That’s a wrap for 2019

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This article is part of The CEO Blog, a collection of blog posts authored by PATA CEO Dr Mario Hardy.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like 2019 has gone by at the speed of light and I can’t believe the holiday season is already upon us. So much has happened in our industry this year; we saw timeless travel brands disappear, others struggling and new ones rising. The number of visitors crossing international borders have continued to increase and some destinations have seen record percentage year-on-year growth. While many may be celebrating these achievements, some are wondering if it’s too much, too fast.

For the first time in many years, I feel that our world has become increasingly divided, and I worry about the impact this may have on our daily life and the tourism industry in 2020 and beyond. Trade wars, currency fluctuations, economic tensions, and political instability are and should be some major concerns for our industry. 2019 will be remembered as the year that the world woke up to the realities of climate change. It took a 16-year old climate change activist to achieve what no politician has been able to do, and make the world realise that the time for action as already past and we are now facing a critical environmental crisis. For the first time, I have heard and seen travel brands taking serious actions to become more sustainable and responsible.

I recently read an article from Stu Lloyd, Chief Hothead, Hotheads Innovation, about the increasing importance of Social Quotient (SQ), the measurement of how individuals and companies embody and express their values, their purpose, and their humanity. Many organisations are already adopting this concept and integrating it into their strategic plans.

For example, in 2010 Unilever launched the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), with ambitious targets to decouple Unilever’s growth from its environmental impact, while increasing the company’s positive social impact. Their research showed that two-thirds of consumers around the world would choose brands based upon on its stand on social issues, and over 90% of millennials would switch brands for one which champions a cause. This year, Unilever announced that its purpose-led 28 Sustainable Living Brands grew 69% faster than the rest of the business and delivered 75% of the company’s growth in 2018. Today, Unilever is on track to meet around 80% if its commitments, which include improving health and well-being for 1 billion people, reducing environmental impact by half, and enhancing livelihoods for its millions of employees, suppliers and retailers.

“We believe the evidence is clear and compelling that brands with purpose grow. Purpose creates relevance for a brand, it drives talkability, builds penetration and reduces price elasticity. In fact, we believe this so strongly that we are prepared to commit that in the future, every Unilever brand will be a brand with purpose,” said Unilever CEO Alan Jope.

I sincerely believe that travel brands need/must follow suit and themselves become “sustainable living brands”, failure to do so will result in being abandoned and left behind by the millennials who are increasingly making socially conscious decisions in choosing brands with a clear purpose. We at PATA sincerely believe that 2020 will be the year where we will see the biggest shift towards actionable, tangible and measurable sustainability solutions being implemented across our sector. Earlier this year, we launched Travel Lab Asia  in partnership with the Asian Development Bank’s ADB Ventures and Plug and Play to specifically assist hospitality brands implement CleanTech solutions. This is a first of many other initiatives we have planned for 2020 and beyond to assist our industry to achieve its Sustainability Development Goals. 

If you wish to know more about our sustainability initiatives or wish to share your sustainability success stories, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. 

In the meantime, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a wonderful Holiday Season and a Happy New Year. I look forward to seeing many of you at our events in 2020, with the first one being the PATA Adventure Travel Conference and Mart 2020 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia from February 12-14, followed by the PATA Annual Summit 2020 in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE from March 31-April 3.

Till next time,
Dr. Mario Hardy
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)