INTERVIEW Mario Hardy, CEO PATA: “We Adapt to a Changing Tourism World”

Looking forward, being visionary and not just sticking to short-term trends. This is the most important task for the Pacific Asia Travel Association according to its CEO, Dr. Mario Hardy in an exclusive interview with Appointed in November 2014 and a Canadian national, Mr Hardy has been reappointed last year for another three-year mandate at the head of the oldest travel association based in Asia/Pacific.

How does PATA look like these days?

Mario Hardy- We started during my first mandate to look at changes and implement it. When I became head of PATA in November 2014, my first task was to restructure and turn PATA profitable again. We had debts and we could not anymore sustain it without implementing drastic changes as our stakeholders did not want to support us anymore.

We probably adopted a lower profile for a while but it was a necessity. I cannot say that it was fun to cut costs and rationalize our activities but I am proud to tell that we are again profitable, although we need to be careful in our financial capacity. We are currently affected by the strength of the Thai Baht which of course increases our operational costs in Bangkok.

However, I am happy to say that we can now boost our presence again around the world thanks to our renewed financial strength.That allows us now to send more staff more regularly in international forums and conferences.

How would you like to reposition PATA ?

Mario Hardy- When I looked at renewing my mandate at the top of PATA, I highlighted the fact that we should have a long term vision and also try to bring awareness in our industry that tourism development was anything but a policy of short-term decisions. And PATA, with decades of experiences as we witnessed the total transformation of the tourism industry in Asia Pacific, can be a leader to a new way of thinking. We need to implement “exponential thinking” by explaining that decisions taken today will have very long term implications.

What will bring your second mandate in the way PATA is managed?

Mario Hardy- We will continue to transform ourselves. We are currently studying the way our website is working. Online information and communication is one of the most important tools to affirm our identity today and of course, we need to regularly adapt its content and information. We look at new ways to communicate, at redefining our research by anticipating more emerging trends and their implications on the development of the industry.

We probably need also to look at our PATA Annual Meeting as well as at our workshops. Do we still need to keep them in their existing format? Should we look at new ways to organise the event by turning our events into inspirational ones for the entire industry, an event where everyone would exchange, learn, anticipate from each other…

What is the message that PATA wants to convey to the tourism industry?

Mario Hardy- I believe that one of our responsabilities is to analyse the emerging trends and innovations and help our industry to learn the way to anticipate long-term implications. For example, how activities from the sharing economy such as Uber or Airbnb changed and will continue to change our perception in tourism.

What will be the effect in five years, ten years of new technologies such as robots or mobile payment? Technologies are today here, they move fast and we need to help the industry to integrate them. Last but not least, we need to convey the message that any decision taken in the tourism field is a long-term one. We must be of course an advocate of a sustainable tourism development, of a tourism product which integrates human values such as empathy, solidarity, community empowerment, authenticity. This is PATA message…

One of PATA major events is the Destination Marketing Forum, which will take place in Khon Kaen in Northeastern Thailand at the end of the year. How is this event integrated into PATA positioning?

Mario Hardy- PATA Destination Marketing Forum used to be our New Tourism Frontiers Forum. Changing the name strengthen our PATA advocacy theme of tourism dispersal, an issue that we have at heart as it helps to relieve crowded tourism destinations and help spreading in a responsible way tourism activities to other destinations. New frontiers are indeed second and third-tier destinations and this is our task to highlight them.

The 2018 forum is done in cooperation with the Thailand Exhibition and Convention Bureau -TCEB- and will be under the theme “Growth with Goal”. It will bring awareness to a destination which is not that well known and help to define its attractions and strength for consumers. The city is already known as an important convention destination but our forum will help identify more activities and assets. People want today an authentic experience and our Destination Marketing Forum looks at that issue.

Previous events were hosted in Legazpi in the Philippines, Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh and Palau. These were all successful events. In Cox’s Bazar, we registered some 180 participants despite the fact that the forum took place a few weeks after the killing of westerners in the country. In Legazpi, we attracted close to 600 participants while in Khon Kaen, I am confident that we will see a participation of at least 150 to 200 people…