Open travel: PATA

From restart of travel, to vaccine equity, PATA Chief Executive Officer takes up all subjects that matter today.

Nisha Verma

Commenting on the current scenario, Liz Ortiguera, CEO, PATA said, “In the world of Omicron versus travel, it has been a period of mixed messages and cautious optimism. A spate of markets across Asia-Pacific announced their imminent easing of travel restrictions and border requirements (each to varying degrees and specifics). In the backdrop, the region is experiencing the Omicron-fuelled tidal wave of cases, which started late last year in Western nations. As the WHO European Head described it recently ‘a tidal wave moving West to East’, markets in Asia are to varying degrees rapidly rising in cases, while markets in the West are a mixed bag of subsiding and rising. What makes this even more opaque is that healthcare experts estimate case statistics in each region are likely under-reported by 5 to 10 times. While some Western countries are throwing off their mask requirements, you’ll read health experts are advising ‘time to upgrade your masks’.”

She suggests that as the travel industry, there is a need to find opportunities to reopen travel quickly, efficiently, and responsibly so travel stays open and no longer viewed as the high risk. “Especially during my recent multi-country/multi-region journey, I saw opportunities to streamline measures while respecting practical risk mitigation considerations. I had an interesting discussion with ADB on the complexities of reopening markets in the Pacific Islands, Micronesia and other locations to tourism and the fact there’s no easy ‘playbook’ yet on how to best restart the travel engine,” claimed Ortiguera.

She also pointed out the dilemma of governments, saying, “Government officials across the region have the unenviable position of weighing public health risks versus the impact to livelihoods and broad scale economic impacts. Our Government Members-only Destination Recovery Insight sessions, hosted in partnership with World Bank, have been our first approach in helping destinations accelerate their learnings.  We will continue to drive this further and seek additional forums to expedite and streamline travel restarts.”

Travel bans

Addressing the issue of travel bans being implemented across countries when a new variant arises, she said, “WHO has stated that travel bans are ineffective. So where is the right balance between openings and protocols? Each market is weighing this through their filters of cultural norms, politics, economics, and resources. I’m observing an easing to a more risk-based approach here in Singapore and some other markets. For PATA, we will continue to seek ways to support expediting and smoothing the openings.”

Vaccine equity

She claimed that with the demand for boosters, the challenge of getting vaccines to low income / less developed nations gets heightened. “The pandemic is not over until it is over everywhere. I was cheered with the news that two researchers out of Texas have created an inexpensive COVID vaccine (Corbevax) and made it license-free for less developed nations to manufacture. That’s how you properly respond to a global, humanitarian crisis. Very appropriately, both scientists have just been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize,” she added.

Women in travel

She pinpoints that most women have been the hardest hit (particularly in Asia-Pacific) with the industry downturn. “Our industry in this region is comprised of 60 per cent women and, since they predominate the front line service roles, have been disproportionately among the hardest hit with the industry downturn. We piloted an Informal Workers Support Project in Thailand providing health and safety and business advisory to 500 individuals in this most impacted segment. We would love to see this replicated across the region so would welcome any sponsors for this,” he said.

Going ahead

She also shared that they have decided to reschedule the PATA Annual Summit to Oct 25-27, 2022, which will be hosted in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. “We will have a full programme addressing critical and strategic topics. Also, we are excited with the launch of our Tourism Destination Resilience Programme. The current situation is complex but please know that we are working to identify and develop every spot we can to best support our members and the industry at large in emerging stronger and better,” she concluded.

Check Also

Air charters soared even in COVID

Charter aviation industry was one of the few industries that benefitted from the pandemic. ‘We …