In this edition of ‘How to Succeed’, we speak to Corinna Yap — Asaya Rosewood Hong Kong’s brand new Director of Wellness — on her journey to wellness as a career, to wellness programming at Asaya and to wellness as it relates to her, personally. That may or may not include jumping out of aeroplanes as a stress-relieving activity.
Wellness. It’s the kind of word that’s almost undefinable, not because it touches on esotericism or because it’s a word that particularly difficult to summarise, but because it, for all intents and purposes, delves into a state of being that’s entirely subjective. What makes someone happy, another may find only indifference. Where yoga, meditation brings contentment to some; others, only boredom.
Which makes Corinna Yap’s job especially hard. Or especially fun! Either way, it’s a role with breadth; with no Groundhog Days.
“Director of Wellness” — like “Social Media Manager” a decade ago, or “NFT Specialist” a mere month ago — is not the kind of role one studies into becoming. It’s not, even, the kind of role that would have existed prior to the wellness industry ballooning to a value of US$1.5 trillion dollars. For Yap, though, finally landing on wellness and hospitality is a path that made perfect sense, from a travelling childhood to a Hotel Management degree to an unfortunate breast cancer diagnosis to, finally, Asaya’s call earlier this year.
At the end of the day, Yap’s job — be it in the service of Asaya’s clientele or her A-Team associates and practitioners — is simple, albeit formidable. To make people feel good. Feel well. Feel grounded; rested. Purposeful, even. Better than before, wherever that barometer ends. And begin again, bettered.
Asaya Rosewood’s Corinna Yap on wellness and success:
Tell us a little bit about your background — how did you enter the hospitality industry? And more specifically, how did you make the jump from sales and marketing to wellness? Was there a moment or event that really influenced you to become involved in the wellness sphere?
Dad and Mum were in the travel industry — I was lucky to go on some of Dad’s business trips as a child and always loved exploring different destinations, and discovering different hotels always fascinated me. I studied Hotel Management at Cardiff Business School and then introduced myself to a hotel company at the World Travel Market in London and got my first job that way. As much as I enjoyed working in Sales, Marketing and Event Management I always had an interest in sports, massage and wellbeing; I almost chose Sports Management as my degree but my parents steered me into Hotel Management as a safer and more steady career choice.
I had been thinking about how to make the move from Event Sales to Spa and Wellness when I was approached about the Global Director of Sales role for COMO Shambhala, the wellbeing and lifestyle brand of COMO, so I knew it was destined to be. My 13 years with COMO and Mrs Ong taught me so much and very much influences my approach to health and wellbeing.
In your expert opinion, what does it mean to “be well”?
To me, being well is about finding your balance. It is something you do rather than something you are. Our actions and the way we think have a big impact on what we experience and everyone’s balance is different. Balancing thoughts, emotions, actions and experiences will bring us a sense of health and vitality where we feel happy, healthy, socially connected and purposeful.
Who is one person who has been instrumental in your success? If there isn’t a person, an experience or an insight?
The only person that can truly be instrumental in one’s own success is oneself. That said, there have been guiding lights along my journey who taught me to believe in myself as well as the importance of integrity and authenticity. My parents and sister have been my most important sounding boards and mentors throughout my life. I have also watched and learned from the many leaders I have worked with; how to and not to be. I have come to realise that rather than try to emulate someone, success comes from not seeking success but being completely true to yourself and allow the person you are to be seen and shine through.
“Director of Wellness” is the kind of role that would not exist, say, 10, or even five years ago. Can you describe the scope of your role, what you’re responsible for — and what you hope to achieve?
The most exciting thing about being Director of Wellness at Asaya Hong Kong with Rosewood is that the scope of my role is almost limitless — there is just so much that it can encompass. Vision and creativity on how we evolve brand Asaya to spark imagination in the consumer to embrace wellbeing as not only fundamental but also enjoyable. People sometimes make wellbeing seem all serious and unobtainable but actually there is so much that can be fun and playful.
The scope of the role spans the financial success of Asaya Hong Kong, all aspects of strategy, programming, marketing and partnerships, the smooth operating of the two-floor wellness centre, leading and caring for a team of 50 amazing individuals and, very importantly, the building of the Asaya community and care and attention we give all of our guests.
Also in my scope is how we build the Asaya wellbeing journey into the whole Rosewood experience, giving all our guests the choice to choose wellbeing options from the moment they walk into the Rosewood Hong Kong and finally, but very importantly, building a strong wellbeing culture for all of the Rosewood and Asaya Associates to allow them to have access to the experts and tools to also build their own wellbeing journey.
