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25 Oct, 2012

Costa Antunes Out as Macau Tourism Chief, But Will Remain PATA Chairman

PATA Chairman João Manuel Costa Antunes is to step down from his full-time job of 24 years as director of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO), effective December 20, but will continue to chair the Bangkok-based association for the rest of his two-year term until April 2014.

According to Macau’s Secretary for Social Affairs and Culture Mr. Cheong U, as quoted in the Macau Daily Times on Oct 15, the MGTO’s deputy director Ms Helena de Senna Fernandes will replace Mr Antunes. The move caught the travel industry totally by surprise.

PATA officials said they had been informed of the move last week and were working on an official announcement to clarify Mr Antunes’ continued tenure as PATA Chairman. However, before issuing the release, they were awaiting clarification of the capacity in which Mr Antunes will remain chairman, a job he assumed just six months ago in April 2012.

Macau is a major supporter of PATA, having hosted a number of its conferences and travel marts over the years. It is also the Gold Sponsor of the annual PATA Travel Awards. Mr Antunes has played a critical role in these events. He has assisted in PATA in numerous capacities, including Vice Chairman and Secretary-Treasurer.

According to the Macau Daily Times report, Mr Antunes was appointed as Tourist Office director in 1988, when Macau was still under Portuguese rule. He is also the coordinator of the Tourism Crisis Management Office as well as of the Grand Prix Committee. In addition, Costa Antunes is a member of the government’s Cultural Consultative Committee.

Industry executives said his change of status almost certainly will impact his PATA chairmanship as he will no longer be able to make or follow through on any commitment involving the MGTO, especially if it involves budgetary matters.

The move comes just a month after a controversial incident at the PATA Travel Mart in Manila last September. The mart saw a scaled down token participation by China as a sign of displeasure with the Philippines over the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

A front-page headline in the official TTG daily used the word “boycott” to describe the Chinese move, which upset the Chinese. PATA executives said they could not take any responsibility for that headline as the daily is published by an independent media house under an outsourcing contract.

The PATA executive board meeting in Manila was the first chaired by Mr Antunes since assuming the top PATA post. Executive board members declined to say if the matter was discussed in the meeting. They are under strict orders not to talk to the media on PATA-related matters.

Although the next PATA Travel Mart is set for Chengdu in September 2013, there were no representatives from the Chengdu hosts at the final dinner at the PTM in Manila, and the welcome speech was read on their behalf by Mr Antunes.

According to the Macau Daily Times report, Mr Cheong U said that Costa Antunes “was not being sacked and will fully focus on his job as the Grand Prix coordinator.” He was quoted as saying that it was just a normal change in personnel. “I have to stress that this is not a punishment for making errors”, the Secretary was quoted as saying, “this is only a better allocation of human resources. I believe this move can bring in good effects”, he told the daily.

Mr Cheong referred to Mr Antunes as a “hard working, experienced and vigorous person,” and added in the report: “As everyone knows, he is taking up too many positions right now. You can imagine how large a workload he is undertaking.”

Larry So, associate professor at the School of Public Administration of the Macau Polytechnic Institute was quoted as describing Mr Antunes’ move as a “kind of retirement.”

Read the rest of the Macau Daily Times report here.