What to expect from Virtual PAS 2021

BANGKOK, 8 April 2021: The Pacific Asia Travel Association’s events for 2021 have migrated to an all-virtual format, and the calendar begins with the PATA Annual Summit hosted for three days, 27 to 29 April.

The lineup of speakers and presenters are from the corporate and big business world with a strong dominance from policymakers such as the  OECD, The World Bank and World Economic Forum.

PATA’s annual gig tagged Virtual PAS 2021 claims to deliver “relevant major issues that are impacting the travel and tourism industry.” Centred around the theme of ‘Reflect, Reconnect, Revive,’ the event will provide delegates with the latest insights and trends, as well as an outlook on the future of the industry.

And thanks to the sponsors, tickets are complimentary for PATA members, chapter members and outsiders. In the pre-Covid-19 era, the annual summit registration fee was around USD650 for PATA members who would also need to pay USD1,000 in yearly dues. This year attending the annual summit is free with the entire event format in the digital or virtual space.

What you get for your virtual presence

Day 1
April 27, (Tuesday)

Virtual PAS 2021 gets underway with opening remarks from the PATA chair Soon Hwa Wong, followed by welcome remarks by the event’s anchor sponsor, Ras Al Khaimah Development Authority (RAKTDA) CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Development Authority Raki Phillips, Global Tourism Economy Forum (GTEF) Vice Chairman and Secretary-General, Global Tourism Economy Forum (GTEF) Pansy Ho gets a spot in the opening act.

By 1000 the two-hour PATA Youth Symposium opens. It became the annual summit’s trademark session in recent years. This year’s panel discussion pits dreams vs reality and the battle for the future of tourism. But if the discussion has teeth, it will also challenge the premise that youth has a future in travel due to its frailties exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Big business may have a future in travel, but whether that also applies to young entrepreneurs hoping to start up their own SMEs is entirely a different question.

The afternoon PAS 2021 Forum is the other major component of the first-day agenda. It will advocate that the tourism industry is a positive force for economic growth and an important driver for cultural empathy

However, to build a future where tourism remains a positive tool for sustainable growth and peace worldwide, the industry must take this opportunity to reflect and reconnect to revitalise. 

Day 2
April 28 (Wednesday)

PATA hosts its virtual board for members only while a two-hour PATA Youth: SDG Workshop convenes until noon on the challenge of achieving  UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the nine remaining years before the UN deadline kicks in.

Achieving the goals will require an unprecedented mobilisation of the youth’s energy and skills, so this workshop focuses on scaling up impacts, and designing projects specifically for local communities and generating actionable outcomes. But will the SGDs that refer to human rights be given an airing or ignored for the more popular SGD theme linked to climate change and dealing with plastic pollution?

The afternoon session’s PATA Leaders Debate is the must-attend session on day two. The world continues to see dramatic social, environmental and economic changes, and the current Covid-19 pandemic has only exposed and widened existing economic and social divisions and created new ones.

Despite previous disruptions, the travel industry has always remained resilient, having demonstrated steady growth across the sector. However, as we look towards a post-pandemic future, the industry must adapt, evolve and reprioritise in order to revitalise and rebuild a more responsible and sustainable industry.

And while sustainability and social responsibility is a broad term that is difficult to define precisely, it is commonly agreed that the basic concept is based on three pillars of people, planet and profit. Therefore, as the industry looks towards a more sustainable future, what aspects of sustainability must it focus upon moving forward in order to achieve this goal?

The PATA Leaders Debate, sponsored by Airbnb, will explore the tension between the environmental and economic impacts of tourism and discuss which is more important for the future sustainability of the tourism industry. This discussion should be focused on articulating whether economic benefit or environmental sustainability should be the focus of our collective efforts and activities as we plan to restart travel.

Day 3
April 29 (Thursday)

The morning agenda is light on content if you are not a PATA member, as most of the events are restricted to members or invitation only.

Limited access for just members in good standing remains in place for the afternoon 1300 to 1500  PATA Annual General Meeting leaving just the PATA Youth: Student Chapter Roundtable Discussion open to non-members.

If you are not a PATA member, you can skip the third day.  But pop by the virtual venue at the close of play to see PATA CEO Mario Hardy present his swan song. It’s his parting moment in the spotlight before he moves on to new challenges after seven years leading the association. An announcement on his replacement is due soon.


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