Hong Kong Finnair 18th Anniversary Feature Interview
The Hong Kong Arts Festival (HKAF) is renowned across Asia for hosting hundreds of shows which aim to merge the cultures of the East and the West and promote Hong Kong as a creative arts hub. Our guest today, Ms Ho, is one of those who devoted herself to partaking in arts-related activities and promoting cultural activities with HKAF.
This matches with the ambitions of Finnair, that has been the official airline for HKAF since 2014. Therefore, we joined hands with them to carry the spirit of European Arts to the stages in Hong Kong and offering the Hong Kong public a chance to see their performances right inside their own city.
Stan (Finnair): Finnair has been the official airline for HKAF since 2014. What do you think has been the foundation of the now 6-year old partnership between us?
Tisa (HKAF): HKAF and Finnair have been collaborating seamlessly with great communication, trust and shared goals. I believe the partnership is very much based upon the effort both teams have devoted to this project. The fact that we have achieved so much together is truly heartwarming; this feels like family.
Stan (Finnair): HKAF has invited multiple performers from Europe to perform in front of the Hong Kong audience over the years. What have they said about Finnair?
Tisa (HKAF): Our European performers have been travelling with Finnair for a long time. Some of them might not have previous experience of flying with Finnair, but when they did so, it was a very positive experience. In 2019, when we invited two veteran Cuban Cantonese Opera performers to the Festival, Finnair took really good care of them and arranged everything so well that they felt like it was home away from home during the trip and really appreciated all the effort and attention given to looking after them so well.
Stan (Finnair): How does the HKAF team handle and arrange such a large amount of activities and performances?
Tisa (HKAF): HKAF presents around 120 to 150 performances each year. And I would describe the process of arranging all this as a complicated puzzle. Dates and venues are confirmed way in advance. But then we have to raise the money to bring the artists to Hong Kong to sell all the tickets, and to ensure everything goes smoothly, including all the many details. That’s our job - to bring together the big picture by putting together all pieces that make up the whole. It takes a close-knit team that knows each other well. Collaborating with such a team is a real blessing.
Stan (Finnair): You have been involved in arts management at HKAF for 14 years now. What do you think we can do to inspire the up and coming generations in the arts and culture industry?
Tisa (HKAF): I think it’s no different from any other industry. The first thing to do is to love what you do, then be willing to make the necessary effort, not be afraid of hard work and stay curious. Then the rewards are tremendous and there are so many opportunities to learn. As the old saying goes, learning has no end, and we can always continue to learn and find joy from the work and the lessons.
Stan (Finnair): Has there been anything that captures your heart when you fly Finnair and are transferring for a connecting flight at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport?
Tisa (HKAF): Helsinki-Vantaa Airport has been expanding to meet the demands from international flights in recent years. I find it really convenient and easy to navigate! This airport always makes me feel secure – it maybe that’s the vibe of North Europe! I tend to wander around while waiting for the connecting flight, so that I can try out the local delicacies and bring some home. Cloudberry jam is a favorite, and great with dark rye bread!
Stan (Finnair): Can you name three European cities that are, in your opinion, the richest in terms of music, arts and culture? Do you have some suggestions on how we can learn more about their cultures on our trips?
Tisa (HKAF): There are so many, but I enjoy the Summer Festival at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Germany; and Milan where I go to lecture at the La Scala Academy; and also Sibiu in Romania which has a truly remarkable Festival that takes over the entire city in the summer.
One suggestion is to visit local churches where some services are accompanied by beautiful music. Sometimes there are concerts, or you can quietly listen to someone practicing or rehearsing.
Stan (Finnair): In the Savonlinna Opera Festival and the 42nd HKAF in 2014, over 100 performers came to Hong Kong from Finland. Was that the first time you got in touch with Finnish opera? Where did you first learn about the Savonlinna Opera?
Tisa (HKAF): I was lucky enough to have been to Finland many years ago, and had the chance to visit the Olavinlinna Castle where performances are held during the Savonlinna Festival; and also the town of Kuhmo, which hosts a wonderful chamber music Festival in the summer, when the nights are very very short.
Finland has a very rich musical culture and many outstanding performers, as well as a large number of festivals. It was a great pleasure to be able to present a production of the Savonlinna Festival in Hong Kong.
Stan (Finnair): How do you like the unique boarding music of Finnair? Do you feel more like in Northern Europe with that?
Tisa (HKAF): I find it relaxing and soothing, as comfortable and natural as being in a North European landscape.
Stan (Finnair): You have opted for Finnair in your journeys of exploring the world of music, culture and arts. Could you please share things that you appreciate about us and things that we can improve on?
Tisa (HKAF): I like the simple elegance and cheerfulness of the Marimekko prints, and of course the very professional and attentive service. I enjoy the meals, which are satisfying without being heavy; and it was very interesting to learn about Finnair’s care for the environment, reducing disposable plastic materials and reducing the carbon footprint. This deserves credit and could even make all of us more environmentally conscious even when we travel.
Post-interview comment from Stan: I believe aesthetic beauty can come from being immersed in arts and culture. In the short interview for just an hour, Ms. Ho’s elegance and humour in her speech and communication impressed me so much.
Executive Director of the Hong Kong Arts Festival - Tisa Ho
Host Finnair Mr. Stan Kwong
Editor Finnair Ms. Yvonne Law & Ms. Ruby Fung