BEIJING, China (eTN) – Traveling to an event considered as one of the most important for the region’s tourism industry, this year’s conference had an even more special resonance as PATA celebrates in grand style 60 years of existence. With the theme “Building Tourism. Past. Present. Progressive,” the conference acknowledged both achievements and challenges faced by the tourism industry in this part of the world.
“It is important to look where Pacific and Asia have gone through over the last 60 years as we shape the future of tourism. In the early days of PATA, the Pacific was a little known area for holidays. Our association helped to change that perception as we helped to transform this region into the world’s fastest-growing destination,” said Bill Calderwood, PATA interim CEO. In 1951, countries covered by PATA received as little as 100,000 visitors a year! Just for comparison, PATA now forecasts that some 556 million travelers will venture in the region zone in 2011.
Over the years, the association helped to raise a specific Asian vision of tourism, helped communicate on a global scale about the region, and also focused on developing tourism rather than formulating policies. “No other organization in Asia Pacific has our capacity to reach such a variety of players in all fields of our industry. This hangs to the fact that our members come from both the public and private sector,” indicated Bill Calderwood.
While PATA largely accompanied tourism evolution in Asia Pacific over the last six decades, Mr. Calderwood looked also at problems faced by the association today. At the same time, he also acknowledged some of the current trends. “In our recent history, we have sometimes been a little bit disconnected about the newest evolutions. We lost for example focus on our chapters. Our 38 chapters across the globe represent indeed a great resource as they help us to deepen our knowledge on regions. We should maximize opportunities by working closer with our chapters,” he told during a press conference. Over the coming months, PATA will look at dedicating a wider role to chapters. “We could think of setting up joint ventures with some of them to set up seminars or conferences. Chapters were also historically linked to outbound markets. However, as they increasingly get linked to inbound markets, we should work together to assess the significance of inbound markets’ growth,” added Bill Calderwood.
PATA already adopted a more pragmatic approach to its chapters. After losing a couple of them in the last years, PATA decided to reverse previous decisions to raise fees for chapters’ memberships. “We should then have five new chapters by year-end. We reactivated our chapters in Hong Kong and Chiang Rai and see opportunities for additional chapters in Australia or in China,” told Mr. Calderwood. He estimates that the total number of chapters could reach 50 by the end of 2012.
PATA will continue to help the industry by continuing to focus on what has been its uniqueness over the years: providing in-depth research studies and analysis of trends in the region. The PATA Office of Strategic Management remains probably the only institution providing comprehensive data and analysis on all aspects of Asia Pacific tourism. “And we continue to identify new trends such as regional or city markets, as urban tourism is becoming increasingly relevant for the region,” said the PATA Interim CEO. PATA could then set up cooperation with cities to evaluate their potential. Mr. Calderwood also identified a need to engage the industry into a better understanding of Internet social networks, as well as the impact of low-cost carriers. “Both drove major changes in our industry. Social networks are becoming a way of life for many travelers, especially younger generations,” he told. PATA increasingly fosters new generations to participate within the association on the future of the tourism industry.
The association will also strengthen its role of facilitating communication in times of crisis. For Mr. Calderwood, the Asia Pacific area has seen in recent months a string of catastrophes such as massive flooding in Australia, Sri
Lanka, or Thailand; a volcanic eruption in Indonesia; and earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand. “We can counter negative effects by providing rapidly a task force able to speed up tourism recovery. Information must then be accurate, open, and frequent to counter misinterpretation and misinformation. We will officially launch here the Beijing Declaration, which will look at formulating policies in emergency situations,” told the PATA Interim CEO. The association wants also to continue to foster sustainable practices in tourism, a drive that started back to the early nineties. PATA obviously wants to keep on its pioneer role in Asian tourism. The next 60 years will certainly be as exciting as the first 60.