PATA Annual Summit 2019: Highlights, Videos and Key Takeaways

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The sold-out PATA Annual Summit 2019 in Cebu, Philippines officially ended over the weekend.

What an event it was!

Thank you to the dedicated efforts of our host, the Department of Tourism, Philippines, as well as all the delegates, speakers, sponsors and volunteers who helped to make this event a resounding success.

The conference featured opinion leaders from both public and private sectors, including the co-founder of Airbnb and leaders of five tourism boards worldwide, among many other influencers in the travel and tourism industry within Asia Pacific and beyond.

Ms. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Secretary, Department of Tourism, Philippines with Dr. Mario Hardy, CEO of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)

Conference topics included the State of the World Economy’The Current and Future State of Travel and Tourism in Asia Pacific‘Navigating the Numbers’, ‘Travelling the Unknown to Find Yourself’, ‘Accessible Tourism for All‘Destination Management in Times of Uncertainty’ and Mainstreaming Sustainable Tourism‘, ‘The Power of Data and Insights for Responsible Development’, and The Future of Sustainable Destination Branding



If you missed it, don’t worry! Here are 10 key things we learnt from the conference:



1. The world economy has been slowing down since 2018 and will continue to slow in 2020, reflecting a trend that The Economist calls ‘slowbalisation’. This does not mean that growth is disappearing: there is slowing global integration on traditional measures but deeper integration elsewhere. Positioning for short-term volatility but longer-term growth is key.

Dr. Andrew Staples, Global Editorial Director, The Economist Corporate Network

2. Global growth and the ‘center of economic supremacy’ is moving back towards Asia, where it was located before the 1800s industrial revolution. Envisioning the world in 2050, Asian, Middle Eastern and African economies will populate the top 20 economies, led by China and India.

“How will globalisation under Chinese characteristics look like? Because we’re starting to see that in Asia, first and foremost, but also in other areas of the world.”

– Dr. Andrew Staples, Global Editorial Director, The Economist Corporate Network



3. Short-term rentals such as Airbnb are here to stay and the accommodations ecosystem will continue to experience fundamental change. Hotels are increasingly seeking to offer unique experiences such as offering apartment-like accommodations, while entrepreneurs are seen scaling up the apartment model and operating it more like a hotel.

“So there’s actually a new ecosystem emerging… and it’s going to be alliances. We think a lot of this inventory does belong on Airbnb.”

– Nathan Blecharczyk, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Airbnb; Chairman, Airbnb China

Mr. Rico Hizon, Presenter, BBC World News, in an intimate one-on-one interview with Mr. Nathan Blecharczyk, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Airbnb, and Chairman of Airbnb China

4. Data is important but one should never trust data without understanding their source or the context in which they are presented. For example, international tourist arrivals may have risen over the past few years, but a closer look will reveal that spend per visitor has decreased. At the same time, spend per arrival may seem low but it is possible that the impact of that spend could have a bigger impact than that of higher number.

“I hate averages. Someone once told me that if you want to take your body temperature, put your head in the freezer, put your feet in the fireplace, and on average you’ll be fine. But it doesn’t work that way.”

– Prof. John Koldowski, Special Advisor to the CEO, PATA



5. In order for the community to become stakeholders of tourism, we must work within our cultural contexts to appropriately engage the locals and provide them with value. One example would be an initiative in the UAE that helped uplift societal perceptions of widows while providing them with livelihood through tourism. By showing how tourism can help create jobs and income, we can demonstrate its value to the community.

In a panel about mainstreaming sustainable tourism, Mr. Oliver Martin, Partner at Twenty31, moderated the discussion between Mr. TJ Grundl-Hong (Founder & CEO, Epikurean Hotels & Lifestyles), Ms. Josie Costales (Chairperson & Founder, Costales Nature Farms), Ms. Maria Paz Alberto (President & Owner, Ark Travel Express), and Dr. Robin Yap (Chairman Emeritus, The Travel Corporation Asia).

