Pata in row over London ‘junket’
BUSINESS: The 60-year-old Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata), has been slammed by a vocal trade magazine and some of its own members over a plan to spend B1 million or more sending top executives to the World Travel Market (WTM) in London next month.
Friday 4 November 2011, 08:55AM
Since the row broke out, the plan has been downsized, though a spokesman stressed that the change was “an internal decision” not related to the row.
The Bangkok-headquartered Association describes itself as “the leading voice and authority on travel and tourism in the Asia Pacific region” but has faced financial difficulties in the past year, having trouble convincing members to pay their dues. Twenty per cent of the dues are reportedly unpaid.
This shortfall led to former CEO Greg Duffell introducing austerity measures in an attempt to balance the books. The measures included redundancies and an increased use of outsourcing, along with swingeing cuts in executive travel.
The plan to send Mr Duffell’s successor, Martin Craigs, and the interim CEO, Bill Calderwood, along with recently appointed Senior Director for Marketing & Membership Services Stu Lloyd, sparked an acid story in the travel industry’s respected TTR Weekly (ttrweekly.com).
TTR remarked, “The decision to send two CEOs to one of the world most expensive trade shows, breaks with austerity measures introduced by former CEO, Greg Duffell, who reduced executive travel to balance the books.
“The two CEOs will justify the double billing by claiming it is part of the association’s plans to crank up its advocacy role, which was placed on the back burner for the last three years.
“Members may have more to say when the two CEOs deliver their November travel expenses and the financial director totals the debits column.”
One angry commentator on the TTR story wrote, “The members have only themselves to blame for letting this … happen, but then maybe that is why there are fewer than 500 paid up.”
Another described the decision as “another slap in the face for the paying members as the Pata gravy train rolls on.
“Explain please how the expense can be justified. Will the arrogance and greed of the Pata Executives never cease?”
Ken Scott of ScottAsia Communications, who acts as special adviser on communications to Pata, told The Phuket News that Mr Calderwood would not now be going to London, but that this was an “internal decision”, not a result of the TTR story.
He declined to comment on the TTR story directly, but said, “Pata is very economical and responsible about all budgetary matters on behalf of its members.”
He noted that three people from Pata would still be going to London, the third being Pata Chairman Hiran Cooray. Asked whether Pata would be paying Mr Cooray’s expenses, he said, “I wouldn’t comment on who’s paying for him,” but added, “Pata will be using barter for many of the expenses, so it’s by no means all cash.”
He said that Pata felt it was essential to have a high-level presence in London. “WTM is one of the top three travel shows in the world. It’s particularly useful to Pata for meeting existing members and attracting new ones; it’s very good for recruitment and retention.
“It’s also the best show in the world for media access. Pata will be there explaining [to the press] about the floods in Bangkok and tourism in Thailand in general.”