pata annual summit2017The PATA Annual Summit 2017 (PAS 2017), under the theme ‘Disruption. Innovation. Transformation: The Future of Tourism’, opened in Negombo, Sri Lanka on May 18 with 406 delegates from 191 organisations representing 39 countries attending the four-day event.

PATA CEO Dr. Mario Hardy told local and international media, “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.

The summit began with 130 students, alumni, lecturers and industry professionals from Sri Lanka and overseas participating at the PATA Youth Symposium 2017 with the theme ‘No Barriers: Millennials and the Future of Tourism’. The symposium was hosted by the Sri Lanka Institute of Tourism & Hotel Management (SLITHM).

Opening remarks at the one day conference on Friday, May 19 were given by the Hon. John Amaratunga, Minister of Tourism, Lands and Christian Religious Affairs, Sri Lanka, and by UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai. The conference keynote address on ‘Managing disruption through innovation’ was given by Rafat Ali, CEO & founder of Skift.

Delegates also heard from international thought leaders and industry shapers 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 –; 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.

Other topics discussed during the conference 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’.

PATA, in partnership with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), held a half-day PATA/UNWTO Ministerial Debate on Saturday, May 20 when representatives from the public and private sectors discussed the concepts of recognised sustainability leadership and the sharing economy as they pertain to the travel and tourism industry. The debate was moderated by BBC News Correspondent & Presenter Yogita Limaye. Panellists 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. Before the session on ‘The Shift to Recognised Sustainability Leadership in the Travel and Tourism Industry’, Dr. Rifai provided an inspiring speech regarding the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017, while Mr Ali presented on the personalisation of the sharing economy before the session on ‘The Sharing Economy and Travel and Tourism’.

In his speech Dr. Rifai noted, “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. A 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.

Delegates gained additional insights about the latest travel and tourism industry trends during the PATA Insights Lounge powered by PechaKucha (formerly the PATA Marketplace) with presentations from Richard Lewis, Partnerships Director Travel and Tourism - What3Words; Mr. Jauncey; Vinoop Goel, Regional Director – Airport, Passenger, Cargo & Security Asia Pacific, IATA; John Schubert, Managing Director – Marketing Asia Pacific and India, Boeing Commercial Airplanes; Mr. Stephens; Mr. Nguyen, and Jameson Wong, Director, Business Development, ForwardKeys. After the presentations, Mr Ali moderated a quick session with all the speakers, highlighting some of the challenges and opportunities for the travel and tourism industry in the current state of the world.

Other highlights of the four-day event included the PATA Awards Presentation, the election of the new PATA Executive Board, the Signing Ceremony of the Private Sector Commitment to the Global Code of Ethics by, the signing ceremony with the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) for PATA Annual Summit 2018, and the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Mei Shan Municipality Tourism to strengthen the strategic cooperation between both organisations.