Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

3 Jul, 2012

PATA Reshuffles the Deck – Again!

Bangkok – The Pacific Asia Travel Association has undergone another reshuffling of the deck with the imminent departure of Stu Lloyd, Senior Director – Marketing and Membership Services, and the appointment of Sheila Leong as Chief Operating Officer, effectively making her the Number Two in the organisation.

The departure of Mr. Lloyd as of July 6 means that both key appointments made in 2011 to carry out PATA’s new “Building the Business” mandate have been dismantled in less than a year.

Mr. Lloyd’s appointment was announced on 21 July 2011. His took up his position as of early August 2011. He, along with Mr. Reid Ridgway, former Regional Director – Asia, were to “play a vital role in PATA’s mission to build the business for its members.” Mr. Ridgway left within three months of his appointment. Mr. Lloyd has left in 11 months.

PATA’s then Interim CEO, Mr. Bill Calderwood, was quoted as saying at the time: “We are delighted to have recruited two candidates of such high calibre. We believe their experience and contributions will play a crucial role in the implementation of the many new strategies and programmes we are developing as part of our new strategic direction to build the business for our members.”

As with all PATA changes, PATA CEO Martin Craigs declined to clarify the circumstances of Mr. Lloyd’s departure. “He decided to leave to pursue other interests. We wish him well.”

Reminded of the question raised at the time of his appointment in October 2011 that senior appointments critical to the future of the organisation should have been left up to the incoming CEO rather than an interim CEO, Mr. Craigs, after a long pause, replied: “I would have to acknowledge that you had a point of view that on reflection is worth learning from.”

Asked if the departure would result in cost-savings for PATA, Mr. Craigs replied: “We’re streamlining. We will work smarter and do more with less. And genuinely that is the aim. How well we do that depends on how well we execute on it and how well someone like Sheila can marshal the troops in an operating sense.”

Asked what would happen to the job that Mr. Lloyd was hired to do, Mr. Craigs said it would be split between Ms Leong and Mr. Alex Rayner, a new part-time staffer who is helping with the research and finance functions.

Ms. Leong has been given charge of the association’s two primary revenue-generating sectors: Events and Membership. All four of the regional directors will report to her.

As of June 16, PATA appointed Ms Ben Montgomery to Regional Director – Greater Mekong, and Ms Ivy Chee as Regional Director – East Asia.  Ms. Chee, who is based in Singapore, will be moving to Bangkok as of September. This will mean there will be two directors based in Bangkok and two abroad (Ms Kate Chang in Beijing and Mr. Chris Flynn in Sydney).

Ms. Leong, who only a year ago had taken on a part-time outsourcing role to manage PATA events, now will be working four days a week instead of three while she clears some of the external assignments she had taken on. Mr. Craigs said she will be an “overall coordinator of all things operational. She’s a doer and an operational specialist. She merits a bigger challenge rather than just continuing to run the events.”

Mr. Craigs said that his research of the inner workings of PATA had indicated that the staff were operating “too much on a silo mentality. Everyone does their own thing. Not that there is any personal animosity. But now, we need to work in a much more integrated fashion. At the end of the day we are all serving one customer – whether they are getting research, events or advocacy.”

Describing this as an “inner virtuous circle” that is “not management rocket science,” Mr. Craigs said, “My job is how to get the best out of people and to help them enjoy doing their jobs. If they enjoy doing their jobs, they will obviously do it better.”

Asked if the Building the Business strategy is still important to the association. “Yes, it is important. You can’t get way from the fact that commercial entities will only release resources if there is something in it for them.”

Four new “PATA Ambassadors” are to be appointed within the next 3 to 6 months to better cover areas in which PATA is sparsely represented: India, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas.” This, because “we can’t afford any more full-time employees,” Mr. Craigs said.

These ambassadors “will be persons of credibility who have perhaps got a business that they would like to enhance the profile of whilst doing a role for PATA, and promote PATA’s interests and services. They will help set up local events and coordinate things regionally.” These services will be performed against an offsetting of their expenses, but without any full-time representation fee.

Mr. Craigs acknowledged that in today’s hard-core business world, “the spirit of volunteerism is not as strong” as it used to be.

Asked about the PATA membership status, Mr. Craigs claimed that the last time he checked, PATA had 733 paid members. His target is to raise it over 1,000 over the next 12-18 months. He said that the Singapore Tourist Board quit its membership last year but that he had been to see the STB thrice since then to seek a review. He said he was looking forward to pressing PATA’s case to the new STB CEO.

Asked about PATA’s financial status, Mr. Craigs said, “It’s publicly known that we lost about a million dollars in 2010-11 in two full years. This calendar year, which is also our financial year, our stretched target is to try and break-even but our realistic estimate is to minimise losses to US$150,000. Over the following three years, we will return the reserves that were effectively lost to restore PATA to a more financially healthy basis.”

He said he was hoping to do this by achieving a high membership retention rate of at least 90% and seeking new memberships from corporations in new economic sectors “where we can offer value to companies which have not even been approached previously.” This includes the vast number of companies selling products and services to the travel & tourism industry.

Asked what PATA had to offer these companies, Mr. Craigs replied, “Exposure, access, influence, understanding.” He said PATA is targeting 30 companies in 10 sectors, such as banking, infrastructure, telecoms, travel IT, amongst others.

Just last week, PATA announced the departure of Ms Nawarat (Nora) Khamsai as Chief Financial Officer. She is to be replaced by Mr. Pairoj Kiatthunsamai, effective July 31, 2012.  He has worked with a number of international insurance and accounting companies, such as KPMG and New Hampshire Insurance.