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25 Jun, 2012

PATA Finance Chief Says Adieu After Three Difficult Years

Bangkok – Ms. Nawarat Khamsai has resigned as the first Chief Financial Officer of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, effective July 31. Although she described her move as being nothing beyond a normal completion of a three-year term of duty, it will create further image problems for the financially-beleaguered association as it seeks to maintain membership loyalty and rebuild its reasons for existence.

Known by her nickname “Nora”, Ms. Nawarat, who joined the association under former CEO Greg Duffell, has overseen the finances in arguably the worst period of its history. Contacted for comment, she said PATA is making progress with dues collection but that this remains a challenge because the industry itself is going through bad times.

She said she now feels it is time to return to the private sector. “I really like all the PATA staff. they have been wonderful to work with. In the private sector, handling the finances is easier because you are responsible for selling very specific products and managing the finances accordingly.”

She said PATA’s most important task now was to prepare the budget estimates and forecast for 2013 which had to be presented for board approval before August. She hoped the next person could be found soon so that she can help with the handover. “I have set up a good system and it should not be a problem. My successor will have to be a Thai as there is a lot of paperwork in Thai to be dealt with.”

Ms. Nawarat denied that PATA’s financially-difficult situation had played a role in her decision to leave. But she said it was only natural for members, especially the top-paying airlines and national tourism organisations, to be taking a wait-and-see attitude before resuming their membership. “I can say there is still a lot of support for PATA, and our CEO (Martin Craigs) is doing his best to bring in new members. But I have been here three years, and I think it’s time to move on.”

She said she had served notice in mid-June and would be joining a destination management company but declined to name it.

It will be interesting to see how PATA itself manages the fallout from this move. The association is organising crisis and media management webinars and this latest development will test its ability to professionally deal with both in a credible and transparent manner.