- From Imtiaz Muqbil, Executive Editor, at the PATA 2003 annual conference in
Bali, Indonesia. First in a series.
In this dispatch:
1. IT'S THE FOOD CHAIN, STUPID (1,683 words): Ever wonder why membership
associations of this "industry of peace" only speak out against terrorism and
not wars? Read this, and it will all become clear.
2. BRIAN DEESON'S TEN-POINT PLAN FOR DEALING WITH THE MEDIA (132 words): One of
the best communicators in the travel & tourism industry unveils his 10
COMING UP IN TOMORROW'S DISPATCH: The PATA conference began exactly six months
after the bomb blast on October 12, 2002. How did Bali's industry survive and
what lessons can be learnt by Asia's tourism industry?
The first in a series of dispatches from the PATA annual conference 2003 in
Bali. This coverage has been made possible by the kind and generous support of
the NUSA DUA BEACH HOTEL AND SPA, THE OBEROI BALI and the upcoming ASIA
BUSINESS TRAVEL MARKET (ABTM) 2003 in Shanghai, China. Please see A WORD FROM
MY SPONSORS in the middle of this dispatch.
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1. IT'S THE FOOD CHAIN, STUPID
The PATA annual conference 2003 in Bali began on April 13, 2003, in the midst
of four major problems facing global travel & tourism. These, not necessarily
in order of importance, were: 1) SARS; 2) terrorism; 3) travel advisories; and
4) the Iraq war, and its aftermath. When the conference ended, it had discussed
at fairly great length the first three, but devoted no more than a few minutes
to the fourth. No wonders that speaker Arthur Gillette, an American and a
former senior official at UNESCO in Paris, had the gumption to insert in his
presentation the question: \"Tourism -- a Passport to Peace?\"
All four issues had figured in the long thought process that influenced the
decision about whether to go ahead with the conference at all. Spooked by both
SARS and the still-standing travel advisories to Indonesia, several dozen
delegates and speakers had cancelled. The final decision, rightly, was that
cancelling the event would not send the right signals to either the travel
industry at large or the Balinese industry, still convalescing after the
October 12, 2002, bomb blast.
The show went ahead, with a rapidly adjusted programme designed to reflect the
issues of the time and inject added relevance into what turned out to be a
highly successful conference. Two doctors were brought in to discuss SARS,
three ambassadors talked at length about travel advisories, many other
speakers, including Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, railed against
terrorism. But about wars, there was silence. Yes, everyone wants peace, prays
for peace, hopes for peace, but when an industry of peace is called upon to
state unequivocally that wars are as much a threat as terrorism, travel
advisories and SARS, the response is, \"That\'s \'political.\' We\'re trade
associations. It\'s out of our hands.\"
The war and the potential dangers ahead were flagged right at the beginning of
the conference. Keynote speaker Tommy Koh, a former Singaporean diplomat to the
United Nations, noted in the second paragraph of his speech that \"it is
important that the British and American forces be viewed by the Iraqi people,
by the Arabs and by the Muslim Ummah (brotherhood), as liberators and not as an
occupying force. It is desirable that power be turned over, as soon as
possible, to legitimate leaders of the Iraqi people. It is also desirable for
the UN to play an important role in the post-war governance and reconstruction
of Iraq.\" Whether anyone sees either of those \'desirables\' materialising
depends on which medium of information one subscribes to, but it is a good
yardstick against which to judge the long-term ramifications of what is already
being seen as the US occupation of Iraq and the instability and terrorism it
could spawn, none of which will help travel & tourism.
