Frequent Flyer: Mark Ross-Smith

By David Flynn, December 2 2010
Frequent Flyer: Mark Ross-Smith

Mark Ross-Smith, CEO of Brisbane-based, says quick trips to visit clients in Sydney and Melbourne provide a huge boost to his business. And then there's the Chilli Crab and Tiger Beer in Singapore... 

How many days would you spend travelling each year?
Around 30.

What city do you most often visit for business?
Sydney. I work in digital media and there are very few players up north, so there’s often a quick trip to Sydney or Melbourne for the day or two for the important face to face business. A weekly trip goes a long way – and productivity shoots through the roof when a client or customer knows you’ve made the trip to see them.

What are your best tips for business visitors to Sydney?
As with most places I frequent, it’s important to discover a few great spots to catch up for coffee and to take clients for lunch – and get known by the staff. Being known as an out-of-town regular who’s greeted by name certainly triggers positive reactions in those you’re dining with. Café Sydney and Bavarian Bier Café sit at the top of my list.

What's the one thing you do (or try to do) on every trip?
I like to try something new on every trip; a new restaurant, a different drink from the bar and occasionally a new hotel. One thing that is a must do is having a burger from the hotel. If that’s not how you rate a hotel I don’t know what is…

On any business trip, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Aside from amassing frequent flyer points through shopping, soaking up the local sights and culture is a fabulous way to learn something new while having fun in a new city.

What’s your favourite city to travel to?
San Francisco. The vibe in SFO is very different to other major US cities. It oozes an incredible passion for life that lacks in other parts of the US. The airport is super traveller-friendly and organized, the infrastructure around the bay area is efficient, making meetings enjoyable and relaxing. Simple and easy to get from A to B and there’s an endless list of things to do and see around the Bay.

You’ve got a spare day in San Francisco: what do you do?
Without sounding like a tourist, Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 are great places to check out for a few hours. San Francisco has so much to do and getting around is uber-easy. A trip to Palo Alto is always on the cards to soak up the tech mecca and hopefully run into some famous names!

When you’ve overseas, what are your favourite stores to shop in?
I’m a sucker for labels - so it’s straight to the European fashion and accessory stores. Prices are significantly less than Australia and the experience means

What’s your favourite hotel?
W Maldives. Google it – you’ll see why it’s ten types of awesome.

Tell us about your best overseas dining experience.
This is a tough one. One of the most enjoyable dining moments is Chilli Crab in Singapore – it’s the dish that never gets old from restaurants that look like they'll never even be a two-star facility, but the flavours and quality of the food is always fabulous. Nothing else screams food in Singapore quite like Chilli Crab and a Tiger Beer!

What are some essential carry-on items you’d never leave home without?
Noise cancelling headphones, APEC card and a good book. Noise cancelling to block out everything. APEC card to speed through checkpoints on both ends, and a good book to keep the brain ticking away over a long flight.

How do you typically spend your in-flight time?
Domestically: first flight of the month I’ll flip through the infight magazine, however that’s only enough entertainment until takeoff. Then it’s a mix of listening to ambient dream tunes helps pass the time on short sectors.

Internationally: a few drinks, a movie, then as much sleep as possible in preparation for the next timezone. Working in an internet business means without internet access, work becomes difficult – so not having connectivity on most flights is a fabulous way to do important tasks like soaking up expensive bubbly.

How do you beat jetlag?
In my 10+ years of flying I’ve never once had jetlag. I put this down to careful planning in the 48 hours leading up to a longhaul flight. Minor adjustments to sleeping patterns and diet make a huge difference. Getting into the destination’s timezone as fast as possible before you depart goes a million miles. Although, I’d love to say it’s the pretty LED mood lighting onboard most airlines.

What are the first things you do on a business trip after settling into your hotel?
Explore! Especially in a city I don’t often frequent. Nothing gets the sensors pumping faster than seeing new sights and interacting with locals.

What do you like most about travelling, even though it’s for work?
All flying helps the never ending quest for more miles! Personally I find the whole routine of arriving in a different city refreshing and thrilling. It’s a chance to leave anything and everything behind, giving you an opportunity to jump into your skin and become whoever or whatever you want to be. It’s like pressing the reset button on life that day.

What advice would give airlines to improve the experience of the business traveller?
It’s the little things that matter most for both once a year travellers and everyday frequent flyer junkies. The sincere personal greeting, fast and efficient boarding; and the most important thing – if airlines say they are going to do it – they need to actually fulfill their promise. Telling passengers they appreciate loyalty, then removing FF benefits is a sure fire way to degrade the overall brand value in consumer’s eyes. Business travellers want to see the airline profitable and succeeding too – after all, we rely on the airlines in our own business.

What are your biggest travel gripes?
By far the biggest downside to business travel is leaving those that really matter behind. Time away from family and friends can’t be replaced with points, upgrades and a shiny card (although it sure comes close!). Biggest gripe is that I’d love some of the time invested in travelling back.

What’s your best travel advice?
Plan ahead and be ready for any scenario. Travelling is a fun adventure, made even more exciting when things go a little off-course and you’re prepared for it.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

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