Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sri Lanka Tourism - Hiran flies Lankan flag high at key Asia Pacific travel body

By Nisthar Cassim in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Preservation and commitment for 20 years makes him first Sri Lankan to be appointed as Chairman of key Asia Pacific travel body

Jetwing's Hiran Cooray on Saturday made Sri Lanka proud when he was ceremoniously inducted as the Chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), the region's most representative tourism body.
He is the first Sri Lankan to ascent to this position of PATA, which has nearly 900 direct members from international and regional tourism industry, hospitality, airline, and national tourist organisations as well as near 8,000 local members from 40 worldwide PATA country chapters, including in the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

Originally founded in Hawaii in 1951 and now headquartered in Bangkok to further the interest of those engaged in and promoting travel and tourism in Asia Pacific, PATA is now a catalyst to the development of the tourism industry in the region. CNN and Time magazine along with Visa are its premier partners.

Hiran also gets the distinction of being the first Chairman in PATA to serve a two-year term under new By Laws and at 46 years of age, he is also one of the youngest to hold this post. ( For full story click Read More at the Bottom of this post)

His election and induction was held at the two-day 59th Annual Meeting of PATA, which concluded on Sunday in Kuching, Sarawak in Malaysia. He succeeded Phornsiri Manoharn of the Thailand Tourism Organisation.

"The new leadership role at PATA, which is now a global organisation, is a challenge. Yet I am confident, given the knowledge and experience gathered over the years, and with the support of the membership," Hiran told Daily FT soon after his election.

The new Executive Board of PATA, the first meeting of which was chaired by Hiran during the weekend, has 12 representatives from 12 different countries - a feature which makes Hiran perhaps the first Lankan in recent history to be leading such a diverse multinational board.

Hiran is a marketing graduate from the University of North Carolina and counts over 20 years in the tourism industry.

Taking over the mantle of PATA is also momentous as the organisation will be celebrating its 60th anniversary with a mega conference in Beijing in April next year.

The appointment as Chairman also signifies the reaching of the pinnacle of PATA in an engagement which is now 20 years old for Hiran.

"I never thought I would be the Chairman one day," he recalled, adding that it was M.Y.M. Thahir, formerly a Director General of Sri Lanka Tourism and a consultant to Jetwing, who had urged Hiran's father Herbert Cooray to send him to PATA Sri Lanka Chapter meetings.

The state of Sarawak in Malaysia would be momentous for Hiran. Whilst it was in Sarawak's capital Kuching that he was elevated to the post of Chairman, PATA, it was in same Malaysia's Penang that he first attended a PATA region event in 1990.

Hiran joined the officialdom of PATA first in 1996 when he was elected to the Industry Council followed by a presence in the Executive Board in 1998 with positions of Secretary/Treasurer and Vice Chairman prior to the Chairmanship. Previously he has served as PATA Sri Lanka Chapter Chairman as well.
Rather than personal credit, Hiran said the leadership role in PATA reflected the fact that Sri Lankans could do it in the global tourism arena. "On behalf of Sri Lanka, I am proud and privileged," he asserted.

Under his term, Hiran will push the theme peace and tourism, largely encouraged by the historic peaceful times in the post-war Sri Lanka as well as infusing the dynamism of youth to PATA.

He said that PATA leadership role and the plethora of global forums he would be invited to would also enable him to position and promote post-war Sri Lanka effectively. In May he is expected to address the prestigious US-based World Travel and Tourism Council Forum in Beijing.

"The Pacific Asia market is driving global tourism in general. Both as an inbound and outbound destination, Pacific Asia faces many challenges as well as having immense potential. The dynamism of the region as well as PATA membership will be leveraged to add greater value and further develop the tourism industry," Hiran pointed out.
In a bid to better serve its membership and stay relevant, PATA is reinventing itself. It has revamped its website as well as enhanced the offering of value added information. A social and business networking feature went live on its website on Saturday.

Making country Chapters active as well as setting up task forces consisting of senior PATA members to lend expertise in travel and tourism are some of the plans of the new Executive Board. "The new team hopes to bring back some of the lost glory of PATA," Hiran added.

Incidentally, with Hiran, the Chairmanship of PATA moves back to the male domain as the previous two chairmen were females, with the first being Janice Antonson of Canadian Airports, followed by the current Immediate Past Chairperson Phornsiri Manoharn of Thailand Tourism Organisation.

According to the UN World Tourism Organisation, Pacific Asia is to account for a near 27% stake in global tourism by 2020 in comparison to 16% in 1995. This makes Asia Pacific the fastest growing. In terms of numbers, the prospects are phenomenal, with an estimated 416 million tourists by 2020 from 85 million in 1995.
Sri Lanka has been a longstanding member of PATA whilst its Lankan Chapter has a membership of around 70. In addition to hosting the Annual Meeting in Colombo in 2008, Sri Lanka has been host for several other PATA events in the past. The Sri Lanka Chapter has also won the best Chapter award.
Hiran's election as PATA Chairman and the emergence of Asia as a key source market for tourists are expected to rejuvenate the Sri Lankan Chapter, which is likely to mount a bigger team at the PATA Annual Mart in Macau in September 2010.

Box story 

Peace a catalyst for tourism boom

The newly-elected Chairman of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Hiran Cooray will promote the need for peace as a key driver to boost tourism in the region.

"After protracted conflict, benefits of the peace dividend are being enjoyed by my country Sri Lanka at present, and I like to see greater peace within the region so that tourism can boost socio-economic growth in our economies," Hiran told the PATA membership soon after being elected at its 59th Annual Meeting in Kuching, Sarawak in Malaysia on Saturday.

He said that it was disheartening to see adverse travel advisories on Thailand and India whilst global travellers were discouraged from visiting Pakistan or Afghanistan.

"Whilst peace is a key driver to boost tourism, I believe tourism can be a great catalyst to achieve peace and prosperity as well," Hiran said.

In his acceptance speech, Hiran, the first Lankan to be elected as Chairman of PATA, said that his appointment was a special honour for Sri Lanka and assured he would give his best and lead PATA to achieve greater heights.

"The tourism sector, especially in Asia, has bounced back in the last quarter of 2009 and we look to the future with optimism and confidence," the new PATA Chief said. Hiran took over the PATA leadership from Phornsiri Manoharn of Thailand.

He told the membership that the some of the lost glory of PATA, founded in 1951, would be brought back in his term and greater participation of youth in PATA as well as greater engagement of youth in tourism as a key stakeholder would be pursued.

The development of the PATA task forces comprising senior members with rich knowledge and expertise on tourism sector, greater online support and reactivation of local chapters are some of the immediate plans of the new Executive Board.

Originally founded in Hawaii in 1951 and now headquartered in Bangkok, PATA has nearly 900 direct members from international and regional tourism industry, hospitality, airline, and national tourist organisations as well as near 8,000 local members from 40 worldwide PATA country chapters including in the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

source - www.dailymirror.lk

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