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Behind the Podium

Is it long overdue for the travel & tourism industry to focus on what it needs to hear rather than what it wants to hear?


Travel Impact Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil is regularly invited to speak on travel industry issues and trends, especially to audiences willing to listen with an open mind to alternative perspectives that challenge conventional wisdoms.


Imtiaz Muqbil believes that travel industry conferences these days are excessively dominated by speakers who are either too busy trying to sell their products or who will tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear. That needs to change.


Here are just some highlights of Imtiaz Muqbil’s wide-ranging public-speaking appearances worldwide:


  • Between 1997-99, Imtiaz Muqbil lectured on Asia-Pacific tourism trends at the Tourism Executive Development Programme organised by the University of Southern Cross In Ballina, New South Wales, in conjuction with PATA. A key focus of discussion was the impact of the Asian economic crisis, the lessons learned and the implications for the future of Asia Pacific travel & tourism.
  • October 1998, Manila, International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA). Impact of Asian Crisis. Landmark quote from Imtiaz Muqbil’s speech at that conference: “Blaming the (1997 Asian financial) crisis entirely on nepotism, cronyism and corruption in Asia is inaccurate. Currency speculators are equally responsible and need to be reined in to prevent them from attacking Asian currencies in the future.”
  • May 1999, Sabah, Malaysia. Strategic Positioning of the Thai Tourism Industry: Directions for the Next Millennium. It was at this talk that Imtiaz Muqbil became arguably the first industry watcher to forecast the rise in spiritual and religious tourism.
  • 1999, Manila, Philippines MICE congress. Spoke on “The impact of the Asian financial crisis on the region’s travel & tourism industry.”
  • September 2003, Busan, Korea, The First General Assembly of the Tourism Promotion Organisation for Asia Pacific Cities. “Overview Of Tourism In The Asia Pacific And Major Market Trends.”
  • August 2005, Kathmandu, Nepal. Lectured on media trends at the Travel Media Workshop organised by Nepal Tourist Board with support of Asian Development Bank and SASEC.
  • June 2005, Dhaka, Bangladesh, workshop organised by the UN Economic Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, “Overview Of Tourism In The Asia Pacific And Major Market Trends.”
  • October 2006, Pattaya City, Thailand, 67th Skål World Congress, “Overview of the Thai tourism industry.”
  • December 2006, Cannes, International Luxury Travel Mart, Moderated a panel discussion and highlighted the growing impact of religious and spiritual tourism as part of the “luxury travel” mix.
  • September 2007, Bangkok, Thailand. Participated in a panel discussion at the UN Economic & Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific marking International Peace Day.
  • September 2007, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Spoke on , “Boom, Boom, Boom – Myth or Reality” at the Annual Convention of the Travel Agents Federation of India.
  • October 2007, Cordoba, Spain, First travel industry journalist to speak at the UNWTO Conference on Tourism, Religions and Dialogue of Cultures. Discussed the role of religions as a force for peace in travel & tourism.
  • Nov 2007, Casablanca, Morocco. UFTAA 41st Annual Congress. Spoke on the topic, “Was Rudyard Kipling wrong, or right?” Discussed some of the key social, economic, cultural and environmental trends in the Asia-Pacific and how they will affect the course of globalization, and the travel industry at large.
  • July 2008, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Global Islamic Tourism Conference and Exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. Discussed the challenges facing travel & tourism the Islamic world.
  • Oct 2008, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, SpaAsia Wellness Summit. Moderated the opening panel discussion on the theme topic of Managing Change: Fostering Convergence, Narrowing The Divide
  • March 2009, Teheran, Islamic Republic of Iran. UNWTO Conference on Increasing Tourist Flows Between Asia and the Middle East.  Tourism between Asia and the Middle East — An Underexploited Opportunity.
  • September 2009, Hangzhou, China, 5th UNWTO International conference on Destination Management – Weathering the Storm of Global Recession. Participated in a panel discussion on Successful Marketing during an Economic Downturn.
  • September 2009, Bangkok, Thailand, ASEAN Hotel & Restaurant Association Congress (AHRA), Moderated a panel discussion on “The Future Vision of ASEAN Hospitality”.
  • September 2009, Bangkok, Thailand. Participated in a panel discussion organised by the American Chamber of Commerce Travel & Tourism committee on “Image Management For Thailand’s Tourism & Business Industries.”
  • October 2009, Astana, Kazakhstan. Participated in a panel discussion on the future of the Silk Road in an event organised alongside the UN World Tourism Organisation General Assembly.
  • October 2009, Bangkok, moderated a Skal Club of Bangkok membership meeting on the future of the global Skal movement.
  • October 28-29, 2009, Bangkok, The Power of Peace Forum organised by the UN Educational, Scientific, Cultural and Educational Organisation. Discussed the role of media in generating peace and reporting global conflict.
  • November 2009, Guilin, China, 3rd UNWTO/PATA Forum on Tourism Trends and Outlook. Participated in a panel discussion on the subject of “Tourism in Face of the Global Economic Crisis.”
  • December 2009, Kuala Lumpur, International Islamic Tourism and Halal Week 2009, Spoke on “Current Issues on Islamic Tourism – The Worldview.”
  • December 10, 2009, Copenhagen, the UN Conference on Climate Change. Moderated a panel discussion on Climate Justice & Tourism.
