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3 Apr, 2008

Peace Is The Biggest Issue, Says Sri Lankan Tourism Leader

With the PATA Board and committee meetings under way in Sri Lanka, incoming PATA chairman Hiran Cooray, Deputy Chairman of Jetwing Hotels, Managing Director of Jetwing Travels Sri Lanka, offers some refreshing insights into the current and future of the Asia Pacific travel industry.

In this dispatch :







[Editor’s Note: With the Board and various committee meetings of the Pacific Asia Travel Association now under way in Sri Lanka, this interview with Hiran Cooray, Deputy Chairman of Jetwing Hotels, Managing Director of Jetwing Travels Sri Lanka, offers some refreshing insights into the current and future of the Asia Pacific travel industry. Widely seen as a future industry leader, Mr Cooray is also the Secretary/Treasurer of PATA. Holder of a marketing degree from the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, Mr. Cooray took the time to respond to emailed questions jointly posed by Don Ross, Executive Editor of Travel Trade Report, and Imtiaz Muqbil, Executive Editor, Travel Impact Newswire.]

Q. How many years have you and your family companies been associated with PATA?

A.Since early 1980’s. I have been on the Industry council and then the Board since 1996.

Q. Is there a generational transition taking place in the association, both in terms of the founders, the issues involved?

A. I can’t see much of a transition taking place. The issues change from time to time.

Q. Would you agree that the travel & tourism industry has changed significantly in terms of issues since the time PATA was founded?

A. For sure it has changed. Customer needs and expectations, safety issues, climate change, low cost carriers, more concern for local communities, government taxation are some of the new issues that I can think of.

Q. Has the association responded appropriately to these changes?

A. For some it has.

Q. Do you think PATA is as influential and respected as it once was?

A. I would like to think so, it still has the potential to be the leading travel industry association.

Q. What are your hopes and aspirations for the association?

A. To be the leader in travel industry associations that would lead rather than follow in many things. Strengthen the membership by bringing in both big and small industry members while working very closely with the government and carriers. I would also like to see the old events such as Eco and Adventure travel mart resurrected as it would give some of the smaller members a chance to position their products and services to the international market. Also it will provide an opportunity for destinations that cannot host the big travel mart due to lack of space to showcase their products to discerning buyers.

Q. What are the issues that concern you at an industry level?

A. Peace to me is the biggest issue as a Sri Lankan. I would like to see an end to not only the unfortunate situation in our Island but all across the world. So much of death and destruction is caused today for nothing. Tourism should play a leading role is being a vehicle for Peace. Furthermore, lack of quality personnel is going to get worse with more and more hotels coming up in the region.

Q. What are the issues that concern you at the PATA level?

A. Pretty much the same as above. In addition for PATA as an association, I would like to see more quality members joining us. Like any organization, there is a lot of benefit for those who are prepared to invest their time with us in PATA.

Q. What do you think are PATA’s strengths?

A. Strategic Intelligence, networking and marketing opportunities to me are the biggies.

Q. What do you think are PATA’s weaknesses?

A. We have not been able to attract new members in the recent past. Not having strong chapters and an avenue to communicate closely with the existing ones is another.

Q. Is the management structure of PATA still relevant and suited to the times?

A. I am not too interested in structures. What I am more interested in the people and how they’re able to work as a team. We have a capable team and I am happy with the commitment of most of them.

Q. Has PATA been addressing the right issues, in the right way?

A. Whenever issues have been placed on the table, we have handled it well. There can always be a slip or two here and there, but by and large we can be happy with the way things are handled.

Q. Has it done enough to attract young people?

A. NO, (Mr Cooray’s emphasis) this worries me a lot.

Q. Is the continued financial dependence on the mart, conference and membership sustainable as a means of survival? If not, what new sources do you think need to be generated?

A. For all associations that are dependent on income from membership dues, the times are not rosy. Considering that, I think it’s a blessing we have additional sources of income through the Mart and hopefully from the CEO Challenge. Having a healthy membership is one sure way of making sure of long term sustainability.

Q. Many say that strict limits need to be placed on the number of years and terms members serve on the various PATA committees. What do you think?

A. I totally agree. PATA is one big family and we have to share the responsibility. Therefore, it’s not necessary to hold onto top positions to play an active role. You can sit in the industry council or some other committee and contribute more rather than being secretary/treasurer for example if you are committed.

Q. Many say that the system of conferring awards and committee appointments is prone to cronyism and patronage, and needs to be changed. Do you agree?

