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Asia-Pacific’s best take on PATA CEO challenge

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HAZEL HEYER  Feb 28, 2008

(eTN) - Leaders are joining the inaugural PATA CEO challenge in Bangkok on April 29 and 30 in an effort to share initiatives and plans to counter the impact of climate change, arguably the single greatest challenge facing our planet today.

Pacific Asia Travel Association’s CEO Challenge 2008’s event headlined Confronting Climate Change, expects participants to interact with regional leaders and discuss applications of latest innovative initiatives.

Peter de Jong, president and CEO of PATA, has created the brand that focuses on one main topic currently under the scope of every executive. This debate on climate change requires a position or opinion on the matter, and concrete action in the next 12 to 24 months. It’s an industry issue of paramount importance, at this particular moment in time for a broad spectrum of trade professionals and stakeholders.

Benefiting from a large number of enthusiastic supporters and expert participants, PATA injects high-quality content into the program. De Jong has signed up influential and important presenters and participants for a global audience who cares about our depleting planet.

He said, “Different from all others that precede it, this event will not see the industry lament the plight of the aviation sector, or question the science of climate change, or set highfaluting definitions, goals and declarations. Better than others, we will develop a can-do, must-do, constructive and positive approach to climate change by way of sharing these practices to others who will adopt them.”

PATA’s CEO believes there must a host of great things going on without public awareness. “There may be unknown, undisclosed, unduplicated gem of ideas which we could be bring to the fore and highlight for others to learn from. Ideas should however be manageable, should work and should reduce carbon footprint in their particular sector,” he said, citing new developments in retro-fitting hotel rooms which produce environmentally-friendly and less carbon-emitting room products.

One obvious weakness of strategies: they stay in the silos of the sector or in their own communities in ways poorly communicated to consumers, said the CEO of PATA. For example, people think about the airlines as the biggest polluters. Not exactly true. Furthermore, there is no cross-pollination of thinking between the airline and the tour operator, or between the airport and the hotel sector. De Jong said, “Yet, we are all in the same food chain. When the airline sector is singled out unfairly and handicapped by others, all participants in the tourism business suffer because people can’t get to the destination.”

PATA knows what the airline business is doing. The latest bio-fuel experiments, the solar-panelling of airport facilities and a host of other fuel-efficient designs and technologies are but a few highlights of the show. Aviation executives will share their experience and guidelines with delegates coming to this meeting. The so-called ‘alternative’ airline and aircraft companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand, Boeing and Rolls Royce and other major corporations who work in isolation, hopefully could share their experience, said de Jong adding, “Airline and plane manufacturers participating are accustomed to sharing their findings with their associates in IATA; however, it’s relatively new for them to share their thoughts with us. It will be a first for them to view themselves as part of the tourism chain. We will get the message out and work in synch, rather than figure out solutions in isolation.” Virgin Atlantic, in finding renewable energy alternatives, has partnered with a Swiss-based charity to ensure that money generated through its Gold Standard offset scheme is used to fund clean energy solutions in developing countries.

On methodology, the Challenge will need to revise hotel policies, such as in-room towel use which will ask guests to call housekeeping for towel change.

Covering all sectors – transport, accommodation, tour operation and destination – since PATA wanted to do justice to the term ‘CEO challenge’, the chief operating officers will forward their ideas and share with colleagues in the same space their techniques for reducing carbon footprint. On the factual assumption and on condition that, no one will go away if we are not prepared to work on it as a collective whole, posed de Jong.

Hotel and lodging associations in Hong Kong and India have long championed the merits of energy-efficiency to their members as part of a good overall environmental management. “In Asia Pacific, new markets are emerging in giant proportions. I have seen big chains going into China or India, bringing with them best practices they’ve learned abroad. With hotels in China, some developers or builders I believe are already incorporating greening techniques learned elsewhere, because they know that in the process, it will cost them a lot more if they don’t go green today,” PATA’s CEO stressed.

Needless to mention, Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts and Six Senses Resorts and Spas have already trail-blazed for many environmental sustainability strategies. Six Senses is developing its first carbon-neutral resort in the Maldives, an ambitious benchmark project with a completely carbon-neutral resort on the small island.

One advantage that PATA believes it has is that although members thrive in fragile environments, many of them coastal, they have new developments that will incorporate some of the aspects developed elsewhere. “None diminishes our role and threat in the environmental front with carbon. Customers question what we are doing. We should leave no room whatsoever for complacency in addressing this delicate issue,” said de Jong.

PATA’s head said it was not difficult to convince hotels to support his event following invaluable post-tsunami lessons learned – such as ways on hotel construction, beach-front limits, environmental safety and security. Hotels have woken up in a big way due to this tragedy. In April, the Marriott Lodging International sits down with competitors in the panel, and address tour operators and aviation leaders, for the first time, to cross-pollinate ideas, as de Jong puts it.

PATA’s CEO Challenge is designed to function as a presentation of innovation and technology, a venue to go-off with like-minded people to share experiences and the potential for growing brilliant ideas.

“This event is by industry, for industry. It’s not government-driven. It’s not NGO- driven, it’s not bank-driven. If men put their names, their titles, their companies behind this event and their participation, I think they’re going to follow through with commitment, without the shadow of a doubt,” closed the brains behind this effort.

Asia-Pacific’s best take on PATA CEO challenge

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