Icon of Singapore’s hospitality industry
Jennie Chua has, arguably, done more for Singapore’s hospitality industry than any other individual. She put Singapore in the top league of the global convention business; managed two prestigious brands, Raffles and Swissotel including the world famous Raffles Hotel; and helmed The Ascott Group, the world’s largest owner-operator of serviced residences.
And to cap it all, in 2009 she became chairman of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, the first woman to hold the post in the chamber's 172-year history.
The oldest of 12 children, the teenage Jennie worked part-time as a tutor and typist. She won a scholarship to the University of Singapore but dropped out due to insufficient funds during her first year, and started training to be a teacher. She attended morning classes and taught in the afternoon.
Marrying in 1968, she accompanied her then husband to the US where she got a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Management. Back in Singapore in 1971, she spent three years at the Mandarin Hotel, mainly in sales and marketing. She then taught at the Asian Institute of Tourism in the Philippines for a year.
On her return, Jennie joined the Singapore Tourism Board as director of the new Singapore Convention Bureau. When she left 11 years later, Singapore was among the top 10 convention destinations in the world. In the late 1980s, she joined Westin in Singapore as director of sales and marketing. Two years later, she became general manager of the prestigious Raffles Hotel, the first Singaporean and first woman to hold the post.
In 2003, she became chief executive officer of Raffles Holdings, a listed company with 25 hotels under the Raffles and Swissotel brands worldwife. Four years later, she joined CapitaLand, where she took charge of The Ascott Group, the world’s largest owner-operator of serviced residences.
In 2009, Jennie became CapitaLand’s chief corporate officer, a post she held until she retired in 2012. In May 2009, she assumed the chair of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce.
Jennie has held and still holds a host of leadership positions. These include being Singapore's non-resident ambassador to the Slovak Republic and to the United Mexican States, and a Justice of the Peace. She served for many years as Chairman of the Community Chest of Singapore and is now its adviser. She sits on the boards of four listed companies and a range of other companies, organisations and educational institutions, including Chairman of Alexandra Health System (Khoo Teck Puat Hospital/Yishun Community Hospital) and Singapore Film Commission, as well as Deputy Chairman of Temasek Foundation.
Jennie has received three Singapore National Day Awards – the Public Administration Medal in 1984, Public Service Medal in 2004 and Public Service Star in 2008, and many other awards. She says, however, that her biggest accomplishment and pride in life is having her family – two sons, their wives and their five children – all living together with her in harmony under one roof.
Jennie was Her World magazine’s “Woman of the Year” in 1999.
"People have asked me what keeps me up at night. Love, personal highs and lows, the kids when they were younger, yes. But not professional worries. If I have a problem at 11pm and I can`t resolve it, I’m not going to fret. I know there will be a solution, and it will probably come tomorrow."