A. I have not heard this before, so cannot comment. If there are members who are not happy, they should talk openly and I strongly encourage them to do so, that’s the only way to strengthen PATA.

Q. Has it become a big-boys club, with over-reliance on the sponsors and premier partners?

A. I don’t think so. We need more sponsors and premier partners, that’s my thinking for the moment.

Q. Has it done enough for the small and medium sized enterprises of Asia? For the small and developing countries?

A. It has, but can do more, much more.

Q. Is it fit and healthy enough to handle crises?

A. When there is a big crisis, PATA has always come forward and I think we can continue to do so. The problem is, you can never plan for crisis as you never know when it will cover and at what magnitude. Generally, members and staff work hard in unison when such big ones occur.

Q. Do you think it needs to become a stronger voice for Asian issues, reflecting an Asian viewpoint, with an Asian at the helm?

A. No. Remember, PATA represents countries in the Pacific as well. It should not have a bias towards one area. I would like to see PATA becoming a big voice for Asia and Pacific, then and only then will we have a healthy future.

Q. What do you think you would do different, knowing what you know now?

A. There is a wealth of knowledge sitting idle with life members. Listen to them as they’re the pillars of PATA. Also formulate plans to encourage youngsters to play an active role. Have a strong executive committee and make most decisions after consulting them. Activate chapters again and involve all government members, specially those not directly involved.



Accra, (UNCTAD Media Release) – The vast cultural and artistic heritage of the developing world – such activities as music-making, painting, dance, handicrafts and fashion – is often considered priceless . . . but it is also a major opportunity for economic growth, job creation and social inclusion. Worldwide the so-called creative economy, driven by a rapidly growing multi-billion-dollar business generated by creative industries, is a field in which developing nations have enormous potential.

The twelfth UNCTAD quadrennial conference, scheduled for 20-25 April in Accra, Ghana, will feature the launching of the first multi-agency study of the world’s creative economy, and – in addition to meetings centred around the theme of “addressing the opportunities and challenges of globalization for development” – will be enlivened by a weeklong “Creative Africa” festival highlighting the continent’s contemporary art, music, dance and fashion.

There is a great deal of money and future development potential in play. As the Creative Economy Report contends, governments that act astutely can help domestic producers of creative “content” command an increasing share of a global market that has been growing at more than 8% a year since 2000, and which expanded in total terms from US$227.4 billion in 1996 to $424.4 billion in 2005. During that period, the portion of developing country products rose from 29% of world creative exports to 41%, reaching US$136.2 billion in 2005. China is now the world leader in exports of creative goods, followed by Italy and the United States. India, Thailand and Mexico are also among the world’s top 20 exporters.

Trade in creative economy products is booming because of increasing world demand for goods and services that link cultural heritage, the arts, media, creative services and design to modern business, culture and technology. There is room for everyone, but the challenges are to help increase the creative capacities of most developing countries and lower external and internal constraints.

The report, which will be formally launched when UNCTAD XII convenes on 20 April, is a joint effort with four other international agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Special Unit for South-South Cooperation; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); and the International Trade Centre (ITC).

It attempts to give a comprehensive view of fast-expanding global trade in goods and services ranging from traditional arts and crafts to books, newspapers, paintings, music and performing arts; technology-driven products such as film, design, audiovisual works, television, and radio; and “new media” products such as digital animation and videogames. Overall, creative goods made up 3.8% of total global trade in 2005. Rising affluence – resulting in more demand for entertainment – and technological progress that eases the diffusion of creative products indicate that the sector should continue to thrive and expand.

The report says developing countries in particular should find the creative industries fertile territory for growth. Art crafts currently account for 60% of the value of their creative exports. Design and new media products – especially as the Internet makes geography irrelevant for the delivery of many such goods – have great potential for nations in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The study adds that figures compiled for the more technology-intensive and services-oriented creative industries probably underestimate their current value. Also of great potential are further marketing and sales related to cultural celebrations and festivals.

Most developing countries, however, lack the know-how, investment, and business and marketing skills needed to generate diversified and competitive creative goods and services for trade and development gains. They also need to bolster small and micro creative enterprises capable of alleviating poverty in small communities and rural areas.

Exports from developing countries are also hindered because regional and multilateral agencies are wary of lending to creative industries in developing countries. Moreover, marketing channels and distribution networks are concentrated in a handful of large conglomerates in advanced countries. This has resulted in an ironic situation in which developing nations import not only foreign music but recordings of domestic music. The increasing downloading of music from the Internet may now be transforming this picture, the study adds.

