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18 Apr, 2001

PATA’s 50th Annual Conference: Excerpts From Presentations

The 50th annual conference of the Pacific Asia Travel Association in Kuala Lumpur saw a number of eminent speakers express a plethora of views about the past, present and future of travel & tourism. Excerpts from some presentations.


Keynote speaker Ambassador L.W. “Bill” Lane, Jr., PATA Life Member, now aged 81, participant in the first PATA annual conference in Honolulu, 1951.

(The Pacific Asia travel industry has) to recognise the essential increasing demand for a synergistic partnership linking the old and new economies. They will increasingly merge together, and, among other things, at times perhaps trigger a change of the historic membership mix – for example, currently taking place in the turbulent travel agency industry, new websites, and/or mergers – and still preserve the bedrock foundation of the PATA rainbow of unique and exciting destinations. To put a different twist on a common phrase about the economy in the last few years, I suggest a variation for PATA :“It’s the destination, stupid!”……..

Look ahead to that Annual Conference in 2051 – especially for those of you in your mid-thirties or younger. For starters, let’s focus on “population” and play out just a few of its impact on tourism. In 1969, I was Chairman of a UNESCO Conference on “Man and His Environment : A View Towards Survival.” One quote from my address “A Need For An Environmental Ethic” read : “The problem is that our growing population demanding food and space, technology with its consumption of resources, materialism and its ever increasing waste, and public unawareness, are like a ball and chain on a sprinter who is facing the toughest race he has ever run.”

I am an unabashed “futurist”, but I do take notice of early bad omens, whether it be AIDS, school shootings, hoof (sic) and mouth disease, or acts of terrorism. The same is true for water and power shortages, droughts, floods, and famines, diminishing coral reefs and rain forests, or rising ocean levels that are only a few of many environmental problems compounded by damage to the atmosphere from escalating consumption of fossil fuels. Oil, gas, and coal are finite. THERE AIN’T NO MORE!

Population growth, especially in large countries where significant increases seem to be inevitable, is potentially an environmental time bomb. The latest projections from the United Nations predict for one year before PATA’s next fifty years are finished, with present birth and death trends, that Asia’s population will grow by 48%. Africa by 125%, in spite of AIDS. Large percentage increases are likewise predicted for Latin and North America but on top of smaller current base populations and lower birth rates. In Asia, it is predicted that India will pass China before PATA’s centennial in 2051, recognising that both countries are making major efforts to slow the trends.

Population growth, coupled with a growing economy, means more cars, more industry – and inevitably, more use of fossil fuel. If you play out population growth, even reduced predictions for just water and fuel – both critical in Israel today, for instance, and remembering that threats of long-term fossil fuel shortages were very early recognized bad omens leading up to World Wars I, II, and Desert Storm – the future is challenging.

By far the most serious long-term problem – bar none – for all mankind that is rapidly coming up over the horizon with solid scientific documentation, let alone responsible international concern – even by senior government levels who sadly and tragically, cannot agree – is the inevitable build-up of global warming. It has been considered a scientific fait accompli by an increasing group of scientists from every industrial nation for several decades, but increasingly substantiated with past skeptics moving over to the column of believers with new actual examples to examine and measure – all enhanced by space and other high-tech research.

Global warming, even if reduced from current projections, virtually guarantees an increasing occurrence of drastic changes in weather patterns, water temperatures, droughts, floods, fires, disease, and other very serious consequences from the increase in the harmful carbon emissions in the atmosphere and reduction of carbon dioxide absorbing/oxygen producing rain forests and other plant material around the world. With the last meltdown of a glacial period 10 – 15,000 years ago ocean levels rose 10 – 30 feet depending on which ancient sediment or seashore fossil level the research geologist is reporting upon. At any significant level, however, with the accelerated arctic and glacial mass melting, life as we know it by the seashore – in tidal, delta, and lowland areas around the world – will have to drastically change.


Mr. M.P. Bezbaruah, PATA Chairman 2000/2001, & Secretary Tourism, India.

