HAPA Malaysia Awards Series 2018-2020 Gala Dinner


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Naomi and I attended the HAPA Malaysia Awards Series 2018-2020 Gala Dinner, which was held at New World Petaling Jaya Hotel on 15 November 2018. The awards dinner was graced by Yang Berbahagia Datuk Ahmad Shah Hussein Tambakau, Chairman of the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board.

The awards were held to recognise and reward outstanding establishments and individuals who have shown extraordinary drive, the passion for excellence and the commitment to the industry. This has always been central in the HAPA Awards’ purpose, particularly for, as Founder and Chairman of WAP INTL and HAPA Awards, Jennifer Ong, recounted, the professionals that perform back of the house work and seldom get recognition or mention, but are essential in the creation of a memorable experience for guests. Joining the dignitaries present at the prestigious Gala Dinner was His Excellency Guido F. Loayza, the Ambassador of Peru; representing Peru as one of the partners of the event. 

Since its inception in 2002, the HAPA Awards, known as the “Oscars of Hospitality”, has been designed to set the excellence benchmark, taking the hospitality industry to greater heights. In the concluding remarks of Yg Bhg Datuk Ahmad Shah Hussein Tambakau’s address, he applauded the homegrown HAPA Awards for lifting up the hospitality industry’s service levels that have become industry benchmarks to follow, improve and innovate from; giving flight to the essence and identity of Malaysian hospitality and warmth with its regional presence and giving the industry a chance to touch the lives of those in greater need in the immediate community around them. 

The HAPA Awards’ purpose is reflected in their five main award categories, namely the Cream of Hospitality, Heavens of Hospitality, Flavours of Hospitality, Passions of Hospitality and Hospitality from the Heart encompassing a total of 28 awards. 

HAPA Awards identified benchmarks within the industry that define excellence through its bespoke process, which informs all elements of the HAPA Awards. From the logo incorporating the four faces and stars, to the handcrafted process behind the generation of the trophy design that eventually incorporated a face to reflect a personal identity: people are at the very heart of HAPA’s purpose.  

The award series organised by the WAP group has gone regional, expanding to the HAPA Regional Awards Series in six neighbouring countries, namely Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, besides Malaysia. Both HAPA Malaysia and HAPA Regional occur once in three years.  

Founder and Chairman of WAP INTL and HAPA Awards, Jennifer Ong (on the left)

“Every nominee in the HAPA Awards is deserving of recognition for their spirit in striving for excellence. This is especially as the Awards uses a unique Mystery Judge Audit system where our judges carry out an on-site inspection on an incognito basis as well as one-on-one interviews and food tasting sessions with nominated personalities. Their findings and evaluation are then reported through a Report Card system,” Ong mentioned. This gives particular insights into the nominees’ strengths and finding the gaps and areas for improvement. Through the Report Card system, all nominees gain a thorough understanding of how they are perceived by the HAPA Panel of Judges comprising of industry and culinary experts, business owners and corporate individuals. 

The HAPA Awards continues to be valuable and relevant based on this assessment system and the WAP group’s commitment to fully fund the awards programme. This makes the HAPA Awards a platform for hospitality players to gauge themselves on a merit-based system, where they are not seen for the size of the brand or the number of rooms but their performance and the willingness of their staff to go the extra mile in service excellence. It is this opportunity that the HAPA Awards is a platform that provides an opportunity for nominees to not only gauge their levels of quality and service but as an improvement system for their own in-house standards. Based on this meticulous assessment system, it is unsurprising that the HAPA Awards takes up to two years to plan, execute and tabulate results.

This homegrown awards series is not only well respected by individuals and establishments alike in the hospitality industry but also holds the honor of the only Malaysian hospitality awards programme to be hosted at a regional level. In fact, the HAPA Awards Series has cemented its reputation with the endorsement of renowned hospitality associations in Malaysia and all across the region. 

