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28 Jul, 2008

PATA CEO Job Now Open

(TTR Weekly Editor Don Ross contributed to this report)

In a move that should pave the way for a long overdue organisational revamp, the Pacific Asia Travel Association has begun the search for a new President and CEO to replace Peter de Jong following his planned exit by April 2009.

In a letter to Board members and PATA life members sent out on July 22, PATA chairperson Mrs Janice Antonson said “suitable candidates” are now being sought for the position, the specifications of which have been posted on the PATA website.

She noted that after completion of his first five-year term (2002-2006), Mr de Jong “was invited to extend his contract. He agreed, but indicated at the time that he sought only a final three-year extension of his contract (2007-2009).

“At the conclusion of the Colombo meetings in April of this year, when the current Executive Committee met for the first time, Peter indicated that he had not changed his mind and would welcome a timely transfer of responsibilities in the course of 2009. He said he had thoroughly enjoyed his years at the PATA helm, but felt that, after eight years, PATA deserved a new leader and he was keen to tackle a fresh challenge.”

Mrs Antonson said that Mr de Jong had “graciously” indicated that “he would be comfortable ‘passing the baton’ any time in 2009 that suits PATA, but would hope that no later than the PATA Annual Meeting 2009 (Board of Directors Meeting and Annual General Meeting, Macau, April 2009) the Board of Directors would approve the selected finalist, as proposed by the PATA Executive Committee.

“The Executive Committee accepted Mr. de Jong’s proposed timeline and now wishes to commence the search for our next President and CEO,” Mrs Antonson wrote.

The job specification describes it as “a challenging, high profile position in a large and rapidly expanding industry in the world’s most dynamic region.” Carrying a “commensurate compensation package” (Mr de Jong earns just under US$300,000 a year), the President & CEO provides “visionary leadership to a team of some 30 professionals at the Bangkok headquarters and regional PATA offices overseas.

“It requires a mature individual with relevant experience and sound judgment, who possesses a thorough understanding of the Asia Pacific region and its travel and tourism community. Ideally, the successful candidate also has senior-level experience in the management of an international membership-based organisation, preferably related to the travel industry.

The job spec stresses the ability to work effectively in different cultural settings and language environments. Outstanding command of English is essential, and “competence in Asian languages would be an asset.”

An introductory letter and CV is to be submitted by 5 Sept 2008, and a final selection will be made by the end of 2008. Mrs Antonson said she will soon be sending PATA members a comprehensive memo, updating them on “a number of exciting developments at PATA.”

In addition to the changing of the guard, PATA is facing the challenge of regaining much of its erstwhile influence and prestige. It is also facing growing calls for financial transparency and good governance.

Its own internal documents refer to an ongoing search for relevance in a rapidly-changing global order which include geopolitical conditions, shifts in the economic, cultural and demographic profile of Asia and significant changes in the travel & tourism industry itself.

Meanwhile, the next stage of PATA’s future is to be decided at the annual travel mart in Hyderabad between 16-19 Sept 2008. A major revenue source for PATA, the mart was once the region’s pre-eminent travel show but has come under pressure from a host of competing regional and sub-regional events, especially the newest show, ITB Asia, to be launched 22-24 October in Singapore.

On July 23, ITB Asia put out a press release announcing that it was already “sold out” three months ahead and that any new exhibitor applications will have to join a waiting list.

It said exhibitors from 42 countries have booked more than 500 units of booth space. They comprise 39% from the accommodation sector, 27% tour operators or travel agencies, 16% NTOs, and 10% travel technology firms, MICE or corporate travel representatives. The rest are from other industry sectors.

New exhibitors from outside the region include NTOs from Brazil, Peru, Tanzania, Turkey, Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, Oman and Qatar.

PATA has not yet provided any status update of its own mart but a day after the ITB Asia media release, it responded by announcing a deal with the Nielsen Company to launch the first ever ‘Nielsen Indian Outbound Travel Monitor 2008’.

“Based on a robust sample of 2,000 respondents across 10 cities in India and updated annually, the ‘Indian Outbound Travel Monitor’ explores the behaviour and considerations of travel consumers when planning for, during and after a trip abroad, and will be an essential tool for any travel organisation doing business with India,” PATA said.

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