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Pacific Asia Travel Association

PATA Chapter Colloquium gets off to a successful start

Many of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Chapter chairpersons and members gathered together in a unique PATA Chapter Colloquium, to discuss ways to reinvigorate the Chapter network. This was the first in a series of events that kick-started the grand 60th anniversary celebrations of the Association.

A full day of meetings attracted about 65-delegates at Traders Hotel, Beijing. The Colloquium is perceived as a key element of the Association’s commitment to increasing the cooperation and partnership between the global Chapter network and PATA head office, as well as reinforcing the importance of the Chapters in PATA’s future plans.

Hiran Cooray, chairman, PATA, welcomed the attendees and thanked all the Chapter chairs for supporting this initiative by making it a point to be present. Said Cooray: “This is the most important day of the time we are going to spend together in Beijing. The Chapters are the lifeblood of the Association.”

Bill Calderwood, interim CEO, PATA, acknowledged the integral role the Chapter network played at the grassroots level. Said Calderwood: “In many ways, this is an exciting phase in the organisation’s history. We need to look at the Chapters; how they can work with inbound and outbound flows; how there can be a two-way communication; how they can help drive business for all quarters, and how this grassroots level can continue to grow.”

A number of PATA chapters gave updates on their achievement and activities including the PATA United Kingdom Chapter, which won the 2010 ‘Spirit of PATA’ award. The award goes to a chapter that has a solid business plan with an excellent marketing strategy to promote and elevate the PATA brand and objectives. The UK Chapter has delivered high quality services over a number of years in many areas, from education and training; sponsorship opportunities; sales and marketing; networking and PATA advocacy. Its consistent approach has successfully reached out to different partners. The ‘PATA Exchange’ is but one of many networking events the Chapter has initiated. Last but not least, the Chapter has created excellent self-funding mechanisms which other Chapters could learn from.

The PATA Singapore Chapter was the winner of the 2010 ‘Award of Excellence’. It has done a splendid job in living the PATA brand. It has shown visible foresight and faith in defining its objectives and plans which has been generating interest in the local tourism industry among several different segments, from students upwards. It is taking exemplary action in grooming the present and next generation of the country’s human resources. Its highlight activity in 2010 was the ‘Our Productivity Story’.

While the PATA Germany and Hawaii Chapters presented on their Best Practices, the PATA Macau Chapter elaborated on the Secretariat role, the PATA India Chapter studied Chapter-to-Chapter business opportunities, and the PATA Thailand Chapter presented on Task Forces.

On the agenda were also brainstorming sessions on how to enhance the relationship between PATA and Chapter members; how to engage members’ interest in two-way tourism; as well as ways to maximise the benefits brought about by technology and social media. Ian Hawkes, executive director, PATA UK Chapter, Hanna-Leena Halsas, chairperson, PATA Finland Chapter and George Cao, from Dragon Trail, and a PATA member from China, were the facilitators. During the day’s sessions new ways of operating and forging relationships between the chapters were discussed which concluded with the Singapore, Thailand and Malaysian Chapters agreeing to form a collaboration to promote two way tourism to and from the region. This is seen as major first step in the new direction in the growth of the PATA Chapter network.

John Koldowski, deputy chief executive officer, PATA and head, office of strategy management, gave a presentation on what the Strategic Intelligence Centre (SIC) could do for the Chapters; a talk that was extremely well received, especially as Koldowski emphasised on the point that it was more what the SIC could do with the Chapters, as opposed to for them.

Later in the evening, delegates enjoyed a rare night access to Beijing’s famous ‘Temple of Heaven’ on April 8, where they were entertained by featured performances from some of China’s renowned artistes. The event was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take in the splendour of this architectural masterpiece, rarely used for public functions. It was sponsored and supported by the Beijing Dongcheng District People’s Government of Beijing Municipality, who organised a splendid gala dinner at the famed ‘Temple of Heaven’. The evening also saw the launch of the 2011 International Tourism Festival of the Imperial Palace.

Some valuable learnings could be gleaned from the day’s interaction, such as PATA to be more proactive where the Chapters were concerned and equally, to see how the latter could support the Association’s objectives.

First established in 1961, the Chapter network quickly grew into a powerful global grassroots distribution vehicle; by 1997 there were 100 Chapters on five continents. In recent years, however, the network has declined, having been usurped by a more powerful and direct distribution channel – the internet.

Since 2008, PATA has turned its focus back to the Chapters. It is committed to expanding the network across the globe, resurrecting Chapters that were once viable and functional, as well as working with existing Chapters to strengthen their membership base and improve communications with PATA head office. Preliminary discussions have already taken place to form a Beijing Chapter, while June will see the launch of a Cambodia Chapter.