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24 Oct, 2022

PATA Summit topics all “Old Hat”, says industry veteran

When the Covid-19 crisis began in 2020 and hit its peak in 2021, the global travel & tourism industry saw some glimmer of hope that it would soon come to an end. Recovery and resilience campaigns emerged on the drawing boards, with three mantras dominating the discourse: 1) Build Back Better; 2) Create a New Normal; and 3) Convert a Crisis Into An Opportunity.

Even as the pandemic faded, a range of other man-made risks and threats emerged. In the backdrop lurked the omnipresent threat of climate change.

Are these risks and threats comprehensively and holistically reflected on the agendas of travel industry events and forums in the post-Covid era?

At least one industry veteran thinks not.

Bert van Walbeek | GoCrisis  

Bert (Bow-Tie) van Walbeek spent many years in Thailand working with as a hotelier, tour operator, trainer, crisis management guru, MICE expert, and much more. He headed Thailand’s first Society of Incentive Travel Executives (SITE) chapter as well as the Thailand PATA chapter. A Google search will show up a full list of his life and times. Today, he has returned to live in Europe, is semi-retired and lectures on travel & tourism at a university in the UK.

When he saw the list of topics on the agenda of the PATA Annual Summit, due to be held in Ras Al Khaimah Oct 25-28, he couldn’t resist firing off this letter to members of the PATA executive committee, with a copy to me. I am reproducing it here because it raises valid points.

Mr Walbeek does not believe the PATA summit, the first of the post-Covid era, does justice to the three-point mantra checklist of the pre-Covid era.

I tend to agree. His points apply not just to the PATA summit but to the many other industry events clogging up the calendar.

I, too, have long argued that travel industry forums traditionally tend to be gatherings of mutual back-thumpers preaching to the converted. While there is a lot of talk about “learning the lessons of history” and “creating a better world for future generations,” the walk begins to wobble as event planners retreat to the safety of the traditional comfort zones.

Which means that the more things change in Travel & Tourism, the more they remain the same.

But does living in denial and sweeping core issues under the carpet really solve anything? Or does it simply replace one set of problems with another? Does it gain Travel & Tourism the respectability it otherwise so richly deserves as an industry that contributes more than any other to Peace, Planet, Profit, People and Partnership, the five core objectives of the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

Read the letter, and decide for yourself.