  • February 2010, Subic Bay, the Philippines, delivered a “Premium Speaker” talk at the Philippines annual MICE convention on the subject, “The Year of Living Dangerously.” Here’s what Ms. Rosvi C. Gaetos, Deputy Executive Director, Philippine Convention & Visitors Corp, said about the talk: “The Philippines have had Imtiaz Muqbil as Conference Speaker for twice now. Imtiaz put on such a great presentation in the late 90’s that we had to have him back a second time this year! Imtiaz is a passionate and intuitive speaker who provides remarkable insights into the travel and tourism industry. He has had the most outlandish experiences and extraordinary adventures in travel and tourism and he relays them to his audience in an effortless and humorous way. He has a reputation for challenging set beliefs and values, drawing parallels that are thoroughly researched and examined. His bold approach and determination to seek, and even push, change has made him both hero and villain (sometimes). He is a most sought after speaker for his honest opinion and clear assessment of people, places, and events that impact on travel and tourism.”
  • June 2010, Kuala Lumpur, 1st International Summit on Tourism Safety and Security. Spoke on “The Role of Media in Improving Tourism Security.”
  • July 2010, Sydney. Participated in a Peace Tourism International Working Group on “Humanitarian Competition and Global Visioning” organised by the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney, with the support of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research.
  • October 2010, Kuala Lumpur, Islamic Travel Mart and Conference. Spoke on the subject, “Lost Opportunities –Upgrading Media Content on Islamic Tourism Websites.”
  • October 2010, Bangkok, annual meeting of the Australian business travel group CT Partners. Delivered the keynote speech on the subject, “Historical Perspective of Thai Tourism”. Commented CT Partners General Manager Ian Edwards, Many thanks again for a very entertaining and informative presentation! The feedback from our members was excellent! Well done!
  • May 27-28, 2011, Pakse, Champasak Province, southern Laos, on the Mekong River: Moderated two sessions at the Mekong Tourism Forum, the leading annual gathering of travel & tourism industry leaders and executives in the Greater Mekong Subregion to share insights and business leads on the emerging destinations.
  • June 10, 2011, Kuala Lumpur: Spoke at the the 2nd Muslim World BIZ Event, a conference and international trade exhibition organized by the OIC International Business Centre, to promote Malaysia as a Global Business Hub and increase intra-regional travel and trade among the Islamic countries.
  • Sept 6, 2011, Dalian, China. Biannual General Assembly of the Tourism Promotion Organisation for Asia Pacific Cities. Topic: The Role Of Media In Crisis Management.
  • Sept 10, 2011, Bangkok, Thailand. TEDxBKK Forum. Topic: Peace Through Tourism. Comment from James Dejsuphong, Event Organiser: “Your talk is very though-provoking and mind-opening. I believe that our audience appreciated the food-for-thought you have given us today.”
  • Sept 14, 2011, Bangkok, Thailand. Annual Food & Hotel Exhibition. Topic: Raising the Bar and Repositioning Thai Tourism.
  • Sept 23, 2011, Ahmedabad, India. Annual Convention of Indian Association of Tour Operators. Topic: India’s Loss, Neighbour’s Gain.
  • 9 Sept 2013, Speaker at the 2nd Iskandar Malaysia Ecotourism Summit organised by the Iskandar Regional Development Authority, on the topic of “Clustering and Selling ASEAN as a Premier Ecotourism Destination : Geopolitical Reality, Impediments and Prospects”.
  • 18 to 20 September 2014, Spoke at the 1st UNWTO International Congress on Tourism and Pilgrimages, organised by UNWTO, Spain’s Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism and the Regional Government of Galicia, held at Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Spoke on: “Popular religious practices, pilgrimages and spiritual tourism.” Further details: http://ethics.unwto.org/event/1st-unwto-international-congress-tourism-pilgrimages
  • 26-27 October 2016, Panelist at the UNWTO Regional Conference on “Investing in Tourism for an Inclusive Future: Challenges and Opportunities”, Petra, Jordan. Panel topic: “Building competitiveness throughout tourism value chains. Further details here: http://middle-east.unwto.org/node/45870
  • 6-8 December 2016, Speaker on something very different: “How to Prepare, Prevent and Pre-empt a Crisis” at the ASEAN Crisis Communication Meeting and Workshop organised by Tourism Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.
  • Dec 9-11, 2016, Spoke at the Thailand Halal Assembly on the topic: “Critical Success Factors in Moving Thailand Towards Muslim-Friendly Destination, Further details: http://thailandhalalassembly.com/
  • February 9, 2017, Delivered one of the keynote addresses at the Metro Manila Tourism Forum on the topic of “Changing The Tourism Face Of City Destinations For A Quality Visitor Experience.”
  • February 11, 2017, Spoke at the official opening of the Al Meroz Hotel, Thailand’s leading halal-friendly property, in Bangkok on the topic of “Muslim Travel to Thailand: A SWOT Analysis.”
  • March 17, 2017, Organised and spoke at the first resinar held at the PATA Engagement hub on “ASEAN Travel & Tourism: The Next 50 Years”. Click here to see report and comments.
  • May 16, 2017, Delivered a special presentation on “ASEAN Travel & Tourism: The Next 50 Years” at the Siam Society, Bangkok.
  • 7 June 2017, Moderated the Keynote Panel discussion at the Mekong Tourism Forum in Luang Prabang, Laos, on the theme of “Prospering with Purpose.”
  • July 4, 2017, Organised and spoke at the first resinar held at the PATA Engagement Hub on the subject of “Promoting Thailand as a Muslim-friendly Destination.”
  • July 25, 2017, Spoke at the World Islamic Tourism Conference in Kuala Lumpur (July 24-25) on the topic of “Countering Negative Perceptions of Muslims and Islamic Tourism.”