Thoughts on 2017 and beyond

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After 80 flights, 428 hours in the air, and more than 240 hours at airports in 2017, I have come to realise that there are many of us who are concerned about the uncertain and volatile world we live in today.

From the travel ban in the US, the threat of conflict on the Korean peninsula, and the tightening of borders to constant security concerns, political instability and the serious effects of climate change on our fragile planet, it is no wonder why people are anxious.

However, we should remain focused on the positive and realise the facts show that the world is getting better at an extraordinary rate. We live healthier and longer, the cost of renewable energy is decreasing and we have access to more information than ever before right in the palm of our hands. Most importantly for all of us, the tourism industry continues to grow at a phenomenal rate.

The Association itself has also celebrated some positive achievements in the past year.

In 2017, PATA made a commitment to engage with and provide opportunities for young tourism professionals to connect and network with industry professionals and here’s what happened:

  • Launched the YTP student membership category
  • Welcomed three new student Chapters from Canada, Indonesia and New Zealand
  • Launched the Malaysia Travel Entrepreneurship Challenge 2017
  • Introduced the PATA-IGLTA Foundation Sponsorship
  • Welcomed AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes to the well-received PATA Youth Symposium in Macao SAR
  • Created partnerships to enable students to attend PATA international events and participate in PATA committee meetings.
  • Gave voice to young tourism professionals by having them join leaders on stage at events

In addition, PATA remains on track to be financially stable and with that, we were able to accomplish several new things including:

  • Organising three events in the Pacific (Palau, New Zealand and Vanuatu), reinforcing the ‘P’ in PATA
  • Creating the Human Capacity Building Programme, with two programmes in China and the Maldives
  • Launching our PATA Speakers Bureau
  • Publishing our first Annual Report after a hiatus of several years

These achievements do not mean that we should not remain cautious.

While all of us were busy promoting tourism, talking about the challenges of managing capacity, and the growing need for talent; the US quietly saw approximately 170,000 fewer retail jobs and around 75,000 more Amazon robots. Furthermore, the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation and its effect on jobs is not a subject taken seriously by tourism leaders, despite its potential long-term impact. The industry has become complacent in thinking that it will not be impacted or that Asia will not be affected by these technologies for several decades. The fourth industrial revolution is moving at a pace that we have never experienced before and the travel and tourism industry may not be prepared for what is coming ahead. 

As you can see, we have our work cut out for 2018, but we must remember that the world’s biggest problems are also the world’s biggest business opportunities.

To tackle the issues that lie ahead, know that you are not alone and that PATA  has the network and resources to help. Our desire moving forward is to create an agenda and lead a discussion that will ensure the long-term sustainability of our industry. We want to inspire, educate and empower you so that together we can influence change. Let us become the leaders that change leaders for a better world and a responsible tourism industry. Let us work together to build a better future not just for us but for the generations to follow. I am positive that by working together in unison we can achieve endless possibilities.

That is why I look forward to the coming year and I hope you continue to join us on this journey.

On behalf of the PATA Executive Board, all PATA team members and myself, I wish you all a happy holiday season and a prosperous 2018!

Till next time!

Mario Hardy
Chief Executive Officer
Pacific Asia Travel Association