The Creative Africa festival that will run contemporaneously with UNCTAD XII is intended to draw attention to the continent’s enormous and largely untapped potential in this sector. It will pave the way for concrete deliverables during and after the conference, as a tool to promote both government and business interests. Despite its enormous talent and artistic patrimony, Africa accounted for less than 1% of global creative exports for the period 2000-2005. Government officials and industry experts can be expected to discuss how economic and trade policies can reverse that situation.

Among the Creative Africa events planned for the week are a contemporary art exhibit organized in collaboration with the Dak’Art Biennal featuring works by Ludovic Fadairo (Benin), Joel Mpah-Dooh (Cameroon), Bill Kouelany (Congo), Freddy Tsimba (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Jacques Samir Stenka (Cote d’Ivoire), Brahim El-Anatsui (Ghana), Abdoulaye Konaté (Mali), Bruce Onobrakpeya (Nigeria), Souleymane Keita (Senegal), and Sokey Edorh (Togo).

In addition, there will be a fashion show featuring the designs of Anggy Haif (Cameroon), Alphadi (Niger), and Kofi Ansah (Ghana); concerts by Femi Kuti (Nigeria), Youssou N’Dour (Senegal), and Kojo Antwi (Ghana); and dance presentations by the Ghana Dance Ensemble and Dina Talaat of Egypt.



Accra, (UNCTAD Media Release) – Dynamic female entrepreneurs will take top honours in Accra with the presentation of the first Women in Business Award. The winner and two runners up will be chosen from among 10 nominees from developing countries. Ghana’s first lady, Mrs. Theresa Kufuor, will award the prizes at a ceremony to be attended by the three finalists on 21 April at 19:00 during the 12th ministerial session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XII).

The candidates are being judged by an independent panel of international experts on the basis of criteria including innovation, entrepreneurial talent and company performance. The nominees are all owners of firms that have benefited from the business development services of Empretec. Launched by UNCTAD in Argentina in 1988 and supported by the private and public sectors, this pioneering programme promotes entrepreneurship in developing countries. Empretec affiliates have nurtured over 120,000 entrepreneurs in 27 countries with the help of more than 600 local certified trainers.

The creation of small and medium-sized enterprises is at the heart of balanced and successful economic development. What distinguishes these developing country women is their ability to surmount obstacles traditionally faced by small enterprises. At a time of cultural change in their home countries, they also act as role models for other women.

In making their selection, the judges took into account local specifics that affect company performance, such as access to finance and technology, infrastructure and market size.


Dédé Léa Edith Medji, “Mon petit Bénin”, Benin: This firm promotes local products, producing fruit juices and chips. Its major product is natural baobab juice, which is bottled and has a long shelf life. Company objectives include extending the health benefits of baobab and other fruit juices to greater numbers of people, and providing extra income for rural women in Benin. The firm has 13 employees and is seeking to add handicapped staff as it expands.

Elba Rosa Torrado, “Se hace camino al andar”, Argentina: The firm, whose title roughly translates as “make your own road as you go,” provides services to other entrepreneurs through a website and a worldwide radio broadcast via the Internet. It arranges thematic events, organizes business awards, publishes magazines, and provides consulting on entrepreneurship.

Paola Borges Barcellos Tucunduva, “ROTOVIC – Uniforme Lavandería e Locaçao Ltda”, Brazil: ROTOVIC is a laundry business specializing in work uniforms and uniform rental. It is a pioneer in the use of fire-resistant uniforms, operates in an environmentally friendly fashion – such as by recycling water – and has 235 employees. Its goal is to concentrate increasingly on health and safety services by expanding rentals of protective work uniforms, providing industrial laundry services, and maintaining safety equipment.

Messeret Belihu, “Ras Amba Hotel”, Ethiopia: A well-known three-star hotel, Ras Amba, employs 65 people, over half of whom are women. The hotel also has a restaurant, a wedding and meeting hall, a catering service and an airport shuttle service. With the aim of attaining four-star status, Messeret Belihu recently purchased additional land, and construction has begun on an expansion.

Augustine E. Hammond, “Jem Afrik Creations Ltd”, Ghana: m Afrik designs and produces afro-ethnic clothing ranging from casual wear to business apparel to evening dresses. It began with a single employee behind a rented sewing machine in 1986, and now has 55 permanent employees. It has trained and mentored 15 workers who have set up their own businesses and function as subcontractors, and also has registered sales representatives in the United States, the Caribbean, and southern Africa.

