Over 150 travel industry professionals participated in the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Reception and Networking Event in Vientiane, Laos, January 21.
The PATA event was a curtain raiser to the Asean Tourism Forum (ATF2013).
Among 150 industry leaders, senior representatives from the Laos PDR Minist ry of Information, Culture and Tourism attended. The PATA Executive Board was represented by members Luzi Matzig and Peter Semone. The event took place at the city's highly popular Khop Chai Deu restaurant.
PATA CEO Martin Craigs used the event to emphasise PATA's respected position as a travel industry advocate to enhance training skills for people entering tourism, especially younger workers in developing economies in the Mekong region.
“Laos is a prime example of a quickly growing destination where the Visitor Economy needs to be nurtured,” said Craigs. “Political leaders such as Professor Dr Bosenghkham, the Lao PDR Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism, understand the importance of tourism as a force for socio-economic good. I wish government ministers in Western countries thought the same way,” he said.
Craigs told the audience that steps were under way to create the PATA Laos Chapter, the 42 nd in the world. “It is appropriate that one of the main driving forces in the fledgling Chapter is Alex Tsuk, Managing Director of the Inthira Group, a major player in the Laotian hotel and restaurant scene.”
The CEO added: “I am encouraged to see PATA Next Generation ideas being created by a new Chapter that understands the importance of travel industry links through PATA's global chapter network.”
The PATA CEO told the audience that throughout 2013, the Association will be aggressively making the case for the Visitor Economy, which is defined as all economic activities in a destination that benefit from direct and indirect expenditure from tourism dollars.
In Laos, according to PATA statistics, the Visitor Economy is estimated to contribute 18.2% to national GDP, 15.9% to total employment and 9.8% of all capital investments. Within Southeast Asia, Laos is second only to Cambodia in terms of dependency on travel and tourism.
According to the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism of Lao PDR, the country attracted 2.4 million international visitor arrivals during the first nine months of 2012, a year-on-year increase of 12%. PATA predicts that by the end of 2013 the number will rise to 3.5 million.
“Apart from entry level training, middle managers in the Visitor Economies of destinations such as Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam can learn a lot by attending the new PATAcademy in Bangkok,” said Craigs.
The CEO told the audience that the PATAcademy was the Association's innovative six-day workshop for travel industry managers who want to see the bigger picture and linkages inherent in a healthy Visitor Economy. PATA intends to hold four such week-long workshops at its newly created Engagement Hub inside its HQ in Bangkok this year, he said.
Community based and environmentally sensitive tourism is vitally important in Laos. Craigs said: “On the same day that the 44th President of the United States was committing his administration to being proactive on climate change, the travel industry audience in Vientiane was simultaneously reaffirming its commitment to environmental values in Laos. That's a position I respect,” he said.