In your opinion, what makes Asaya’s wellness programming different from others on the market?
Asaya’s wellness programming is about introducing wellbeing to our guests and walking with them on their own individual journey to find balance and be well. We provide options dependant on whether a person wants to dip their toe in or have a fully immersive experience. Starting with a consultation with our Anchor Coach who is a Naturopathic Doctor, we fully listen to the intentions and needs of the guest and then guide or prescribe (depending on the programme) the best treatments and expert sessions that will set them on the right path. Wellbeing does not happen overnight, but our shorter programmes can help to reset and set new intentions and then more long term bespoke programming can be put together to reach the end goal and beyond.
Tell us about a significant point where you truly began to feel recognised; that you’ve “made it”.
This is not something I ever really thought about, having “made it”. For me what makes me feel like I’ve made it is knowing that I have made a difference in someone else’s life be it directly or through my team. When a person reaches out to tell you that you have positively impacted their life for the better, both professionally and personally. That for me is the most fulfilling recognition I could ever have.
First, define what success means to you. Then, to you, what’s the most important aspect, trait or criteria for someone to succeed?
I see success as the positive impact you have on the lives of others. Doing what you love and being authentic whilst you do it and being kind while in pursuit of your life goals.
Success is a journey. Celebrate the successes of each day and grow it rather than keep searching for success. Sometimes it means not taking the path of least resistance but opening yourself up to new experiences and challenges that will help you grow spiritually, mentally and professionally.
What’s some of the key challenges that taught you an important lesson?
My breast cancer diagnosis in 2019 was one of the biggest challenges I ever faced. It taught me no matter how well equipped you think you are to cope in times of crisis, that it can all fall apart. The mental impact this had on me was initially almost crippling which in hindsight was quite extraordinary as I am a very positive person. It truly taught me firsthand the true importance of how much we need to understand and support mental wellbeing and wellness in our workplaces. We have to strike out the taboo as anxiety and depression is so much more prevalent than we realise and employers need to be more open and supportive of mental wellness. Finally the most important lesson I learned from a dear friend and mentor who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer in November 2020 is to turn around the thoughts of “Why me?” in times of great challenge and crisis and ask yourself “What matters most now?” That change of mindset is a game changer.
What did you wish you knew at the start of your career that you know now? What words of advice would you want to give your younger self?
Another great piece of advice that really changed my life quite recently is that “Nothing is Forever”. It really helped me make a shift and big changes happened for me when I embraced this.
There is no need to tie yourself down because of fear of the unknown or getting too comfortable. Instead, open yourself up to possibility and the magic will happen.
Your crucial tip for productivity? Do you use a particular app? Meditate?
Taking a moment to stop and breathe properly. It’s so important to take regular breaks even for a few minutes to go and get some fresh air, breathe and walk around a little. I do meditate in the evenings using guided sessions by a sound and energy healer. I also love Insight Timer as it has such a range of options for guided meditation, sound healing and talks. Set work-life balance boundaries and try to stick by them; it is really hard but if you do it you will be so much more productive.
What does an average work day look like for you?
There is no average work day in the wellness and hospitality industry. Everyday is different and throws different scenarios at you. This is what I love about it. People think it must be very relaxing to work in a spa and wellness environment but they never see what goes on behind the scenes. We are like swans; calm and guided on the surface but paddling our feet like crazy underneath. We do it because we love what we do and what want people to feel taken care of and leave feeling better than they did when they walked in.
What do you like to do when you’re not working, how does it help you or how does it make you feel?
So, back in the UK I used to throw myself out of perfectly good aeroplanes and it was one of the most stress relieving activities I did because you certainly don’t think about work. You are also outside in the countryside or in the sky so it is a really freeing feeling. Walking, hiking and, when the opportunity arises, sailing are my more recent activities.
I also started Personal Training again with Hybrid and my sessions with Louie and Dan are my therapy and my zen — it has helped me set boundaries for work-life balance and I make two of the three sessions a week my non-negotiables. I get so much laughter, energy and strength from my sessions. Restorative Yoga with my UK teacher online at least once a week is also must and really helps me to slow down and re-centre.
Finally, having purr meditations with Leia, my 18-year-old Sheung Wan market rescue cat that I adopted. The power of healing from animals is truly special and my nightly rituals with her take my stresses of the day away.