Adventure mart overcomes virus fears

KOTA KINABALU, 14 February 2020: PATA’S annual adventure travel mart attracted 368 delegates from 33 countries for the event’s opening 12 February, despite fears of mass cancellations due to the Covid-19 health threats.

Conferences and even sports events are cancelling across Asia, including the 19 April F1 Grand Prix in Shanghai, China. Against all the odds, the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s optimism to go ahead and host the conference should raise confidence that given strict health checks are in place, events can still go ahead.

PATA Adventure Travel Conference and Mart (ATCM) is traditionally held in February and usually attracts around 200 delegates from over 25 countries.

On the conference’s opening day in Kota Kinabalu, Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Musa Yusof told the Bernama news agency “ more than 300 participants including those from Eastern Europe” joined the event.

“We are very pleased to be given the honour to host PATA this year, whose theme ‘Authenticity and Sustainability in Adventure’ are in line with our aspirations to highlight Malaysia’s outdoor and adventure attractions to cater to the growing adventure tourism market while adhering to responsible travel initiatives,” the Minister concluded.

Around 36 journalists, who attended the mart joined inspection tours of the state’s popular destinations to show Malaysia remains a safe place to visit”.

The show’s success is reassuring for Kota Kinabalu’s hotel industry that relies heavily on meetings and incentive groups in addition to its adventure travel. Since 22 January, Sabah’s hotels report estimate losses of MYR10 million in booking cancellations that have reached 29,874 room nights.

PATA officials confirmed some last-minute cancellations for the adventure mart mainly from Chinese travel executives who had registered in advance.  Even so, international delegates still made up 40% of the turnout.

Following the main conference Thursday, a B2B trade mart convenes today, 14 February, attended by 51 seller organisations from nine destinations and 45 buyer organisations from 21 international source markets.

Organised by the Pacific Asia Travel Association and hosted by Tourism Malaysia and supported by Sabah Tourism and Malaysia Airlines, the conference and mart attract international experts at the forefront of the adventure travel industry.

“I would like to sincerely thank all our delegates and speakers for joining us in Malaysia to discuss, analyse and share their various ideas in planning, building and promoting a responsible travel and tourism industry, particularly during the current coronavirus crises,” said PATA CEO Mario Hardy. “I would also like to to thank our hosts for having taken extra precautions to ensure the health and safety of our delegates during their stay in Sabah.”

Recent marts have been held in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, India; Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, UAE; Chiang Rai, Thailand; Luoyang, China and Thimphu, Bhutan.