We have challenges to face. We have to ensure that this global village cares for people more than profit. Technologies changing at an ever accelerating pace may put those countries at a disadvantage which do not have the capacity or the resources to adapt so quickly to the changes. We have already seen lengthening shadows of increasing inequality co-existing with growing prosperity of the world. During the period that tourism has almost doubled, sixty countries of the world have been getting steadily poorer. The income gap between the fifth of the world living in the richest countries and the fifth in the poorest has been increasing. We have the daunting challenge of adjusting our development needs to environmental compulsions, of putting ethics and human rights at the core of our concern. With its ever present ‘can-do’ spirit PATA, as always will be at the forefront to meet these emerging challenges.


John Sandford, Chairman 2001/2001, PATA

At the real core of sustainability lies the issue of conservation, enhancement and interpretation of the very things that make us truly unique -our cultures, our heritage, our communities and last, but certainly not least, our environment.

Today PATA has pledged its commitment to an updated and refreshed environmental code of conduct. It is vital that all of us here, the leaders and influencers of PATA’s promising future, seriously, totally and constantly commit ourselves to ensuring the protection of the unique elements that attract visitors to our region.

Bill Ford, chairman of Ford Motor Company has recently made several major announcements on behalf of his company. Ford has pledged itself to the creation of emission free motor vehicles. More than that, these vehicles, will be built in zero waste, environmentally friendly manufacturing plants. In addition Ford has also pledged itself, not only to environmental restoration but also contributing to and creating, social and economic equity in communities around the world.

All over the world, companies are building on the concept of Natural Capitalism – the concept of factoring the actual cost of natural resources into all products and services. The industrial revolution was predicated on a shortage of labour and an apparent abundance of natural capital. The present knowledge revolution is the reverse. We have an apparent abundance of people but even basic natural resources such as clean air and water are rapidly becoming scarce.

Therefore, it makes sense to protect and enhance all those elements of natural capital – the environment, our cultures, our heritage, our social fabric, our communities – and make them work productively and profitability for the enjoyment of us all for the future – and to literally wring waste out of our organizations. Tourism and travel’s early adopters of these principles are already, not only delivering considerable short-term profitability, but also creating impressive competitive advantage.


Foong Wai-Fong, Founder & Director, Megatrends Asia

A region that builds its economy on foreign investment and trade has to CONFRONT the question of sustainability. The dependence on foreign knowledge, capital and markets has to be gradually replaced with a more self-reliant growth model. THIS MODEL MUST BE BUILT ON a more productive and effective social and economic system. A SYSTEM THAT allocates resources better, and maintains the balance between high growth and social equity; between consumption, materialism and environmental responsibility.

After the crisis, a consensus emerged that there is limitation of government knowledge in dealing with the complexity of the marketplace and competition of the global economy. That the economic management of the state must be made more transparent to all stakeholders. BECAUSE, sustainable economic growth has been an increasingly important issue, there is a need for a new way of organizing relationships.

I believe that the transformation from a top down paternalistic mode of governance to an open, liberal and bottom up structure is not driven by ideological aspiration, but BY economic imperative, WHICH is in part driven from driving forces from outside as well as stemming from an upsurge of internal pressure to change, for greater equity and justice in the social and economic system. So this driving motive for transformation is NOT idealistic or ideological; but of pragmatic necessity.


Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister, Malaysia

Since tourism represents an important force for peace, by fostering friendship between peoples and communities, tourism should be conducted in harmony with the attributes and traditions of the host communities, with due respect for the laws and customs. On their part, Governments in the host countries should ensure the safety of tourists, maintain political stability and ease tourist movements through the minimum of regulations for visitors. The press and other media should provide honest and balanced coverage of events and developments in the host countries so as to give consumers of tourism services, accurate and reliable information. Indeed they should help promote tourism for if the countries prosper through tourism, the media will also prosper. Countries are entitled to issue advisories to their people but these should be based on facts.


Dato Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, Minister of Culture, Arts & Tourism, Malaysia.

While Malaysia’s multi-racial and multi-cultural society can be regarded as a national tourism asset, at the same time, for the government and people of Malaysia, the country’s plural society poses a continuing challenge in terms of ensuring social stability and racial harmony. To build one nation out of so many great communities was no easy task. We inherited from the colonial era and its ‘divide and rule’ policy, racial cleavages reinforced by layer upon layer of divisions based on racial lines. Malaysia’s good race relations record, therefore, has not been achieved by chance, but through toil, sweat and tears.

