Great Food — For an incentive trip to Florence, the dining experience was superb. We worked with chefs to create menu offerings that offered a variety of food while focusing on local cuisine. EWC also offered cooking classes that were extremely popular with participants.

As part of my series about “How To Create A Travel Experience That Keeps People Coming Back For More”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ralph Weaver.

Ralph is the founder and CEO of East West Connection (EWC), a full-service meetings, events, and incentive travel company that creates memorable experiences for major companies. He leads a team of 45 professionals who have extensive travel experience. Ralph is passionate about travel and it is this love of connecting people from around the world that led to his forming EWC more than 32 years ago.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up I always enjoyed family vacations to various U.S. destinations. However, it was my first trip to Thailand many years ago that my love of travel solidified. I worked for a pharmaceutical company at the time, and I was representing the organization at a site visit to a major medical institution. From the travel experience on Thai Airlines to staying at the Oriental Hotel, each day presented a new adventure. I had back-to-back business meetings that started early in the morning and lasted until late in the evening with business dinners. It truly was an endurance test. In many ways the schedule was unrealistic, and it taught me valuable lessons about the importance of scheduling realistic itineraries. Most importantly, the experience taught me how much we have in common as human beings regardless of where we are from. I did not speak the language but my curiosity and willingness to try enabled me to have wonderful experiences with the Thai people I met. I learned to appreciate and value a different culture because of my curiosity. These experiences were the foundation for my company and creating the name East West Connection to illustrate how the world can connect and work together.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I have had the pleasure of meeting wonderful people from around the world who have enhanced my life. When I was in Hong Kong visiting a jade market to purchase jewelry, I encountered a woman who was selling beautiful merchandise. I was interested in purchasing an item; however, I did not speak the language and she did not speak English. Without an interpreter, we found a way to communicate which was based on hand gestures and smiles. This experience taught me the importance of kindness and having the willingness to be open to learning new ways of doing things.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

During a trip to Stockholm, I was responsible for preparing for a major press conference and I had to finalize the press package, which required me to get a document printed. When I arrived at the printing facility, they were preparing to close for lunch. I expressed my need for the document by a certain time; however, I was reminded that the facility would be closed. It did not matter that I needed the document. I had to step back and remember the importance of understanding and appreciating the culture and norms of other countries.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I attribute any success I have achieved to my beloved mother the late Viola Weaver. From a young age, she instilled in me the belief that anything is possible if you work hard and apply yourself. She encouraged and supported my dreams and aspiration. Most importantly, I learned to never give up. My mother offered guidance when asked. I remember one time when I was ready to give up because of various obstacles I faced at the time, and she listened and provided tough love that gave me another way of looking at the challenge. She helped to give me clarity and a plan of action that worked.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

EWC is focused on ensuring our clients have a memorable experience when traveling for a meeting, event, or incentive trip, which begins with the registration site or first touch point with our company. We provide comprehensive information and excellent customers. Our goal is to create unique and memorable experiences whether it is for a cocktail reception or a team-building activity. We offer distinctive activities that are not our standard “cookie-cutter approach.” We stay abreast of the trends and offer clients innovative concepts. For instance, food is an important component of every event. EWC has a culinary program where our experienced chef will work in partnership with the venue’s F&B team to create distinctive healthy menus that have been well received by our clients. With food allergies, dietary restrictions, etc. having food that appeals to a diverse audience is critical. We also look for ways to provide fresh and nutritious food.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation and how do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

Many in our industry may describe themselves as a foodie and are reluctant to give up control of menu selection to someone else. They may not see the value. At EWC, we have demonstrated the cost savings and favorable responses received from clients to get people aligned with our Culinary Program. Our chef works one-on-one with our team members to get a better understanding of the program. Once the planner understands the value and has experienced the cost savings, they become champions.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share a few examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

Some travelers have thrown caution to the wind and act as though Covid-19 didn’t exist. However, we have taken a different point of view and encourage our travelers to continue to operate with caution. The impact of Covid will continue to be experienced by the hospitality industry. For instance, the check-in and check-out procedures will continue to change as guests want an experience where they are on their own. Room service options will continue to change with the menu offerings expanding and the experience will be like the options guests will have while dining in person. The experience at the airport will be more focused on the experience of the traveler with more areas for relaxation and the ability to use technology.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

The perfect experience begins at the airport, where the check-in and boarding processes are seamless. If I check luggage, I want the retrieval to be on-time. Once at the hotel or resort, I want truly to unwind and escape emails and issues at the office. Each day will be filled with relaxation, tours, and entertainment, and it will not be difficult to get a reservation. Crowds will be minimal, and I will be able to enjoy the vacation without any drama or issues.

Travel is not always about escaping, but about connecting. Have you made efforts to cultivate a more wellness-driven experience? We’d love to hear about it.

Wellness is very important to me. By the time I take a vacation, I am usually exhausted and need to get away to relax. I watch what I eat on vacation and try to continue my exercise routine. I do things to pamper myself like spa treatments and fine dining. Usually, I forget about my budget, and I participate in those things that will bring me joy.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a travel experience that keeps bringing people back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.

Great Food — For an incentive trip to Florence, the dining experience was superb. We worked with chefs to create menu offerings that offered a variety of food while focusing on local cuisine. EWC also offered cooking classes that were extremely popular with participants.

Interesting Activities — While in Monte Carlo, we offered a vintage car experience where attendees could drive the car of their choice, which was combined with a wonderful lunch. The day ended at a perfume factory where each guest could create their own signature fragrance.

Networking Opportunities — At EWC, we like to create activities where people can get to know one another. We have planned numerous icebreakers to ensure guests interact.

Entertainment — For a welcome reception at a leading hotel in Scottsdale, we had a virtual band that played top 40 hits. Guests were amazed by the hologram images of the musicians, and they enjoyed the music.

Distinctive Venue/Hotel — There are so many great hotels today and that’s why we focus on finding the right venue that will appeal to our guests. One such hotel was a buyout we had at the Finca Cortes in Malaga, Spain. Our goal was to create a trip of a lifetime for guests, and we were able to accomplish this at the five-star luxury resort.

Can you share with our readers how you have used your success to bring goodness to the world?

During the pandemic, I started a webinar and podcast called EWC Joy Connection, Journey to Well-Balanced Living. People were challenged with how to stay positive during the great challenges experienced during the pandemic. Through this series, we offer people helpful information on how to bring joy into their lives. We’ve had leading authorities speak on topics ranging from managing depression to offering healthy cooking classes.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would focus on kindness. Just think of what we could accomplish in the world if people simply practiced how to be kind during their day-to-day interactions with people. A simple smile, saying thank you, or a word of encouragement can be lasting versus confrontational behavior.

How can our readers follow you on social media? Readers can follow me on Linked In or Facebook.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.