PHUKET: One of Asia’s leading hospitality experts, Bill Barnett, shines a light on the good, bad and ugly of luxury hotels and travel in his acerbic new collection of twisted travel tales, Slave to the Bean: Random Dispatches from the Inferno, which was launched on December 18 at the Bangkok boutique hotel, Ad Lib.
Bill Barnett launched his new book along with an exhibition of the illustrations that illuminate his entertainingly scathing and doom-laden musings, written during his dark nights of the soul in his home on monsoon-soaked Phuket, or at 30,000 feet on airplanes, winging his way to and from the centers of power, next-big-things and sizzling hotspots in Asia and beyond.
As one of Asia’s most respected and influential consultants in hospitality, an inveterate globetrotter and former long-time executive with prominent international hotel management companies and publicly-listed organizations in both key and emerging markets, Bill Barnett is the ultimate hospitality insider, having acted as top-level adviser to hotel developers across Asia and beyond.
In Slave to the Bean he distills his fear and loathing into a heady brew of dark apocalyptic visions, anecdotes and blunt views, as he takes aim at his pet peeves and villains, from terrorists to backpackers and the ubiquitous bearded hipsters. It’s a rollicking, off-kilter, breathless read.
Disruptive current events that came as an onslaught of pure craziness in 2015 become story lines throughout the book. Barnett’s running commentary is woven into the haphazard adventures of a professional traveler and punctuated by a life lived in seat 9D. “If you wanted the Disney version, you came to the wrong place,” he said.
The frenetic travel schedule that connects the stories in ‘Slave to the Bean’ was a habit learned early for Barnett, who by the age of 19 was road manager for Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter John Hiatt. He also worked for a record label, in music publishing, and as a rock and roll magazine contributor.
Barnett’s sideways journey to Asia began on a small island in Hawaii, when he was reading the story of Michael Rockefeller who went missing in Papua New Guinea. Chasing the ghost of Rockefeller, he sold all his belongings, bought a one-way ticket to PNG and never looked back.
He arrived in the Philippines the day the People’s Power Revolution overthrew Ferdinand Marcos, traveled around India for a year in a rattletrap car, and was the first American hotelier to work in post-war Vietnam.
In the past two decades, he has been appointed as asset manager of luxury properties managed by leading chains, such as Four Season, Ritz-Carlton and Grand Hyatt, to senior executive roles with international hotel chains. His start-up hospitality firm, C9 Hotelworks, has blossomed into a leading consultant in Asia Pacific with works in over 15 countries.
Over the past four years, he has written a series of satirical and hallucinatory tomes, including Collective Swag, It Might Get Weird and Last Call. This time out an inspired all-nighter and moment of clarity turned into a collaboration with the inspired, and somewhat tormented digital craftsman, Jason Gagliardi.
Gagliardi’s illustrations, created on the smartphones and tablets that have become such indispensable accessories to modern life, add to the surreal real-time punch of Barnett’s barbs and diatribes, usually beginning with his own photography and spanning everything from portraiture to digital painting to photo blending and manipulation, and other techniques done with any of up to 30 different apps.
Barnett, whose consulting firm C9 Hotelworks has firmly established its presence in hospitality, hotel residences and mixed-used projects in Asia, continues to be a leading adviser and analyst on emerging markets and has pushed the group’s presence into the Indian Ocean and Africa. Be it the Millennial trend of poshtels, adventure-focused tented camps, or luxury hotel villas, Barnett is set to be in an airplane finding the next big destination for 2016.
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