PATA Annual Summit ’17 – Negombo

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This year’s PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association) Annual Summit 2017 was held in Negombo, a laid back city along the west cost of Sri Lanka, lined with golden sandy beaches and friendly, welcoming locals all around.
Negombo is approximately 10 km from the Bandaranaike International Airport, our point of arrival. We flew with SriLankan Airlines; the PAS 2017 Official airline. The friendly staff, delicious menu and comfortable interior made my first experience flying with this airline a delightful one.

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We arrived in Sri Lanka before dawn and the beachfront hotel, Beacon Beach, became our temporary home in Negombo. The welcoming staff raised our spirits and made our first day in this island nation a happy memory to look back upon.
After a good night’s rest it was time to attend the anticipated PATA Conference held at Jetwing Blue hotel, close to where we were staying.

The theme for this year’s PATA Annual Summit (PAS 2017) was “Disruption. Innovation. Transformation: The Future of Tourism”. The four-day event began on May 18th with 406 delegates from 39 countries, a true melting pot of cultures.
Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau hosted the event along with the Ministry of Tourism and Christian Religious Affairs of the government of Sri Lanka.
Various dynamic, innovative and knowledgeable individuals spoke at the event and gave valuable insights with respect to the theme.

4 Dr. Mario

PATA CEO, Dr. Mario Hardy perfectly summed up the objective of the Summit, he said “The PATA Annual Summit brings together international thought leaders, industry shapers and senior decision-makers who are professionally engaged with the Asia Pacific region. At PATA we understand that to overcome the challenges and issues facing our industry, the public and private sectors must work together

On the conference held on Friday, May 19th, opening statements were given by the Hon. John Amaratunga, Minister of Tourism, Lands and Christian Religious Affairs, Sri Lanka, and by UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai.

5 Rafat Ali

Mr. Rafat Ali, CEO & founder of Skift presented his keynote address; “Managing disruption through innovation”

He talked about “Mega Travel Trends” such as the consumer behavior of wanting to book tours and activities last minute, aversion from packaged tours, over-tourism, low cost long haul airlines, “festivalization” of meetings and events; for example innovative conferences such as SXSW and TED.
He gave his insight on how the idea of luxury has changed over the years, new luxury is small brands with larger than life stories and how dining out has itself become a huge event which has resulted in restaurants becoming destinations themselves while pushing airlines to noticeably improve the quality of food the serve.

Summit attendees listened to numerous international industry leaders and innovators including Aleandre Kwan, Philanthropies Asia Programme Manager – Microsoft; Andrew Chan, founder and CEO of ACI HR Solutions; Andrew Craig, Head of Corporate Communication India, South Asia and Southeast Asia – Visa Worldwide; Faeez Fadhlillah, CEO and Co-founder – Tripfez; Greg Klassen, Partner at Twenty31 Consulting Inc.; Ha Lam, Co-founder and COO – Triip.me; Jesse Desjardins, Global Manager, Social & Content – Tourism Australia; Joe M. Naaman, Senior Executive Advisor – Global Advisory Council, Skylight Intelligence; Joe Nguyen, Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific – comScore; Jeremy Jauncey, founder & CEO – Beautiful Destinations; Muna Haddad, Managing Director – Baraka; Oliver Martin, Partner at Twenty31 Consulting Inc.; Sarah Mathews, Head of Destination Marketing APAC – TripAdvisor; Thao Nguyen, Head of Strategic Partnerships, APAC – Airbnb; Vijay Poonoosamy, Vice President, International Affairs, Office of the President & CEO, Etihad Airways, and Wong Soon-Hwa, Regional Director APAC – Blacklane.

The conference focused on the idea of embracing the disruption and using it as an advantage to triumphantly stride forward into this rapidly evolving digital age. Other topics discussed were: ‘‘The Transformation of Marketing”, “Research Innovation”, “Disrupting the Travel Industry”, “The Real Future of Tourism: Young Tourism Professionals”, and “Embracing Disruption: A Blueprint for the Future of Tourism”.

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For the remainder of the ongoing summit,  we stayed at the Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions, Negombo. The tranquil atmosphere of the hotel can soothe the anxious and instill an aura of peacefulness. Staying here made it clear why this hotel is known as the best Ayurvedic resort in the country. Ayurveda is an ancient traditional system of healing with its roots in the Indian subcontinent. The resort offers its guests treatments customized to each individual’s body, mind and soul.  

On May 20th, in partnership with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), PATA held a Ministerial Debate. The panelists for the debate included Datuk Seri Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, Director General – Tourism Malaysia; Mr. Deepak Raj Joshi, CEO – Nepal Tourism Board; Mr. Wander Meijer, Director Asia Pacific – GlobeScan; Mr. Hiran Cooray, Chairman – Jetwing Hotels; Mr Jon Nathan Pangilinan Denight, President and CEO – Guam Visitors Bureau; Mr. Lawrence Leong, Former Assistant Chief Executive (International Group) – Singapore Tourism Board; Ms. Thao Nguyen, Head of Strategic Partnerships, APAC – Airbnb, and Mr. Erick Stephens, Chief Technology Officer-APAC, Microsoft. Concepts such as Sustainability Leadership and the Sharing Economy, or as emphasized by Mr. Eric Stephens; Access Economy were discussed and how they affect the travel and tourism industry. BBC Correspondent & Presenter Yogita Limaye moderated the debate.

7 Dr. Taleb RifaiDr. Taleb Rifai inspired the audience with his heartfelt speech regarding the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017.

In his speech, Dr. Rifai expressed, “Asia and the Pacific, which leads the world in international tourism growth, can and should, be a leader in sustainability and innovation; a leader in utilizing the transformative power of travel and tourism in building a new and better world, the world which is today without any doubt, steered by the Pacific. That is why PATA, bringing together the two margins of the Pacific is today a truly global and not only a regional organization.”  

He also highlighted the importance of travel and the tourism industry.
“Our Industry is one of optimism and hope…
The more we travel the better we become, the more our eyes open…”

8There were performances by extremely talented groups at the event. My favorite was the cultural dance.

2018

The PATA Annual Summit 2018 will take place in Gangneung, the Republic of Korea.
To learn more about PATA, visit their website: PATA.org 

Photos courtesy of e-Travelers Club
*Facts for this post partly obtained from PATA’s press release

Thank you for reading.
Connect with me on Instagram: @maria9saif

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