The choice of keynote speakers itself is nevertheless a positive sea-change for
PATA. Mr Koh opened the conference, and another ex-diplomat, former Thai
Foreign Minister Dr Surin Pitsuwan, closed it. In the 1980s and 1990s,
keynoters at PATA conferences included former US Defence Secretary Caspar (How
I won the Cold War) Weinberger, former US President George (How I won Gulf War
I) Bush, and former UK Prime Minister Margaret (How I won the Falklands War)
Today, diplomats are taking centre stage, mercifully not to brag about their
wars but to try and nudge the travel & tourism industry into helping avert
them. Dr Surin pointed out that this is an eminently difficult task in a highly
politicised world \"fragmented by doubts, mutual suspicion, lack of respect and
certainly by a lot of misunderstandings.\" Rightly, he urged that tourism has a
role to play in building peace. \"Diplomacy cannot do it alone, politics is not
adequate, but enlightened tourism, that is intellectually inspiring and
spiritually uplifting can help the world.\"
PATA is not blind to this view. In his statement at the ITB Berlin 2003, PATA
President and CEO Peter de Jong said, \"Peace is inextricably linked to our
industry. When there is peace, unimpeded transport and the free movement of
people and goods, travel and tourism will take root to a greater extent. When
peace is disrupted, tourism is the first economic casualty.\" He reiterated
this view in his opening remarks at the Bali conference, referring to the
\"outbreak of a globally televised war which, once again, immediately exacts a
So yes, there is common realisation. At its meeting in Bahrain last September,
PATA's Board of Directors agreed to support advocacy of issues which Mr de Jong
suggested should include \'controversial ones.\' Asked specifically by the TTG
Asia conference daily newspaper if this should include Iraq and other such
wars, he was quoted as saying, \"I don\'t think it is our mandate to take a
position on the conflict, go on a moral high ground in pointing out who are the
aggressors, who are the victims; it is to continue to say that a resolution of
the conflict through non-military action is best for our industry and our
citizens. We know from past experiences that a war will stop source markets in
their tracks and, in turn, will have a negative impact on all sectors of the
industry. Look at the state the US carriers are in, for instance. The whole
food chain is affected and, in the end, the consumer is a victim.\"
As it turned out, the conference said nothing. At least one delegate was not
surprised. Said Alfred Tonkiss of OneAsia Travel, a consortium of independent
Asian tour operators, \"They will never take a stand. That is the key to
survival. PATA has survived by not taking a position on anything
(controversial). That may change in future but at the moment that is how it has
Mr de Jong indicates that he would prefer to ease rather than rush into the
process. In his TTG Asia interview, he said global travel associations need to
take up the issues \"one windmill at a time.\" He added: \"I think nothing
focuses the mind as much as a pocket that is empty or members who are facing
difficult times and are departing from associations. Sometimes crises bring out
That, then, cuts through the root reason why the industry is steering clear --
at the moment. Within the membership ranks of travel industry associations are
powerful individual and companies who control the food chain. These include
multinational hotel groups, charge card companies, tour operators and others
who generate business and spend millions of dollars on sponsorship. Many of
these groups are owned by interests in the United States where opposing the
Iraq war and the actions of the US government is seen as being 'unpatriotic'.
Movie stars and other public figures are facing media vitriol and boycotts for
Travel industry figures clearly fear a similar backlash against them. Hence,
silence is golden and the industry falls victim to the Golden Rule: He who has
the Gold makes the Rules. Sympathy, in their view, is to be reserved for
victims of terrorists, not cruise missiles. Even then, there are double
standards. PATA board member Hiran Cooray of Sri Lanka agrees that associations
need to get more balanced. \"It appears that they are only interested in
singling out Islamic terrorism, and not terrorism by other groups,\" he said,
noting that no international travel association had said anything against
terrorism in the 18 years that Sri Lanka was battling it.
The good news is that anti-war views abound among industry ranks, and PATA is
being bold enough to provide them with a forum, far more than is being done by
other travel associations in so-called 'democratic' countries. At the PATA 2003
Mekong Tourism Forum in Hanoi, former Australian Tourist Commission Managing
Director John Morse became the first senior industry executive to publicly
speak out against war, which at that time had just broken out. Last year,
another PATA conference speaker, anti-war Australian futurist Richard Neville
warned, \"Our human future is a race between self-destruction and
self-discovery and your industry will play a vital role in its outcome.\"
This year, yet another peacenik Australian, Danny Kennedy of the environmental
group Climate Action Network criticised the Bush administration for using race
and religion to advance its global agenda. He said that if the tourism industry
is really serious about addressing issues affecting its long-term future, it
needs to get active with the activists, those who have the guts to question
conventional wisdoms and government positions. He was confronted after the
session by an American delegate who demanded to know what \'right\' he had to
\'inject politics\' into the forum. Another speaker, Mr Gillette is a member of
a group called "Americans in France against the war on Iraq". Mr Gillette has
since put this writer on his forum mailing list in which many US citizens
exercise their democratic right to mock their government\'s views.