The forging of a single, united and harmonious nation from numerous ethnic groups can perhaps be better understood if we use the analogy of a river and its tributaries. If we stand at a river mouth and trace the sources or origins of the river, we would have to go far to its upper reaches, to the far hills and mountains. Similarly if Malaysians of Malay, Chinese or Indian origin were to trace their family roots, they would have to go way back to their ancestors in faraway lands in Indonesia, Arab countries, the large continent that is Mainland China and the Indian sub-continent.

These different ethnic origins are like the tributaries of a river. Some of the tributaries flowing through rocky terrain have lovely clear waters while others would be a bit murky or even muddy. Flowing from a higher elevation, the waters tributaries are fast moving and often turbulent at the rapids and waterfalls. Similarly, during the early period of Malaysia’s history, when the nation was still young and in the midst of nation building, inter-ethnic relations were a bit problematic, to say the least. During the colonial period, the waters did not mix and the various races were divided into brown, yellow, black and what other colours you get from mixed marriages. However, over a period of time and because of the willingness of all Malaysians to accommodate, to compromise or to give and take, we gradually developed a national identity and became united. This is like the tributaries of a river flowing into a big river, and the confluence or the final mixture is now known as Malaysia – a nation united in diversity.


Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie, former Foreign Minister, Malaysia.

Those in the service sectors should also be the Public Relations Officers (PRO) for their countries. At least the driver or the hairdresser could tell a visitor where he or she could go shopping and not be fleeced by unscrupulous shopkeepers. And governments interested in tourism should pay attention to those tour guides or taxi drivers who are the agents of marketeers. I appeal to governments and local authorities that they should have laws or regulations to make the shopkeepers display the prices of goods and they should be strictly followed and implemented. And no misinformation or political bias should be disseminated by the tour guides. In this regard each government would have to devise such arrangements as would be useful and the contents of instructions for tour guides should be as truly as possible according to subsisting circumstances.


Anant Kumar, Minister of Tourism and Aviation, India.

PATA 2002 (in New Delhi next April) will be a milestone. Before the curtain rises, we have got one year. In that one year, we want to have reforms (for) tourism in India regarding: 1 accessibility; 2 domestic mobility; 3 infrastructure investment that will allow Foreign Direct Investors to have upto 100% ownership; and 4, visa regimes. Open sky policies means three things: 1 Dynamic bilateral regime; 2 Disinvestment of Air India; and 3 A new policy of air charters so that it takes us to the full utilisation of our bilateral agreements.


Seddik Belyamani, Executive Vice President, Boeing Commercial, USA

The market continues to fragment as passenger choice has become the major factor in airline strategies. And that’s where Asia Pacific is headed as well. That brings us back to the question, how do people want to fly? Passengers answer that question with the choices they make. Three of the primary questions every passenger has are: “When do I leave?” “How long is the flight?” and “What does it cost?”

Schedule is one of the most important issues for most travelers. When you booked your flight to this conference, you probably looked for the flight that would get you closest to your optimum time for arrival here in Kuala Lumpur. Schedule is important, which is why passengers like high frequency flight scheduling. The more flights to choose from, the better chance the flight will fit with travel plans and needs. More frequencies give travelers more control over their schedule.

An increase in direct, point-to-point service is another result of deregulating markets. One of our key concerns as travelers is how long our flight will take. Nobody enjoys waiting around in crowded hub airports for connecting flights. Every minute spent in the air is a minute between us and our business or pleasure destination. We want to get to where we’re going as soon as possible. That’s why when deregulation occurs, point-to-point service increases. Given a choice, people want to fly point-to-point, not waste time hanging around hub airports.


Steve Kraus, Programme & External Relations Advisor, UNAIDS/Asia Pacific Intercountry Team.

Quoting Mechai Viravaidhya, Thai Minister in charge of tourism, 1992: “If you are coming to Thailand for sex, why not stay home and eat rat poison, as both will kill you.”


Basant Raj Mishra, Executive Chairman, Temple Tiger Group of Companies, Nepal

Affluent parents are not sending their students to take education in various fields of tourism. That may be the reason the whole South Asia region lacks a competent international standard tourism school. Those who understand the importance of tourism and who can afford the education go to western countries for higher degrees in tourism. But most of them do not return and the handful who return expect very high positions without really being experienced. Sadly most of foreign-returnees also get such higher positions not because they are learned but because they are closely related to the owners or promoters. Such a trend do not help the industry in improving the quality and also discourages the potential people.