Datuk Seri Shaheen (Entrepreneur of the Year)
Joey G interviewing Datuk Seri Shaheen

In the same spirit of constant improvement, the HAPA Entrepreneur Awards has been expanded from a category under the HAPA Awards into a full-fledged awards series. The inauguration of the HAPA Entrepreneur Awards Series 2018-2019 at the gala focusses on hospitality entrepreneurs who have made a mark in the industry; inspiring future generations of hospitality professionals and being role models and mentors of future entrepreneurs. The HAPA Entrepreneur Awards will recognise not the millions of dollars in turning a profit but the millions of hours of blood, sweat and tears put in by bold, passionate and resilient entrepreneurs. It is a celebration of those who have fought through hardship,  stuck to their guns and their dreams and embody the grit and resilience needed to succeed in entrepreneurship. 

Unlike other Entrepreneurship awards, the adjudication of the HAPA Entrepreneur Awards mirrors the main HAPA Awards process with specifically targeted panel interviews of nominees to assess their character and allow their passion, work ethic and grit to shine through. Instead of the commonplace written essay or published awards submission, the HAPA Entrepreneur Awards is also recorded live as the nominee discloses their personal story of growth, development, success and hardship. This unique format allows viewers to experience the gist of the nominee’s journey, deriving precious life lessons on entrepreneurship along the way. 

Yang Berbahagia Datuk Ahmad Shah Hussein Tambakau, Chairman of the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board

In another first, the HAPA Awards is also the only homegrown awards to fully donate the net proceeds of the event to charity since its inauguration in 2002. HAPA Awards has donated to thirteen different charities in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia every time it is held. 

In 2017, Ong decided to take the HAPA Awards further as a platform that not only recognises the hospitality heroes but also creates a sustainable community engagement platform to recognise the achievements of children victoriously battling cancer at UMMC’s Childhood Cancer Unit.  

This purpose aims to recognise a child’s bravery, courage and determination in fighting for their survival in the place of a hospitality hero’s fight for excellence in the everyday experience of life. The sustained presence of HAPA Awards in this cause is another hallmark of its commitment and its constant dedication in saving the lives of children with cancer.

“The heart of my passion in identifying this purpose is that the children have to fight every day for their survival. There is no giving up, no walking away, no reasons or excuses in their fight for survival. Every child saved is a person that has the potential to bring joy to their loved ones, change to the community around them and advancement to the nation and even the world in future. This group of children, their families and the UMMC team who works tirelessly in providing the necessary treatment for them deserve our sustained support,” mentioned Ong in her opening address.  

In a video message by Professor Dr. Hany Mohd Ariffin, Head of UMMC’s Childhood Cancer Unit, “The HAPA Awards family first embraced the children undergoing cancer treatment at UMMC’s Childhood Cancer Unit in 2008, bringing them joy with gifts and toys and fulfilled wishes. We are heartened that HAPA Awards has grown deeper in their commitment to fulfill the children’s greatest wish of all, to be cured.  

The funds collected by HAPA Awards are matched by the Universiti of Malaya and are channeled into the paediatric oncology research laboratory of UMMC, leading to sophisticated testing and assaying in the research facility. The results are then translated to precision medicine which improves the survival rates of about 150 children with various cancers.

To celebrate the new lease of life that the children have, HAPA holds a Chemo Graduation Ball, symbolising the achievement by these children in winning their battle with childhood cancer. HAPA previously held two Chemo Graduation Balls, overall benefiting 60 chemo-graduates with a total donation of RM330,000.00. 

After this series, HAPA Awards will be calling entries for the HAPA Regional Awards Series 2019 – 2021. 

For more information on HAPA Malaysia Awards Series 2018-2020, head over to or email

Photos courtesy of HAPA MAlaysia Awards.


About Tim Chew

Managing Editor and Founder of MHB Digital - More than 15 years of media, marketing, and management experience with various media owners and publishers.

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