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17 Aug, 2012

More Attrition in PATA Management

Bangkok – PATA management ranks are set to dwindle further with the upcoming departure of Mrs Ben (Benjakallayanee) Montgomery, Regional Director – Greater Mekong, at the end of September following the PATA Travel Mart in Manila.

Mrs Ben, 38, will join Centara Hotels and Resorts as Director, Strategies Management as of 1 October 2012. Her move comes just three months after being appointed to this new post as part of a senior management reshuffle.

Arguably, the association’s most passionate, friendly and enthusiastic staff-member, her departure after a stint of just under four years with PATA will put further pressure on an association struggling to resurrect itself.

In a brief email to friends and colleagues, also posted on the PATA website via her facebook page, Mrs Ben said she had “graduated.”

She said, “I will remain a PATA activist and will keep bringing more new faces into our community! The coming PATA Board and Committee Meetings in Manila, 28-30 September 2012, will be the last time for me as host of our PATA Chapter Colloquium. Let’s create a fun and fruitful colloquium together once again!”

Mrs Ben declined further comment. But PATA sources said she is leaving primarily due to family reasons and a desire to restore her work-life balance. Since being appointed to her latest post in June 2012, family life had suffered, especially in terms of spending time with her two children, aged 9 and 4.

The announcement of her appointment on June 13 had given a good idea of the scale of the workload she would have faced.  As PATA Regional Director – Greater Mekong, she was responsible for promoting PATA’s Next Gen range of membership benefits to travel and tourism companies and organisations, tasked with engineering opportunities for the Association and its members in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

These responsibilities were in addition to her existing role of PATA Chapter development. Essentially, the announcement indicated that she was doing two jobs for the cost of one to PATA.

Her departure was a surprise because a string of photographs on her facebook page had shown a beaming Mrs Ben in enthusiastic meetings with various industry executives in the Mekong Region. One picture also showed her embracing Burmese Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Mrs Ben becomes the third staffer to leave in two months. Both Stuart Lloyd, Senior Director – Marketing and Membership Services, and Ms. Nawarat Khamsai, the first Chief Financial Officer, left in July.

PATA sources said a major reshuffle is under way. The other regional director, Ms Ivy Chee is relocating from Singapore to Bangkok in early September, and Alex Rayner is set to become chief marketing officer.

Ms Sheila Leong, who last year was supposed to move to a part-time consultancy position, has returned as Chief Operating Officer. This will remain a part-time job but with increased consultancy responsibilities, deliverables and working hours for the Association. Mrs Puangthip (“Mam”) Chotipantawanon has become director of operations.

Other organisation-chart boxes are being rejigged chart as the association struggles to cope with the gargantuan task of delivering services to existing members and attract new members with an ever-shrinking number of staff. In management-speak, this is described as “working smart” and “doing more with less.”

It is not immediately clear how Mrs Ben’s job-functions will be redistributed. However, just in terms of her effervescent personality, she will be irreplaceable. PATA Martin Craigs was not available for comment. He is away on vacation in the UK.

PATA is sitting on the horns of a major dilemma between building trust and promoting transparency. While management is adopting a sunny-side-up posture in the public domain, that runs up against questions that arise with the steady departure of staff and the reality of the financial situation.

Although a string of press releases have sought to plug its chapter activities, webinars, city hub forums, strategic intelligence platforms and advocacy, these appear to be doing little to help rebuild the membership base, collect unpaid dues and bring in new members.

The association’s financial status will be known when the Internal Revenue Service filing is made public, as required by U.S. law. It was supposed to be posted on the PATA website this month.

Final word is also awaited on whether the Chinese will turn up at the PATA Travel Mart in Manila. There have been reports of them pulling out in protest over the South China Sea island dispute with the Philippines.