Liz Ortiguera

With the pandemic putting up a persistent fight, PATA plows on with its multi-layered support system for travel and tourism members, and now focuses on strategic initiatives that will bring the industry towards a sustainable future, shares the organisation’s CEO.

Right from the start of the pandemic, PATA stepped up to help the industry with crisis management. How are these efforts paying off two years on?
This crisis is longer-running and more complex than anticipated. Last year, we created the Crisis Resource Center to assist destinations as they looked to recover, with toolkits focusing on Destination Marketing and Crisis Communications. This had been well-received by our members, particularly from the public sector with destinations like the Maldives using these tools to help welcome back tourists.

In July 2021, we launched an 8 Point Plan to support industry recovery. Our programmes now range from government-only Destination Recovery Forums in partnership with World Bank, to PATA Innovation Workshops for members, to the launch of a Global Travel Sector Vaccine Coalition in partnership with WHO Foundation, Virgin Atlantic and Collinson. We’ve also run an Informal Workers Project in Thailand, to support the needs of the most impacted segment in our industry. Our goal is to deliver tangible learnings and projects that are effective and can be replicated in the region and globally.

During this unprecedented crisis, PATA is working hard to support our members and the industry in multiple ways.

How are PATA’s support programmes evolving now that travel is resuming in many tourist regions?
We have more strategic initiatives launched, including the Tourism Destination Resilience (TDR) project, Destination Marketing and the Net Zero Methodology for Hotels.

The Crisis Resource Center focused on providing frameworks dealing with the pandemic. The pandemic has highlighted and given the opportunity to proactively address other vulnerabilities and capability building needs for our industry. With the support of GIZ, we launched TDR to look beyond Covid-19 and help destinations and organisations prepare well for expanded capacity and future crises. Destination resilience is foundational to achieving sustainability.

In addition, we’re using all our industry communication channels, such as virtual events, webinars, social media and industry eDMs, to support the destination marketing efforts of all our member destinations. We hosted our first Wellness and Luxury Conference and Mart in October (2021) and we’re continuing our Destination Insights Series in partnership with the BBC.

These forums are critical to support the reopening of travel since destination marketing is more multi-level and complex than ever.

We are seeing governments in Asia-Pacific easing their steel hold on travel restrictions in the later months of 2021. Where are we in terms of recovery?
The easing of travel restrictions in the Asia-Pacific region is a good step forward, but with the new variant emerging, the world and therefore the travel industry is not out of the woods. The next few months will be critical, particularly as we head into the holiday season.

Fortunately, destinations across Asia-Pacific have been vigilant in addressing health and safety protocols with many destinations such as Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia achieving greater than 75 per cent vaccination rates.

From incorporating the right health and hygiene protocols to evolving products and services for the needs of the post-pandemic consumer, the industry here will be in a strong position to recover in line with the global battle to address this pandemic.

In your conversations with tourism leaders in the western world, where travel and tourism have resumed earlier than in Asia-Pacific, what lessons could our region learn from them to better our recovery efforts?
It’s interesting to observe the differences in approach taken by various nations. The underlying, ever-evolving medical information and statistics may be similar but there are interesting cultural, economic and political elements at play that influence policies and practices.

There are a couple of key elements differentiating the East from the West currently.

First, in many cases, Asian destinations have taken a more conservative, community-oriented approach to ensuring health and safety protocols are in place before marketing for tourism. Second, many parts of Asia have not had the access to vaccines that the wealthy Western nations have had. Deployment of vaccines in Asia has been more limited by supply than acceptance. Equitable access to vaccines is critical for a global recovery, which is why we co-launched the Global Travel Sector Vaccine Coalition.

Perhaps, the bigger lesson to be learnt is more for the Western affluent nations and the pharmaceutical companies. The lesson for Asia would be to continue marketing their preparedness and travel offerings – keeping their destinations top of mind for consumers.

What are some opportunities or trends in travel and tourism that organisations and destinations should pay greater attention to as they rebuild business?
Globally, consumer interest in human connections, travel, nature, and for wellness experiences is high after more than a year of social distancing, quarantining, and staying at home.

Prior to the pandemic, wellness tourism expenditure was growing between eight and 11 per cent in North America, Europe and Asia –with Asia seeing the highest growth rate. International wellness tourists spend 35 per cent more than the average international tourist (according to Global Wellness Institute, based on tourism data from Euromonitor). Interest in wellness and nature-based tourism will only be heightened emerging from the pandemic.

The current health and economic crisis caused by Covid-19 has been an accelerator of many existing trends, including the rise of conscious capitalism. According to a study by Accenture, 60 per cent of consumers are now making more environmentally friendly, sustainable or ethical purchases. This should influence how companies are managed, properties are developed, and products and services are designed and delivered.

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