ORGANISATION: Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)
Headquarters: Hong Kong, China
Year founded: 1951
Members: 41 PATA chapters worldwide
Which countries in your region can be described as ‘emerging’ tourism destinations?
Without a doubt, Myanmar, the potential there is huge. Currently it is receiving just under 400,000 tourists a year through its main ports, but with the recent positive diplomatic moves, this could soon rise substantially. In 2011, it saw a growth in arrivals of 26%, although this was from a very small numeric base.
We also expect to see continued strong growth in traffic to Cambodia, Laos, Nepal and Sri Lanka over the next couple of years.
Overall, how well is tourism performing across the region?
Tourism is performing well. Underlying growth in demand isn’t the issue. It’s more a question of PATA helping destinations better managing the growth through sustainable and responsible practices.
The latest estimates from PATA’s Strategic Intelligence Centre are for around 427 million international arrivals into Asia-Pacific destinations during 2011 (this includes Asia, North America and the Pacific), which is a gain of 4.5%–5% for the year.
We’re seeing strong inbound growth into South East Asia (+9.4%) and South Asia (+11.5%), with some individual destinations well above those averages – for example, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal, which grew by 31%, 26% and 21% respectively.
Chinese and Indian outbound travellers are providing strong demand for travel to Asia-Pacific destinations. Demand continues to become more intra-regional, with historical source markets such as Europe and North America becoming more marginalised. The financial market recovery in Asia, the relative oil price stability and the continued expansion of the low-cost carrier (LCC) route network have all been features supporting tourism growth in 2011.
What do you see as the main responsibilities of being the head of PATA?
Keeping most of the members happy most of the time! Specifically showing that PATA Next Gen is a lot to do with aligned advocacy. Under my leadership, PATA will, on behalf of its members, increasingly speak out against obstacles to growth and factors that hurt sustainability and profitability in tourism.
We are seeking a freeze on the UK Air Passenger Duty, elimination of the ill-conceived EU ETS and the reduction of irrational carbon tax in Australia.
India also needs to wipe away a raft of regulations and restrictions that make inbound tourism business unnecessarily difficult. India’s inbound tourism has been retarded by the lack of adequate hotel developments in all categories.
There’s just too much red tape holding the industry back in India. Without those regulations, think how much more investment could be generated and tourism jobs created.
In 2012, PATA Next Gen is holding six PATA Hub City Forums in major cities. These short, sharp half-day events with industry leaders will identify strategic issues and obstacles to growth unique to each location. At the Bangkok Hub City Forum on January 30, Thai Airways International President Piyasvasti Amranand gave a presentation on ‘2012: Navigating the Headwinds’.
What are your key objectives for 2012?
PATA Next Gen will re-position the association as a brave, forthright, new-media-savvy institution that stands up for its members’ business objectives and rights. Have a look at new staff we are recruiting and innovative events we will be delivering to be sure PATA Next Gen is walking the talk.The ultimate object is of course to make PATA add real value to the next generation of travel industry leaders.
To what extent are LCCs driving tourism growth in the Asia-Pacific region?
All carriers have been instrumental in driving growth to, from and within Asia-Pacific. However, the introduction of new routes into secondary and tertiary ports within the region by LCCs has certainly added to that demand. Potential travellers have more travel options and can experience international air travel earlier on in their economic development than in past decades.
Thailand and the Philippines were badly affected by flooding in 2011; how is PATA working to help tourism to recover?
PATA was very active in helping Thailand. We spoke out against misleading media reporting which gave the impression that all of Bangkok was flooded. We put daily updates on PATA.org with links to live webcams showing the real extent of the problem. We encouraged tourists to check the latest information, but to keep coming. The Tourism Authority of Thailand expressed warm appreciation for our efforts.
In the Philippines Sendong flood crisis, we again used the website landing page and contacted the Ministry and the Philippines Chapter Chair asking for input on how PATA could help. We are monitoring to see if tourism demand for the Philippines slumps because of the floods.
How are wellness vacations and other more niche forms of tourism performing?
Medical tourism into Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and India is doing well, especially from markets such as the Middle East and Japan. The spa explosion is continuing. ‘Authentic’ travel experiences, plus shorter more frequent city breaks for shopping and dining are increasingly popular.
Do you think aviation’s inclusion in the EU ETS will have an impact on tourism to and from the Asia-Pacific region?
Yes – in the medium- to long-term. There’s an almost neo-colonial arrogance in much of the EU’s rhetoric on the ETS, and US and China airlines have been vociferous in their opposition.
The EU can expect counterproductive retaliatory measures. In fact, we are waiting to see the outcome of discussions in the US concerning retaliatory charges on EU-based airlines entering into US air space.
The possibility of a trade war also cannot be discounted. PATA has been outspoken on the matter. We stand firmly beside IATA and the aviation industry against the EU ETS.
It should be noted that PATA and the industry is not averse to taxation but that any taxes imposed should not be unilateral in their application and should involve the industry at all levels. It will be interesting to see what proportion of the revenues raised by the EU ETS will be deployed into real ‘green’ programmes and what proportion of those will be applied outside of the EU itself.
Can you tell us more about your ‘good tourism’ initiative?
This is a China-specific campaign supported by UNESCO in China and first identified at the PATA 60th anniversary conference in Beijing in April last year. The days of labelling tourism based on its particular contribution, i.e. environment, community or local heritage, are receding.
PATA believes that tomorrow’s industry should instead aspire to ‘Good Tourism’ – that is, tourism which is both balanced and sustainable and delivers a range of different benefits. The aim is to achieve mutually supportive and beneficial interaction among travellers, tourism policy-makers, entrepreneurs, tourism operators, managers, scenic spots and local communities in China.
China’s share of global tourism is expected to reach 8% by 2013; how will this affect the tourism landscape in the Asia-Pacific region and further afield?
The competition for these Chinese travellers will be fierce, but that should benefit the traveller. Attention will have to be given to improving the service delivery to this segment and that means better understanding the Chinese consumer and all of his/her idiosyncrasies by region. After all, Europeans are not all the same and China is vastly larger than (for example) the EU. Managing the mix of international travellers will be a challenge for some suppliers.
This article features in Routes News 2012 Issue 1