Paully Apea-Kubi, “Ebenut Ghana Ltd”, Ghana: This firm produces and packages dried fruits, nuts, and vegetables. These include coconut, mango, papaya, pineapple, banana, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and spicy plantain chips. Ebenut Ghana ships 10 tons of these products every five weeks to the United Kingdom, the United States, and Senegal. Domestic sales are also extensive. The firm’s goal is to triple its current output.

Irene Bacchus-Holder, “Irene’s Creative Handicraft”, Guyana: This business, which now employs five people, began when Ms. Bacchus-Holder offered gifts made of wood from Guyana’s rain forest to several friends. They encouraged her to produce and sell similar items, and when she showed samples to a leading shop it immediately placed an order. The handicrafts are decorative or functional, are based on original designs, and are made of rare – but not endangered – native wood species. Often they are used as corporate gifts.

Sana Zaal Burgan, “Med Grant”, Jordan: Med Grant promotes medical services in Jordan, especially to international “medical tourism” clients. Its activities are focused on a website called JoHealth.com, through which patients from around the world can obtain accurate and trustworthy information and arrange for treatment within the country. It summarizes scientific research carried out by Jordanian doctors and provides a marketplace where buyers of medical equipment can find suppliers. It also does charity work, particularly related to disease prevention, cancer, drugs, and women’s health. The business has an estimated value of US$450,000.

Sapphira Nyabunwa, “Safi Cleaning Services Ltd”, Uganda: This firm provides professional cleaning services, including lawn cleaning, fumigation, garbage collection, dry cleaning, and commercial laundry work. Its corporate clientele include Shell Uganda, Stanbic Bank, Total Uganda, the World Food Programme, Celtel Uganda, Uganda Telecom, three major hospitals and the British High Commission. It has 800 employees around the country and a monthly turnover of US$88,000.

Emelda Nyasha Nyamupingidza, “Nyaya Industries t/a Zesk Products”, Zimbabwe: Nyaya Industries makes candles and polishing products, and has registered affiliates in Mozambique and Malawi. Its founder, a trained chemist, started the business after she noticed a dearth of quality candles and polishes in Zimbabwe in the early 1990s. She considers the country’s current economic hardships as “a challenge, not a deterrent.” Her business now employs more than 150 people and each month exports 56 tons of candles to Malawi.



New York, Apr 3 2008 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the entry into force of the first international treaty on the human rights of persons with disabilities, after the required twentieth country ratified the landmark convention today.

“It is a historic moment in our quest for realization of the universal human rights for ALL persons, creating a fully inclusive society for all,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson Marie Okabe said in a statement celebrating the rapid progress of the Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities, which was adopted in December 2006.

“The Convention will be a powerful tool to eradicate the obstacle faced by persons with disabilities,” she said, pointing to discrimination, segregation from society, economic marginalization, and lack of opportunities for participation in social, political and economic decision-making processes.

Today’s ratification by Ecuador means that the Convention, along with an optional protocol that will allow individuals and groups to petition for relief, will be legally binding as of 3 May. Tunisia and Jordan also ratified the treaty earlier this week.

Through today’s statement, the Secretary-General also congratulated the States that have ratified or acceded to the Convention. Some 126 countries have signed the Convention since 30 March 2007, and 71 have signed the optional protocol. “It is estimated that there are at least 650 million persons with disabilities worldwide, of whom approximately 80 percent live in less developed countries,” Ms. Okabe noted.

As many as two-thirds of United Nations Member States do not have any legal protection for people with disabilities, according to the UN Focal Point on Disability Akiko Ito, even though they comprise one in 10 of the global population.

“The Convention, together with its Optional Protocol, is deeply rooted in the firm commitment of the international community to rectifying the egregious neglect and dehumanizing practices that violate the human rights of persons with disabilities,” Ms. Okabe concluded, calling on all States that have not yet done so to accede or ratify it without delay.

In a statement issued this past weekend, more than 20 UN departments, agencies, programmes, and funds pledged their support to implementing the convention. The newly-formed Inter-Agency Support Group for the Convention said that support will focus on six main areas: policies to support the purpose and objectives of the Convention; programmes including international cooperation; capacity-building of Member States, civil society, and the UN system; research and access to knowledge on disabilities; accessibility; and the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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