning of new luxury has now evolved into one emphasising purpose, integrity in both ingredient sourcing and business practice, as well as overall wellbeing. It took us close to two years to come to this point where we use recycled and recyclable plastic for all our packaging worldwide and all formulas are close to 99 per cent naturally derived without the usual sulfates, colourings, palm and mineral oil that are common in many other products. I think we will definitely see a shift in consciousness in consumers who realise that what they put on their skin affects not only their own health but also that of the ecosystem at large.

What are your plans for Banyan Tree Spa and Gallery?

The redesigning of the products is now done. The next step is distribution. Aromatherapy and organic bodycare is a growing segment that we are well placed to move into. While standalone stores in key markets such as Hong Kong and Seoul are not out of the question, right now our focus is on enhancing the retail experience at our existing global footprint of hotels, spas and galleries and developing a better omni-channel approach. Guests at our locations would experience the products offline and then continue to shop easily when they return home on our newly revamped digital store.

Banyan Tree Spa and Gallery's products are about using natural and sustainably sourced ingredients and having environmentally-friendly packaging. How eco-conscious are you in your personal life?

I have a long way to go in moving towards a lifestyle I can say is fully 'eco-conscious'. I am conscious to a large degree of the impact my actions create, whether it is the cleaning agents used at home and in the shower, my travel options and the food and things I buy, but changing behaviour is a whole other mission. It is not easy, but I truly believe that we all have to start small, and start where we are. Sustainability is a mindset and an ongoing journey that we all, like it or not, are already on. It is just a matter of degree.

You left Banyan Tree to pursue other projects. Were you expected to return?

The family business is like an extended family, so I feel like I never left it. But I left because I needed to go out to learn on my own what it means to start my own business. I met a lot of people who shaped me into who I am today. Leaving the company made me realise where I could contribute to Banyan Tree.

My parents always encouraged my brothers and me to see it not as an obligation to be part of Banyan Tree but as an opportunity. They gave us time to come to the decision ourselves.

I returned to Banyan Tree because I want my work to have as much impact as possible. I could have achieved that same impact outside, but it would have taken a much longer time.

What is it like having famous parents?

Learning how to create my own definition of success and value systems has been important. Learning to see that precedence of reputation is a benefit and is also a journey. Getting the chip off the old block is a long process. It has been a blessing having incredibly talented and articulate parents who are also leaders. Expectations are high, but opportunities also abound.

What is the best advice your parents have given you?

They have given me lots of advice over the years, but two really stand out. My dad would say to me, if you have an idea, make sure you are the best person to carry it out. Mum says that work never stops. So you have to decide when to make it stop. To have that level of mindfulness has been very valuable. Work never ends, so it is not so much about the hours, but choosing which part of work is most important and getting that done. Do I take all their advice? I pick what works best for me.

Your husband, Adrien Desbaillets started his own business, SaladStop! Who is the better businessman?

It depends on how you define better. We have similarities, such as seeing an idea to execution, and investing in people. He, however, has more patience grooming people and is teaching me a lot about that. I am better at planning ahead and making connections between the different parts of the business.