Founder & Chief Executive Office,
Hard-working, smart-working CEO takes his company to a position of substantial growth simply because of the good work they do.
By Percy Roxas.
Ingo Schweder, founder and CEO of GOGO Hospitality, has a reputation that precedes him. Suave, savvy, articulate, and always engaging, the 20-year veteran in the field of spa and hospitality has worked with, and managed, some of the world’s most prestigious hotel groups. He has been involved with the design, development, and worldwide operation of iconic hotels and wellness destinations such as the Ananda in the Himalayas, which was established under his guidance.
During his tenure at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, he established 15 resort spas on four continents from the ground up. Since his days as group director of hotel operations for the Oberoi Hotels & Resorts and managing director of Rafael Group Hoteliers, Southeast Asia, Ingo has been recognized with countless industry awards including “Spa Personality of the Year,” Excellence in Hospitality Design,” and “Best Spa Company.” And that’s just a partial list.
A scion of an affluent family in Germany, Ingo says he is really a self-made man. After graduating from high school at age 17 and getting accepted at journalism school, his Dad cut him off from financial support. That was after he told his father what he wants for his achievements: a BMW series, DM$1,500 monthly allowance, and his own apartment. They were then sitting in an old restaurant with fruit trees, and there was an apple tree with not so many fruits except some in the higher places.
“He said to me,” Ingo, recalled, “Do you see that apple? If I go up there and get you the apple, you will never know how to climb up and get the apple yourself. So effective today no more money; no more support from me except my love.”
Since that day, he didn’t get any cent from his Dad, Ingo said. “Every school, every trip I did, I financed myself. My parents were there for me but nothing to pamper me into becoming a useless person. So I worked hard and I worked smart. I destined my success. I learned how ‘to get the apple,’ so to speak. People who really want something will make something happen.”
Ingo is a guy who make things happen. That is why his company, GOCO Hospitality has been making things happen in the industry it is in, and while it is only a little over five-years-old, is already established in its area of specialty. He formed the company after leaving Mandarin Oriental Group because, as he said, “I was too young to retire, and there was nothing more to do.”
GOCO Hospitality is a consulting and management company focusing on wellness and hospitality. It develops spa and wellness brands for multinationals, including the spa brand for Nikki Beach, MGM Hospitality, and Meridien hotels. Right now, GOCO has eight projects in China, integrative wellness resorts that target consumers who want to go and travel but don’t want go to a hospital but to something like a Chiva-som.
“We started the company to take advantage of the space where wellness and hospitality is merging,’ Ingo said. “Our work is in the area where wellness meets wanderlust.” He started it in Bangkok because from the business point of view, he said, it was very strategic. “It is three hours to China and three hours to India – the two main engines of growth and economy today. And I have always liked Thailand so I’ve been living here since 2007. I like the people; I like the food. It’s an awesome place to be, and for business, it’s strategically smart. GOCO has grown very fast in the last five years.” In fact they are now operating in 15 countries.
“We have received lots of awards and now it’s the people who are calling us up for new projects,” he said. “We are now in a position where we grow the company substantially simply by the good work we do.”
That he chose this kind of company wasn’t an accident. “I’m a cancer survivor,” he revealed, “so I learned a lot about medicine, massages, aromatherapy, yoga, reiki, and all of those things. Surviving death made me decide to merge my background in hospitality.
Also, Ingo says the business of wellness and hospitality is growing dramatically, and already is a US$2-trillion industry worldwide, and he is proud to be considered the best spa and wellness company in Asia-Pacific. “There’s no company like us anywhere,” he explained further. “There are small one stop-shop spa consultancy companies but that’s not what we do. We book over US$900 million worth of business on wellness and hospitality, and manage the development of a billion bucks of investments more. That’s huge.” Their biggest project so far is the one for the Qatar foundation, a US$ 12-million project developing an entire wellness estate of 8500sqm. Another big project is in Shanghai.
Quite a visionary, Ingo is also always focused on what he wants. When he realized being a hotelier is better, he ditched J school and apprenticed for a regional hotel in Germany. Then, he applied for scholarship in an American university (“Purely in the assumption that I wanted to understand how they do things,” he said), worked on his master’s degree before working for Ritz Carlton, which was then just starting but grew very fast.
Then he moved to Hong Kong but that Hong Kong project went bankrupt so he joined Shangri-La, and at 22 became manager of the Shangri-La in Hong Kong. “And that’s where I got cancer. I went to the hospital for two years to fight it and won the battle, as you can see,” he said. At 25, he developed a new concept for Oberoi, the Villas, which was a huge success for the first hotels in India. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Ingo, 52, is happy where he is, with GOCO and Thailand. “My recipe is very simple: work hard, be very smart, and be totally focused. I work 12-13 hours a day. I am very clear of what I want, for today and the future.” How does he see the future? He said, “I want to expand GOCO. I want to redraw the company. I want to be more successful. My next success will be to pass the company on. Then, I will do the things I haven’t been able to do yet in my life, such as go to Antarctica, or climb Mount Kilimanjaro.