PATA Foundation chief walks out

BANGKOK, 11 September 2019: The chairman of the PATA Foundation, Peter Semone, quit abruptly last week, after heading the foundation for over five years Travel Impact Newswire reported Tuesday.

Known for its in-depth analysis of PATA affairs, Travel Impact Newswire called it a shock resignation, the first of its kind in the foundation’s history.

“It comes in the midst of a major restructuring programme underway within PATA, and opens up questions about the continued influence of its ‘old guard’ and their commitment to making way for a younger generation, and the roles and responsibilities of PATA board and committee members.”

In his official resignation letter, Semone who has served as chairman since June 2014 said it was time to “to pass the helm to someone else to lead and guide the foundation.”

However, Travel Impact Newswire quoted high-level PATA sources who claimed Semone, now in his 50s, had faced rigorous questioning from “two septuagenarians (age 70 to 79) who sit on the PATA executive board.

Semone felt they had crossed a line and impinged on the integrity of the foundation’s trustees.

Criticism of foundation decisions first surfaced last year but came to a head at this year’s July PATA executive board meeting in Bangkok. Another board meeting is coming up next week alongside the PATA Travel Mart in Kazakhstan.

Semone declined to discuss details beyond what was contained in his official resignation letter. Asked why he chose to quit now, Semone said he just couldn’t be bothered continuing.

“We’re all doing this on a voluntary basis. It takes a lot of time and effort. Everything was on track to create a Foundation 2.0 as per the strategic plan. The Trustees have been very supportive, but I have a full-time job working with USAID to help Timor-Leste build up its tourism industry. To be making a real difference at the grassroots of one of the world’s poorest countries is a humbling and satisfying experience. The people who pay my salary would rather I continue to do that than spend a week in Kazakhstan.”

TTR Weekly comment

But his decision to quit without notice could hint of a walkout protest to underscore a potential compromise in the structural relationship between a foundation and parent entity.

It could be viewed as a last-ditch attempt to object to interference from PATA’s executive board in the affairs of the foundation which has its own trustee board.

To promote transparency, the PATA Foundation was registered as a separate entity and filed its own US tax filings (Form 990) as an independent non-profit organisation registered in the US.

It remains to be seen whether the PATA executive board has the right to challenge decisions made by the foundation’s chairman and trustees.  Where does the buck stop?

Common sense would dictate that the executive board concentrates on raising funds for the foundation by encouraging the 800 plus members and other parties to channel their CSR project funds to the foundation.

On the other hand, the foundation’s trustee board supervises the business plan and defines policy. It should not encounter outside meddling. As the ancient adage says “too many cooks spoil the broth”.

The PATA executive board may have assumed it has the power and right to criticise foundation decisions. If so it could be guilty of turning the chairman and trustees into rubber stamps.

Semone didn’t bother to fight that battle if one exists. He walked out and for what it is worth the 800 plus PATA members are probably none the wiser. Is the foundation a department, sub-division or an entirely separate legal entity that runs independently of the mother ship solely for charitable purposes?  Or is there an invisible thread binding it to the PATA executive board’s whims and fancies?

Semone’s abrupt departure under a barrage of criticism probably prompted a tetchy retort from veteran executive board members; “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.” He certainly did that and fast.

Who’s really in charge?

PATA Foundation Trustees
Stewart Moore (Vice Chairman)
Scott Supernaw
Ben Montgomery
Basant Mishra
Al Merschen
Oliver Martin
Chris Bottrill

PATA Executive Board (voting members)
Chris Bottrill, Chairman
Soon-Hwa Wong, Vice Chairman
Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, Secretary/Treasurer
Sarah Mathews, Immediate Past Chairperson
Bill Calderwood, Executive Board Member
Jennifer Chun, Executive Board Member (Government/Destination Committee Chairman)
Jon Nathan Denight, Executive Board Member
Vinoop Goel, Executive Board Member (Aviation Committee Chairman)
Shahid Hamid FIH, Executive Board Member
Benjamin Liao, Executive Board Member (Hospitality Committee Chairman)
Luzi Matzig, Executive Board Member
Henry Oh, Jr Executive Board Member (Industry Council Chairman)

(Source: Travel-Impact Newswire with additional comment from TTR Weekly)

For the full report visit Travel Impact Newswire