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

3 Apr, 2024

PATA members should deny Peter Semone a second term as Chairman

Bangkok — On 02 April, PATA Chairman Peter Semone sent out an announcement to the membership saying it has “successfully regained its footing in terms of finances, management and vision.” With a “highly talented” CEO and new plans and structures in place, he hailed PATA’s readiness to face the future in good shape. Alongside, he declared his intention to seek a second two-year term as Chairman in the interests of “continuity.”

PATA members should deny him that extension.

Not because he is not a capable chairman. He is. There is no doubt he has worked hard to keep the ship on even keel “during one of the most challenging periods in our association’s 73-year history.”

Rather, the PATA membership needs to send a message to the United States of America, its oligopolies, institutions and people in the Asia-Pacific about the perilous state of the world and America’s responsibility for creating it, while remaining totally free of accountability.

If the US government cannot be held accountable for its plans and actions, the people of the Asia-Pacific need to hold American taxpayers accountable, especially if they aspire to hold elected office, purportedly in order to advance the interests of the people of this region.

Only when American expatriates feel the pressure, will they hold the Washington DC power-brokers responsible. Only then will some kind of badly needed check-and-balance mechanism fall into place.

The United States was once a trusted force for good. That image has long worn thin. In fact, it probably does not hold true any more.

Since the end of the Vietnam war and the fall of the Berlin wall, the United States has held the moral high ground as a vanguard of freedom, democracy, human rights, free markets, free speech, free movement of peoples.

In the 21st century, starting with the 9/11 attacks, its record has become highly checkered. In 2003, it spearheaded the attack on Iraq in pursuit of the “weapons of mass destruction” which, lo and behold, proved to be non-existent. Millions of people were killed and injured. Its leaders were never held culpable for what became known as the “Lie of the Century.”

Today, the world is watching with the same helplessness as the United States aids and abets the savage Israeli butchery in Gaza. That conflict, plus that in Ukraine and a number of other spots, is keeping the cash registers at the US military-industrial complex jingling nicely.

“Global warming” is the other hot topic. But who caused global warming? Laos? Burundi? It built up over many decades of the fossil fuel era when the industrialised countries, led by the United States, became rich and powerful. Today, low-income countries badly hit by global warming are being asked to buy alternative energy technologies and invest in hackneyed schemes like carbon-offsets devised mainly by the industrialised countries to pay for fixing the damage they themselves caused.

Be it global warming or geopolitical war-mongering, the United States is deeply involved — with zero accountability.

American oligopolies dominate the telecommunications technologies, currency markets, pharmaceuticals and the travel & tourism sector, amongst others. US government power is intertwined with the power of these behemoth megacorporations who know everything about everyone — what we do, eat, drink, watch, buy, read and who we communicate with.

American citizens have been living comfortably in the Asia-Pacific for decades, but it is no longer certain whose interests they serve.

The people of the Asia-Pacific region need to start asking that question, loudly and clearly.

Are American expatriates part of the problem, or a part of the solution?

Our diplomats and political leaders are paid a lot of taxpayers money to do just that. But in the corridors of power, such questions often get politely set aside in the interests of diplomatic niceties and economic horse-trading.

The impression is that the people can do nothing except indulge in toothless fist-shaking and placard-waving in front of a US embassy or fast-food chain outlet.

That impression must now be laid to rest.

People Power is the key.

The same People Power that defeated the mighty American military forces in Vietnam in 1975, drove out both the US-backed tyrant, the Shah of Iran, in 1979 and the US-backed Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1989.

The fact that this year marks the 45th and 35th anniversaries of the latter two turning points in history, and 2025 will mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war, opens a good opportunity to reflect on the formidable power of grassroots movements in forcing change.

The perception that American corporate and military and geopolitical power can never be brought down is a fallacy.

When you are Number One, the only way you can go is down. And all empires sooner or later become victims of their own hubris, arrogance, hypocrisy, lies, dishonesty and double standards.

If the people of the Asia Pacific cannot hold the power-brokers in Washington DC accountable, they can certainly hold Americans living here accountable for doing just that. Especially, when they seek support to hold an elected office.

Today, the over-arching job of every elected official in the travel industry is to make sure that the rest of us have one.

I repeat:

The over-arching job of every elected official in the travel industry is to make sure that the rest of us have one.

As Mr Semone pointed out in his message to the PATA membership, the association has just emerged from the devastating Covid-19 crisis and is in a stronger position to serve its members.

He makes no mention of the fact that the world is already embroiled in the post-Covid crises — America’s conflicts with Russia, China and the Islamic world designed to eliminate the competition, make the world supposedly “safer” for Israel and maintain its hegemonic “top dog” status.

Mr Semone has been in Asia long enough to know the famous saying, “When the elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.” The grass, again, will be the millions of jobs in Travel & Tourism if and when those man-made conflicts spin out of control.

Hundreds of global leaders are appealing for peace and quiet to fix the humungous problems that have already rendered the UN Sustainable Development Goals unachievable by the 2030 target date.

But the core words “peace” and “trust” do not appear anywhere in Mr Semone’s re-election pitch.

