Light at the end of the tunnel

Light at the end of the tunnel

Pata surprises no one with its forecast that beleaguered member countries will see recovery this year.

Pacific Asia Travel Association is backing an optimistic forecast that the region will close 2009 with a 3% growth in tourism, slightly better than UNWTO predictions.

UNWTO anticipates growth will shrink to less than 3% and could be even zero.

Pata's strategic intelligence centre director, John Koldowski, said the association was "more bullish than others" suggesting a positive growth in the region by the close of 2009.

However, most of the data presented a "not so pretty picture" for the 100 travel executives and media who attended yesterday's release of Pata's annual industry forecast.

Admitting there were very few bright spots, Mr Koldowski closed on a positive note claiming Pata had seen the light at the end of the tunnel.

In a message, obviously designed to placate the fears of Pata member companies, he assured them the turning point could be as early as the third quarter of this year, but more likely in 2010.

Pata bases its optimism mainly on the fact that governments in Asia/Pacific are "throwing money at promotions, subsidising accommodation and air fares which could kick start recovery by the end of the year.

Unfortunately, much of the data presented used 2007 arrivals as a base, a banner year for tourism, while most of its own member countries failed to deliver their 2008 tourist arrivals to Pata for analysis.

Mr Koldowski stressed that assessing trends and forecasts on tourist arrivals was a flawed strategy. He then went on to rely on tourist arrivals to make his forecast.

However, he conceded there were too many variables in simplistic tourist arrival data and called on governments to invest in data that monitored spending, length of stay and other details of travel rather trips or arrivals.

It is a call, Pata has made over the years, largely ignored even by it own government members.

Despite out-dated raw data, on which Pata based its conclusions, the presentation did indicate that Asia/Pacific destinations will have their work cut for them to close the year and sustain a performance close to 2008 results.

Pata was preaching to the membership pews, garnering thanks for an effort well done, but closer scrutiny would suggest that even the association's data gathering mechanism is slow and relies on the sole, but questionable item "tourist arrivals" that was so eloquently dismissed as irrelevant by Mr Koldowski's presentation.