PATA looking to strengthen relationships with the Gulf

De Jong

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), involved in ensuring the responsible development of the Asia Pacific travel and tourism industry, held its annual travel mart in Hyberhad last month. Peter de Jong, President and CEO of PATA spoke to TTN


Where PATA is heading?

There is a real proliferation of trade shows worldwide and I think selling companies and buyers have to make smarter decisions when it comes to deciding what shows they should or should not attend. We have had a really good run in recent years, and I guess it is because of factors that set the PATA Travel market apart: one is that it is very important that we keep the participants together. Every evening there is a programme that includes everyone so the networking is really optimal. There is so much opportunity outside the business appointments to get together and some of the best contacts are made when you least expect them, so I think that is a real USP of the event.

We also infuse it with education. We had the Nielson India Outbound Market Workshop which was well attended and very useful for those wishing to understand the consumer trends in India what people are looking for in this important market. But perhaps the single most import thing about the PATA Travel Mart is that it goes to a different destination each year.  I think that really adds a special flavour to the event. It brings out many people from the host destination that perhaps couldn’t travel abroad to attend trade show, so it allows many of the small and medium size companies from that country to become involved.

 Of course we always have greater aspirations, we wish to sell more space, but we also are very concerned to maintain the balance between quality buyers and sellers and as has been indicated to me at this year’s event, the sellers are very pleased at the quality of the buyers.


You have recently appointed an agent in the Middle East.  Is this a market you are looking at tapping into?

We have seen in recent years, I guess particularly post 9/11, that the activity between Asia and the Gulf region has increased dramatically, initially in our favour as the Gulf traveller has been coming to Asia whereas they traditionally had gone to North America.  But also we have seen the incredible developments in the Gulf region in terms of tourism infrastructure and a desire to join the aviation community. It was natural for us to forge links with that community. It really wasn’t hard because they immediately understood what we were about and were keen to join so it has been good for both parties.

In the coming years we would also like to bring a PATA event to the Gulf so that more people in the region will find out about us.  The private sector can join PATA as a member with all the full rights that an Asian member has. The national tourism authorities and the government (public sector) are confined to what is called an allied partnership which gives people all the same access to us but it doesn’t give seat on the board nor voting rights.  I would be delighted if that could be fixed in the years ahead because that would strengthen our relationships. 


Are you looking at an increase in membership rather than increase in buyers and sellers from this region?

I see that Asia and the Gulf region are the most exciting, thriving and fastest growing region in travel and tourism. We are not so far apart and with dramatically increased air connectivity I have every reason to believe that the Gulf region will be strong. We ought to have a strong representation of sellers at PATA as we already have Italians, Belgians, Australians and so on here, so why not the Gulf? In fact, it might be a missed opportunity.


And last, what is your favourite destination?

Oh, I am a Euro boy, and I am Mediterranean freak.  I love Asia, but Italy is one of my favourite destinations.