6. Public-private partnerships are very important for the future of responsible tourism.Governments can lead in creating sustainable policies but the private sector must help enforce the practices. Sustainability that comes from the top down can guide the responsible actions of future generations, but should also take into account small businesses that may not be able to afford the needed resources.



7. Accessible travel is not just about building infrastructure like wheelchair ramps. It is about integrating universal design to accommodate all forms of disabilities and to include groups such as children and seniors. There are simple solutions that you could implement to attract this rapidly growing yet underserved sector of the market, such as printing out an extra menu with large text.

Moderated by Ms. Caroline Bremner, the ‘Accessible Tourism for All’ panel revealed great insights from Ms. Jamilla Aquino (President, DEAFinite Tour Guiding Services), Ms. Rica Bueno (Assistant Secretary for Tourism Regulation, Coordination and Resource Generation, Department of Tourism, Philippines), and Mr. Martin Heng (Accessible Travel Manager & Editorial Advisor, Lonely Planet).

8. Urbanisation will continue to drive emerging markets over the next few years especially in China and India, which will bolster the new middle class and create new opportunities. It is necessary to invest, build infrastructure, and think about how to anticipate shaping the future.



9. The protectionism trend in our global economy can be attributed to those who feel they have not benefited from globalisation. In order to reverse this trajectory, we must provide opportunities for everyone so the feeling of inequality can shift towards a positive direction.

Ms. Maja Pak, Director General, Slovenian Tourist Board in her closing keynote, ‘The Future of Sustainable Destination Branding.’

10. Marketing the destination should be refocused to managing the destination, as more and more destinations face the challenge of over-tourism. Tourism brands must have a strong, authentic story based on the values of the destination, then be able to communicate the story well by creating products that are in line with the brand vision.

“Branding is all about perception, which is something that will continue to change over time.”

– Maja Pak, Director General, Slovenian Tourist Board



Sponsored by Amadeus, highlights from the PATA Annual Summit were captured in this graphic recording by Vanessa Leong of Sketch Post. (View in high-res >>)

This graphic recording of the conference captures it all and is sponsored by Amadeus.

Looking for the uncut version? Watch full video recordings of the opening keynote, BBC Leadership Interview and closing keynote:



In ‘State of the World Economy,‘ sponsored by Global Tourist Economy Forum, Dr Andrew Staples, Global Editorial Director of The Economist Corporate Network shares the latest macroeconomic forecasts for the global economy from The Economist Intelligence Unit. He also identifies the longer-term opportunities and challenges facing the Asia Pacific region. View video >>



During BBC Leadership Interview: Nathan Blecharczyk, Airbnb,’ Airbnb Co-Founder, Chief Strategy Officer and Chairman of Airbnb China Nathan Blecharczyk discusses with BBC World News Presenter, Rico Hizon a wide range of topics ranging from innovative technological advancements to sustainability and corporate social responsibility. View video >>



For the closing keynote, Maja Pak, Director General of the Slovenian Tourist Board shares Slovenia’s national model for sustainability and how they have incorporated it into their branding and marketing activities, highlighting how DMOs and their market partners can better align their positioning along sustainable dimensions while maintaining distinctiveness.



Of course, it’s not all work and no play!

The event’s many hosted social functions included Reception and Dinner on May 9th hosted by the Beijing Municipal Culture and Tourism Bureau. The Beijing delegation was led by Zhang Hongyi, Associate Consultant of Legislative Affairs Division to promote Beijing’s 144-hour transit visa-free, departure tax rebate and MICE potential.

See all of the photos from PATA Annual Summit 2019 here >>

Tourism is a social force that impacts the lives of many, directly or indirectly. We are proud of the PATA Annual Summit’s contribution in uniting the best minds of the travel industry to elevate the quality as well as protect the future assets of tourism for generations to follow.



We look forward to seeing you at PAS 2020 in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE!

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