The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has appointed a new regional director for its Asian operations as it works to help members adapt to ongoing developments within the global travel market.
The association has announced the appointment of Malysian national Ivy Chee to the regional director role, which will require her to promote PATA's latest membership benefits to various travel industry bodies and enterprises across Asia, as well trying to assist with a wide number of development issues.
Chee, who took up her new post this week, speaks several languages, is a graduate in professional communications, and according to PATA, holds a diploma in mass communications as well as a black belt in the martial art of Taekwon-do. The new appointee had previously served as the senior business development manager for the online review and booking engine Wego in Singapore.
Though Chee's skills in martial arts and communication may not seem directly related, PATA's new regional director for Asia told Dhonisaurus that Taekwon-do can at times be a useful tool in attempting to overcome the challenge of developing a more sustainable tourism model in the region. This appears especially true when it comes to issues of communication between different parties and industry stakeholders where there is little agreement.
“Disagreements tend to be accompanied by significant levels of misunderstanding and expectations, perhaps a threat to their needs or interests,” adds Chee.
“The philosophy of Taekwon-Do is based on the ethical, moral and spiritual standards by which men can live together in harmony, thus helping to build a better and more peaceful world. Communication is a tool to creative problem-solving by listening to their needs, understand and transform the situation into one in which we cherish consensus.”
Modernisation and the Maldives
Chee claims that amidst a changing tourism landscape in Asia, making the most of the opportunities afforded by modernisation in a country like the Maldives requires delicate compromise, especially in regards to balancing local traditions and customs – a major issue of late.
The Maldives has made headlines around the world concerning recent political turmoil between the government of President Mohamed Nasheed and opposition politicians, their supporters and NGOs, which claim to represent a more conservative Islamic mindset in the nation.
The turmoil relates in part to the arrests of a senior judge and ongoing questioning of opposition political figures over allegations of their involvement in corruption and trying to incite violence and acts of religious hatred. Over the last month, the president temporarily ordered the closure of alls spas in the country for several days, as well as asking the nation's Supreme Court to review the possibility of outlawing alcohol and pork products across the country's resorts.
The measures were said to be a response to criticisms that the president was trying to introduce freedom of religion to the Maldives and undermine the Islamic heritage of the country – where worship as a non-muslim is outlawed.
Cosidering these issues, Chee believes that for a destination like the Maldives, appeasing commercial interests and local sensibilities often requires compromise - not to mention clear and concise information from the media and independent support from bodies like PATA.
“Clearly, a fine balance is needed in the case of the struggle between the respect for culture and tradition and economic progress,” she says. “Public perception plays a significant role on visitor arrivals for every destination. It is important for tourism organisations to work incessantly in keeping consumer confidence, by working with associations like PATA, countries can fight negative perceptions with the help of a neutral body that will aid in reinforcing the good attributes of the destination and maintaining clear and transparent communication. “
Taking the example of severe flooding that occurred across Thailand last year, Chee claims that reporting on the severity of the flood significantly impacted on the numbers of people travelling to Thailand as a whole – even though not all areas of the country were affected.
“The media has blown the situation out of proportion and a call for balanced reporting was of the essence,” she adds. “PATA has reached out to the Tourism Authority of Thailand to help get the word out on the real situation on the ground.”
While threats - no matter how remote - of political instability, potential terrorism and natural disasters have in recent years dominated headlines relating to major tourist destinations like Japan and Thailand, PATA's new regional director for Asia believes there are also a large number of day-to-day challenges that the association must offer support on.
Chee claimed that ensuring success for tourism in Asia often depends on a tightly “connected value chain” that was often impacted by factors outside of potential unrest or natural disasters.
The additional factors identified by PATA as impacting the tourism value chain include the proliferation of taxes and travel-specific surcharges imposed on tourists, restrictive visa rules, limited workforce mobility, access to capital and efficient transport links.
In working to try and overcome these potential challenges, Chee said that PATA aims to use its various chapter organisations in the region to try and work directly with local industry to help overcome any potential difficulties and hardships that they may face. She claimed this is done through the provision of services such as annual conferences that bring together the business sector and service providers, as well as the distribution of detailed information and advice for regional hospitality and travel groups.
“Through the years, PATA has played a significant role in defining what has become of the travel and tourism industry in the Asia Pacific region today,” she claims. “By creating various avenues for both the members and the industry at large, PATA has enhanced the sustainable growth, value and quality of travel and tourism to, from and within the region.