Name: Robert Williams
Occupation: British Airways regional general manager, South East Asia
1. How often do you travel to Sydney and who do you fly with?
I travel to Sydney at least once a quarter and naturally I fly there with British Airways. Our flight leaves Singapore at 20:05 and arrives early morning – in time for a day’s work or sightseeing. The returning flight departs Sydney at 16:25, which means I can still enjoy the best part of the day and make it back to Singapore at the reasonable time of 21:30. This schedule is perfect for me. Our I would recommend the fully flat beds in our Club World business and first class cabins for the journey!
2. One thing everyone ought to know about Sydney:
The Vivid Sydney festival is not so well known but is definitely worth a visit. It usually takes place in May when the Sydney Opera House and other attractions are transformed and lit up in the most colourful and imaginative ways. It is great for keen photographers like me looking to take some amazing and unique shots of the Sydney skyline. Further details can be found at www.vividsydney.com.
3. How quickly can you get a visa? Online, embassy or visa on arrival?
It is incredibly easy. The visa process is electronic and can be completed online or through a travel agent. Customers travelling in our premium cabins are eligible for fast track departure here and arrival in Sydney, which make it even smoother.
4. Fastest way into and around the city?
I find that using the train is the fastest and most efficient way to get into Sydney. There is a train that goes direct from the airport to Circular Quay in about 25 minutes.
5. When are the good and bad times to visit Sydney?
The weather in Sydney is usually great and reliable. September and October are really good times to visit as it is before the real summer heat kicks in. The skies are blue and the air is fresh. New Year’s Eve is a real event in Sydney and the world-famous fireworks are some of the best you will ever see. Mardi Gras in February also draws in a really fun-loving crowd and is an exceptional time to be in the city.
6. Hotels you recommend.
I am a huge fan of the Pullman brand from Accor – they have two great properties in the city. The hotels are large enough to have all that you need while maintaining a boutique style that keeps things personal. One property has the best views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, while the other is perfectly situated at Hyde Park, which is close to the lively nightlife at Oxford Street.
7. What’s the dress code for meetings?
It is similar to Singapore in that respect. Formal business meetings warrant a suit with a tie but in the heat of summer you can lose the jacket and often the tie too.
8. Any cultural or business etiquette to be aware of?
I find Australians very down to earth to work with and extremely sociable. I am always surprised by the number of people who go out for a run or even surf on their lunch breaks which I think is great. Office chat can be very sport-orientated so it helps to keep up-to-date with the latest rugby, Aussie Rules or cricket score. As painful as that may be for any Englishmen after losing the Ashes!
9. You are taking a client to lunch or dinner, where do you go?
I often arrange meetings at The Langham Sydney which is located in the Rocks district. It is only a few minutes’ walk from the Sydney Harbour Bridge but its tranquil setting makes it feel like you have escaped the city’s hustle and bustle. The hotel has a legacy for fine dining and the Galileo restaurant serves fantastic Australian cuisine. The Langham’s signature Tiffin Afternoon Tea is also a special treat for late afternoon meetings.
10. Casual bars to go for a drink with clients where you won’t get hassled?
George Street, located in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, is a lively place to go for after-work drinks. Establishment bar is popular with nearby office workers and has a buzzing atmosphere during the week. Closer to the harbour, the Rocks offers a more traditional drinking scene with a number of good pubs, including the Lord Nelson Brewery. I enjoy venturing to Surry Hills which is one of Sydney’s most vibrant neighbourhoods and has some great wine bars. The Sydney Opera House is an unexpected place to go for drinks but it has a fantastic cocktail bar with impressive views over the harbour.
11. Any unsafe areas to avoid?
Sydney is a very safe place to visit. On the whole the city feels safe and well policed.
12. You’ve got some spare time, what’s the must-see?
I like to take the bus to Bondi Beach and enjoy an hour there before starting the cliff walk to Coogee Walk. This is a really fantastic way to spend a couple of hours. The walk is great exercise and the views along the way are stunning. There are also some great cafes along the way.
13. Gifts to take home for family and friends?
For friends in the UK it was often Ugg boots but the weather in Singapore means that they aren’t such a welcome gift here. Wine is a really great gift given the wide choice and quality available.
14. How long before your flight do you really need to be at the Sydney Airport?
It is always worthwhile being at the airport two hours before. Sydney airport is also great in terms of shopping and eateries so having an hour to relax there before the flight is no bad thing.
15. Tell us a personal anecdote from one of your trips to this city that will give readers a feel for staying there or doing business there.
Last time I was in the city, I was ambling along through Surry Hills which is a really lovely neighbourhood. I came across a long queue of people and decided to follow the crowd. Turns out they were in line for Gelato Messina on Crown Street. Having waited in the queue, I discovered the best ice cream I have ever had (and I’ve been to Italy a lot) and it was well worth waiting for. It is things like this that make Sydney such an interesting and vibrant place with a new surprise around every corner.