I am referring to the degree of latitudinal difference between Bangkok, where PATA’s headquarters are located, and New York. On a recent family holiday to Canada and the U.S., I took the opportunity to have lunch with representatives from PATA’s Canadian and New York Chapters to learn about their opportunities and challenges. I have realised that the realities of tourism in Asia aren’t as well known and understood, as I would have thought by our North American colleagues. That 27-degree of separation can be felt in conversations when talking about the primary advocacy themes of PATA as they don’t resonate as well in the Americas as they do in Asia. This situation isn’t unique and can be felt in other places as well. Let’s explore the reasons and how we can improve on this moving forward.
In the past nine months since I took the position of CEO, I have met with 22 Chapters – half of our global network. Meeting with our Chapters is time well spent and something that I value very much. It provides me, as well as the team at PATA headquarters, a better understanding of their respective marketplace, their strengths, and the opportunities for PATA members at large.
I believe it is important to remind ourselves of the reasons why PATA Chapters were established in the first place. “PATA Chapters are established throughout the world to assist in the fulfilment of the objectives of the Association. They are local community organisations of travel industry professionals who join in co-operative endeavours within the framework of PATA to develop travel and tourism to, from, and within the Asia Pacific area.” The detailed objectives of the Chapters are more clearly reflected in the Chapter Bylaws. However, for me the one objective that best represents their role is the following: “To act as the local voice of PATA to help position, promote and protect Asia Pacific travel and tourism via sustainable economic, cultural and environmental methods.”
As the years have passed, PATA and its Chapters seem to have distance themselves from each other. Participation from Chapter heads and members at PATA events and activities has reduced, interaction with headquarters has decreased, and interaction between Chapters is practically non-existent. These are all missed opportunities for all parties and it is time to increase the engagement.
In the last year, PATA has made a significant investment in its online platforms and increased its member communication significantly via various mediums. We encourage all Chapters to use these services and share them with their respective members. They are for the benefit of our global network, and we make no distinction between members and Chapter members when it comes to communication.
Many of our Chapters organise events, seminars, and workshops throughout the year, and I strongly encourage any PATA member that travels around the world to reach out to these local Chapters, ask for their assistance, and join their local activities to improve and increase their business network. There are many great examples of very successful events organised by our local chapters. One example is the job fair and forums organised by our Malaysian Chapter, which attracts thousands of young people. This is a great way to engage with the next generation of travel sector professionals. I also encourage PATA partners to reach out to PATA Chapters and collaborate with them locally.
Now going back to my first point of the 27 degrees of separation. I believe that the best way to improve the understanding of the opportunities in Asia and the objectives of PATA with our Chapters is by face-to-face discussions. I will continue to meet with as many Chapters as I can while I travel, and I also encourage Chapter heads and members to please join PATA’s events.
And on that note, I would like to personally invite all of our Chapter heads and members to join us at next year’s PATA Annual Summit in Guam, USA from May 18-21, 2016 to celebrate the Association’s 65th Anniversary! It will be a great opportunity to meet other Chapter members from around the world and to discuss how we can increase the collaboration between our global networks! There is nothing more that would please me than to have the opportunity to meet all Chapter heads together in one location and this may be the greatest opportunity while celebrating a huge milestone for PATA.
Till next time,
Chief Executive Officer
Pacific Asia Travel Association