Virginia Maria Trigo, Institute of Tourism Education, Macau SAR.

Central to the success of (the Institute) is, of course, its staff. From the beginning we decided to capture the public’s attention by impressing on the care and high standards we established for any visible thing we had or did at the school, from gardens to classrooms to the restaurant. Since we are open daily to the public, the restaurant would be an ideal place for promotion. Besides, we badly needed customers to train our students. To attract the public and fight the general belief that our location is too remote for Macau standards, we had to offer the highest quality, “selling” as appealing, the idea that while fine dining, people were also contributing to the development of human resources in Macau.

For weeks in a row we would only have two or three guests. Our chefs never gave up. Like the rest of our staff they knew the difficult thing is not to achieve quality, the difficult thing is to maintain it. The Institute is a success because its staff made a promise to deliver quality and they have kept their promise. They looked out into the world for benchmarking while holding strong to Macau’s special situation and needs. They listened to the industry, made adjustments, accommodated interests and never forgot their common purpose and mission.


Tim Robinson, Chairman, UK chapter, PATA

We have to attempt to achieve (our goals) in an increasingly competitive market place, in which any expenditure of money or resources has to have a commercial benefit. The days of a trade association being a cosy club have gone. The increased availability of information and ease of communication have eroded some of the unique position the Chapter formerly held.

How do we tackle this? I see the situation as a series of interwoven and interdependent commercial partnerships between :-

1. PATA and the Chapter

2. The Chapter and its members

3. PATA members and the Chapter

4. PATA, the Chapter and ALL members and the buying public.

There must be a tangible commercial bottom line benefit for all the partners. In the big picture, we want to send as many UK holidaymakers to the Pacific Asia region as possible. This will increase the profits of our members, PATA members and the economy of the whole region. In this partnership we must all support each other. I believe that the objectives of the UK Chapter are designed to and do achieve this. By acting as a focal point in the distribution, information, PR and educational chains between the Region and the UK we believe we can contribute positively to the success of everybody`s business.


Ms. Vanessa Sperber, PATA Chapter, New York

At New York PATA we have no shortage of local travel agencies – both mega-agencies and smaller ones. New York is also home to the Sales Offices or Headquarters for most major airlines, hotel companies and cruise lines. So, finding members to join our chapter is not a big concern.

Our major problem, however, is the same one every PATA chapter faces: Attracting productive agents, and keeping them active in the chapter after they send in their annual dues. Most of our current agent members have been part of the chapter for years, and we usually see the same faces at all of our events, while many other members never attend meetings at all. This discourages suppliers, who do not see a return on their investment when they host a PATA event. This then leads to fewer and less interesting events, and as the level of our events goes downhill or events becomes repetitive, fewer and fewer members attend, setting off a vicious cycle.

We definitely needed to find a way to get younger, productive agents to not only join the chapter, but also attend meetings and remain active.

To address this need, New York PATA has developed our “Rising Star” program. We defined a “Rising Star” as an under-35-year-old travel agent who has been a full-time employee of an agency for at least two years, booking either corporate or leisure travel to the Asia- Pacific area.

A “Star” must be nominated by his/her agency owner or manager. As “Rising Stars”, the nominees receive free one-year membership in New York PATA, free attendance to all monthly chapter events, and priority space on any PATA educational trips. Most importantly, each “Star” will be assigned a mentor. The mentors will be current, active New York PATA members who will call their “Star” before each meeting to encourage attendance, and again after the meeting to get feedback. At the meeting, the mentors will introduce the “Stars” to other members, helping them not only to feel welcome, but also to develop friendships and industry contacts.


Joseph Mcinerney, President and CEO, PATA – Closing Comments.

What awaits PATA as we forge ahead for the next 50 years? What do we need to focus on? Where are our priorities? What can we achieve?

PATA’s mission is “to enhance the growth, value and quality of Pacific Asia travel and tourism for the benefit of the membership of PATA.” Rest assured that during the next half century, our mission is not likely to change. However, the mission statement spans an unlimited realm of possibilities. And with the very real limitations of resources and staff, we must decide what is most important: how we can maximise the benefits PATA provides to members.

Marketing is, and will probably always be, a primary objective of the Association. With the cooperative marketing initiatives unveiled at this Conference, our Pacific Asia Specialist Programme, and the increased use of the Internet — PATA’s marketing focus is stronger than ever.

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