At the moment, tourism conferences are long on symbolism, like the striking of
a World Peace Gong at the inauguration ceremony, and short on substance. In his
final summation, Ian Lancaster, chairman of the communications consultancy
group MDK, said tourism as an industry needs to take control of its own
destiny. In a world full of what Mr Gillette called \'crisEs, not crisIs,\' the
industry will never be able to do that unless it begins to denounce elected
warmongers as vigorously as it denounces terrorists.
That will involve a face-off between those who control the food chain and
support war (self-destruction) and those who are financially less well-endowed
but oppose war (self-discovery). By doing and saying nothing against war,
industry associations are seen to be acquiescing to it. One war may be 'over'.
More could follow. Will associations continue to look the other way? PATA now
needs to take it one step further -- recognise that peaceniks can make a
positive and intellectual contribution to the debate, formally bring them into
the fold and elevate the issue into a democratic, free and open forum, similar
to that on SARS, travel advisories and terrorism. It is not a question of if,
but when and how that will happen.
A WORD FROM MY SPONSORS
NUSA DUA BEACH HOTEL AND SPA
Located minutes away from the Ngurah Rai International Airport on the
sun-drenched shores of beautiful Nusa Dua, Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa's 23
acres of sculpted gardens provide an oasis of space and tranquility in the
heart of exotic Bali. The 380 rooms and suites resort invites you to immerse
yourself in the pageantry of one of the world's most vibrant cultures. A palace
of refined luxury and privileged hospitality, this 5-star diamond property has
welcomed kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers since its grand
opening in 1983. For guests who expect the extraordinary to be an imperative,
an unforgettable holiday experience awaits. www.nusaduahotel.com
THE OBEROI BALI
The Oberoi, Bali is a beautifully landscaped resort, with a beach-side swimming
pooi, in 15 acres of tropical gardens. 15 Villas have a walled courtyard
ensuring absolute privacy, a dining pavilion for intimate dining, air
conditioned bedroom and en suite bathroom. Most have their own full size
swimming pool. The 60 Lanai Cottage rooms feature a terrace for outdoor dining,
and a luxurious air conditioned bathroom with sunken bath. The newly renovated
Kura Kura restaurant has an appetising selection of dishes, with Asian
specialities. The beach-side Frangipani Cafe is a celebrated spot for al fresco
dining. There are frequent cultural performances with themed buffet at the
Amphitheatre and the Kayu bar is a casual meeting place for the evening. Open
air massage pavilions are a popular feature of the Health Spa, which also
includes a beauty salon, complimentary sauna, gymnasium and tennis court. The
smiling Balinese staff in their traditional dress ensure excellent service.
ASIA BUSINESS TRAVEL MARKET (ABTM) 2003
Asia Business Travel Market 2003, the exhibition-cum-conference targeting the
business travel segment in China, will be held from 3-5 September at the Grand
Hyatt Shanghai. It is the inaugural business travel event taking place in the
Greater China marketplace. China\'s business travel has increased by a whopping
26.08% from 2001, reaching 6.54 million of business travellers. With the
outbound travel market hitting over 16 million in 2002 and an increase of
12.06% domestic travel reaching 878 million, ABTM is set to be an EXCELLENT
marketing platform for business travel suppliers to tap into the ever lucrative
China market. Introducing the trend-setting \"The Lounge\" - all-inclusive,
fuss-free stand package that saves you time and money, helping you to focus on
meeting your business needs. With only 130 booths available and a targeted
attendance of 1,800 pre-qualified trade visitors, interested exhibitors are
encouraged to make their bookings early. To sign up, please log on to
2. BRIAN DEESON'S TEN-POINT PLAN FOR DEALING WITH THE MEDIA
Brian Deeson is Senior VP (Asia Pacific) for Accor Asia Pacific. Well-regarded
among regional journalists as one of the media's best friends, he unveiled
these 10 points as the keys to his success. They are pretty much
self-explanatory, but for those who want an elaboration, please contact him at
1. Everything is on the record all the time.
2. Let media know you are always available for comment.
3. Learn to be comfortable with phone interviews.
4. Always return phone calls.
5. Have statistics ready - journalists love them!
6. Promote your destination first, your product second, and yourself last.
7. Avoid asking for questions in advance.
8. Have designated spokespeople who can talk.
9. When possible, rely on in-house PR resources.
10. Have responses on industry issues ready during difficult times.
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