“If I don’t work, I’m going to die.”
This is the credo, the motivation, of 86-year-old Lina Hsu, a product development specialist who we caught up with at NAJ’s recent RTO Summit East in New York City.
Hsu, a native of Shanghai who grew up in Hong Kong, has always been the kind of entrepreneurial, freelance, spirited individuals who make up so much of the demographic segment who comprise the tour and travel sales and marketing ethic—and she can’t imagine doing anything else but putting together travel packages for this client or that client—inbound or outbound.
The industry consumes her. For instance, her leisure reading—what there is of it—means that she reads only about travel and tourism.
During several conversations with her, INBOUND learned that she probably developed a sense of self-confidence by spending most of her growing-up years with a single mother, living apart from her father, a professorial type with a PhD. from Columbia University in New York City.
Coming to America: Hsu, who spent much of her adult life in China—she came to the U.S. for good in 1988—prefers to talk about her work. For many years, in China, she was involved in businesses in which she had a stake. Her last venture, with Sino American Technology Inc., involved importing machinery from a manufacturing site in Africa.
Moving to the United States, she began what turned out to be a series of positions with U.S.-based travel companies after a disastrous turn of event with the June 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing. This resulted in the cancellation of 300 tickets for a tour she had sold.
Gradually, she weaned herself from direct relationships with single businesses—preferring to work as a consultant and freelance on a range of projects. Her expertise is such that she is always in demand, working to develop solo programs or advising other companies interested in bringing visitors from China to the United States. (She’s well-qualified for the task, with one of her assets being that she speaks 10 Chinese dialects.)
Branching Out: Following the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attacks on the U.S., which devastated some businesses, Hsu, now nearing 70, branched out in the nature of products she develops. One of her staples is arranging pre- and post-conference itineraries or the top performers worldwide for Market America, a Greensboro, N.C.-based multilevel marketing company that specializes in dietary supplements, cosmetics, household cleaning suppliers, personal care products and more. Each year, the company brings its best marketers to Greensboro. This year, her pre-fam itinerary features Yellowstone National Park and the post-fam is highlighted with a visit to Boston.
Another of her specialties is pilgrimages to Catholic religious sites in French-speaking Canada, as well as to Lourdes in France and Fatima, Portugal. She especially likes France and she speaks French fluently.¹
But, mostly, she finds herself doing consulting/freelance work for other companies that focus on bringing Chinese visitors to the United States. But key source markets also include Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Her godson, she told us, owns a travel agency (Vista International Tours) in Taiwan, and she helps his business, which explained her presence at NAJ’s RTO Summit East in Manhattan. She lives north of Manhattan.
The Healthy Lifestyle: One of the lifestyle notes that she doesn’t mind talking about is her diet. (She is five-feet-plus in height and, she says, she weighs a trim 110 pounds. So, what does she eat? “I hate anything green,” she says emphatically, explaining that she likes meat, especially pork: “I cannot live without pork.” And she also likes to “eat lots of sugar and candy.”
Whatever, it is, it seems to work. She still shows up at trade shows and as a step-on guide for some of her tours. She prefers working alone, believing that large travel companies such as C-trip don’t encourage the entrepreneurial spirit. And she likes the expression she receives when she goes to an event and give her a look that translates: “Is she still around?”
“They think I’m dead,” she chuckles.
Aside from her goal of continuing to work, of continue to show up, Hsu has one desire—to find a client that needs a product in Oklahoma, because it is the only state in the U.S. that she has not yet visited. If you want to help her out or just talk to her, give her a call at 917.583.9603.
Lina Hsu tells us that, to enjoy a visit to France, you need to know, and know when to use, just five words:
- Bon jour (Hello)
- Merci/Merci beaucoup (Thank you/Thank you very much)
- Please (S’il vous plait)
- Manger (Eat)
- Boisson (Drink—goes well with No. 4)