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PACT fights bird flu and other crises

A new industry-wide taskforce has been established to counter threats to travel and tourism in Asia Pacific, including the recent outbreak of…

A new industry-wide taskforce has been established to counter threats to travel and tourism in Asia Pacific, including the recent outbreak of bird flu.

Called the Pacific Asia Coalition for Travel, or PACT, the taskforce is being driven by the Pacific Asia Travel Association, following the success of its Project Phoenix initiative in 2003.

PATA President and CEO, Mr. Peter de Jong, said the taskforce had been working steadily to minimise the negative impact of bird flu on the region by liaising with the World Health Organization (WHO), conducting travel industry impact surveys and distributing factual information about the limited risks to travellers.

We now have a truly representative industry group, which can respond quickly and effectively to health alerts such as bird flu, security risks or any other crisis that could threaten travel and tourism in Asia Pacific, he said.

Members of PACT include national tourism offices, the International Air Transport Association, the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, Airports Council International, the International Hotel & Restaurant Association, Abacus, plus hotel and distribution companies.

Mr. de Jong said that PACT has two core objectives.

Our first goal is to co-ordinate information flows to the industry, to the media and to consumers. Truth is often the first casualty in a crisis. We need to ensure the facts are being distributed and that we, as an industry, are speaking with a united voice on the key issues, he said.

Secondly, PACT can act as a clearing house for sharing ideas and best practices in dealing with crises.

In response to the SARS outbreak, which cost the region more than US$10 billion in lost tourism revenue last year, PATA launched Project Phoenix, a global communications programme to restore consumer and business confidence in travel to Asia Pacific.

Phoenix received strong support and cooperation from both the public and private sectors of tourism and travel, paving the way for PACT.

The bird flu outbreak has not had anything like the impact of SARS on our industry – and nor should it, said Mr. de Jong.

PATA Director-Strategic Partnerships, Mr. Michael Yates, said: The facts are clear. There is no threat to humans unless they come into direct contact with infected live poultry. You cannot get bird flu from eating properly cooked chicken or eggs. As the WHO has confirmed, there is no realistic threat to travellers.

PACT taskforce members have been distributing these key facts through their own networks, as well as the media, ensuring a consistent message.

Mr. Yates added: We are pleased that media coverage of the outbreak – for the most part – has not over-sensationalised the risk to travel and tourism. I`d like to think that PACT has contributed to this outcome by reinforcing the facts and ensuring minimal impact on travel bookings.

PACT members, such as Abacus CEO, Mr. Don Birch, reported there had been no discernable decline in travel bookings as a result of bird flu.

A PATA survey of global industry partners found only limited cancellations and no significant downturn in bookings.

Theodore Koumelis
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