Of most concern was that his message reflected a cold indifference about the conflict-ridden state of the world.

When deciding whether to grant Mr Semone a two-year extension “in the interests of continuity,” PATA members just need to evaluate his own self-written checklist.

He says PATA now has a “clear strategic direction and vision aimed at fostering growth in membership, relevance, and revenues. The imminent launch of PATA Vision 2030 will provide a roadmap for the years ahead.” He talks about “ensuring PATA’s voice is effectively heard on opportunities and challenges affecting Pacific Asia tourism” and helping PATA “achieve even greater heights in the years ahead.”

Finally, he implores PATA members, “As we look to the future, I urge you to vote for deserving members who embody outstanding leadership and the true spirit of PATA.”

The same criteria applies when voting for him, too.

“Outstanding leadership”, becoming the “voice” of Asia Pacific tourism and “fostering growth in membership, relevance and revenues” means first mustering the courage to speak truth to power and PREVENT and PRE-EMPT the next man-made crisis.

PATA members need to decide whether they can trust, I repeat, TRUST, Mr Semone to do that.

In doing so, they will send a strong message to the United States that it has squandered the trust of the global public.

This is an election year in the United States. It is also an election year for PATA.

The people of the PATA region cannot determine the outcome of the US elections. But they can, and must, strive to become the masters of their fate in their own home turf.

If the US government and political establishment cannot be held accountable, the people certainly can.


Here’s the full text of Mr Semone’s message to PATA members

Dear PATA Members,

Since assuming the role of Chairman of PATA in 2022, I’ve been privileged to lead during one of the most challenging periods in our association’s 73-year history. The onset of the Coronavirus Disease Pandemic wreaked havoc on our region’s tourism sector, akin to a relentless tsunami, leaving a profound impact on our member organizations.

I take great pride in acknowledging the resilience displayed by our PATA Executive Board members and the steadfast commitment of the PATA Secretariat staff. Together, we not only weathered the storm but also steered through the uncertainties brought forth by the pandemic.

I also extend my heartfelt gratitude to our member organizations and PATA Chapters who stood by PATA during these turbulent times. It’s through the collective strength of our community and the enduring trust of our members that PATA has persevered.

Today, I am delighted to announce that PATA has successfully regained its footing in terms of finances, management, and vision. In fact, we have emerged from the crisis even stronger than before!

Over the past 24 months, we have achieved significant milestones:

Financial Performance: We have executed a remarkable financial turnaround, achieving a surplus that restores PATA to pre-COVID levels of operating reserves. This feat was accomplished through prudent cost-cutting measures, including the relocation of the PATA Headquarters offices in Bangkok. As we embark on our 2024 activities, PATA’s financial position remains robust.

CEO Recruitment: We have appointed a highly talented Chief Executive Officer, Noor Ahmad Hamid, an experienced trade association professional, to lead the PATA Secretariat and drive the implementation of strategic directions set by the Executive Board. Together with our revitalized Secretariat Team, we have devised a new commercial model for the 2024 PATA Travel Mart, scheduled to take place in Bangkok from August 27th to 29th. Additionally, we have conceptualized several new products and services slated for launch in 2024.

Strategic Direction: We have established a clear strategic direction and vision aimed at fostering growth in membership, relevance, and revenues. The imminent launch of PATA Vision 2030 will provide a roadmap for the years ahead, leveraging PATA’s core strengths in research and knowledge dissemination, thematic event organization, business exchange facilitation, capacity building, and advisory services.

Leadership: Strong leadership is paramount to PATA’s success, particularly in these challenging times. In early April, PATA will conduct elections for Officers and Executive Board Members for the 2024-2026 term. It is imperative that those elected demonstrate a spirit of volunteerism and possess the ability to contribute constructively to the realization of our ambitious PATA Vision 2030. Recognizing the importance of continuity, I am seeking a second term as PATA Chair.

Looking ahead, the next two years will be crucial for PATA’s medium- and long-term success. Key focus areas for the incoming leadership include:

(+) Continuing to refine and modernize the PATA membership value proposition to retain existing members and attract new organizations.

(+) Building strong networks in critical markets such as China, India, and the Middle East.

(+) Strengthening the PATA Secretariat’s responsiveness to member needs and delivery of high-quality products and services.

(+) Enhancing the PATA Travel Mart’s reputation as the premier travel trade show for Asia and the Pacific.

(+) Ensuring PATA’s voice is effectively heard on opportunities and challenges affecting Pacific Asia tourism.

I extend my deepest gratitude to the 35 members of the PATA Board of Directors for their unwavering dedication and support throughout my tenure. Together, we have overcome unprecedented challenges and emerged stronger and more resilient. As we look to the future, I urge you to vote for deserving members who embody outstanding leadership and the true spirit of PATA.

As PATA members, let us continue our collective efforts to propel our association forward, ensuring it remains at the forefront of shaping the future of tourism in Asia and the Pacific. With your continued support, I am confident that we will achieve even greater heights in the years ahead and attract more organizations to join our family.

Thank you for the honor of serving as your Chair. I look forward to continue our journey together towards a brighter future for PATA.

Best Regards,