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Why travelers and the tourism industry alike should avoid PATA (the Pacific Asia Travel Association)!

I want to start by asking you a question; PATA stands for the “Pacific Asia Travel Association”. Which of the following two options do you think PATA is or should be to honestly / legally be able to use that name;

1) A non-profit travel association covering all aspects and interests both consumers and suppliers, both governmental and other (ecological / environmental) interests, both marketing and ethical support.

2) A tourism trade paid membership association incorporated in the USA dedicated primarily or even solely to travel industry marketing and member profitability, claiming to be “not for profit” yet having made profits in the past for their principle shareholder in California.

If you answered / thought option 1 as I once did, you would be wrong and the fact that PATA are not what their name implies / describes to me is at best conscious marketing license, at worst outright fraud. PATA is actually the Pacific Asia Travel Association, Inc. of California which has made significant yearly profits in the past although they claim to be “not for profit”. However, I am sure not through their own design, the most recent summary accounts I saw for PATA indicate they are in serious financial trouble these days.

PATA = Institutional tourism at its worse?

For me the Pacific Asia Travel Association exemplifies all that is rotten about the “institutional” travel industry in Asia. While I contend it falsely presents itself as a wider interest organization for the betterment of all aspects of tourism, particularly in SE ASIA where PATA’s main membership base is located, the Pacific Asia Travel Association Incorporated of California is actually a sales and marketing training and support company for travel agents and tour operators. I do not have a problem with travel agents and tour operators paying for membership to a trade association as PATA is, what I object to is the likely deliberate confusion even deception that occurs amongst potential visitors (tourists) to Asia when they see a PATA membership graphic on a travel agent’s or tour operator’s web site. You see I believe people (potential customers) wrongly believe the PATA graphic in some way guarantees them better, more ethical, more reliable service with greater security. It does not, in fact you could say a PATA graphic is a sign the travel business is going to try and charge you more based on the marketing training / “intelligence” it receives from PATA, plus the fact presumably it somehow has to recoup its yearly PATA association fees! Knowing what I do now and will attempt to fairly explain, I personally would avoid using the services of any PATA member on the basis doing so is in fact detrimental to my own interests.

I believe this Californian marketing corporation is unfairly milking the name “Pacific Asia Travel Association”. OK, I believe PATA are frauds as surely it should be in their best and honest interest to rename themselves “The Pacific Asia Tourism Industry Marketing Association” as this would clearly identify their operation to prospective members. Surely the only benefit to retaining the name “PATA” is subterfuge at the expense of travelers and the people of Asia alike? For me it is only logical and fair there are or should be four levels of travel associations;

1) Wide interest non-profit organizations representing all aspects of travel for mutual benefit, such as the World Tourism Organization.
2) Specific trade associations which ensure quality and standards within an industry, plus financial guarantees for customers of their members such as IATA (International Air Transport Association) and ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents).
3) Specific trade associations which ensure quality and standards within an industry, such as the Australian Federation of Travel Agents.
4) Sales and marketing membership associations for elements of the tourism industry.

The problem I have with PATA’s name is that for me it portrays itself as 1 while actually being at the bottom of the ladder at number 4.

I have considered legally challenging the name “Pacific Asia Travel Association” by appointing a consumer research organization in the USA to ask the question at the beginning of this page of US consumers as, I understand, if the majority answered “PATA” should mean a higher wider interest travel association for the equal benefit of everyone, that PATA could be legally forced to change its name. However, I have enough legal battles to fight as it is, so I will leave that one to someone else or another day!

So perhaps now is the time to explain why I am so aggrieved at and so sensitive about the name PATA and the organization behind it. Well, it all started when I saw that John M Daniels of PT Bali Discovery Tours, the man who has colluded with corrupt Indonesian police officers against me in an apparent attempt to have murdered after I caught his company offering unauthorized hotel room rates on the Internet, which the hotel forced him to remove, was a former Bali chapter chairman and now honorary member of PATA. As I thought PATA was a higher wider interest travel association because of its name and as PATA had a membership code of conduct which expressly stated it would not tolerate such activities by its members, I decided to file a substantiated complaint to PATA under that membership code of conduct against Bali Discovery Tours and its CEO Jack Daniels, and I really truly believed Daniels would be kicked out of the association for that given the documented evidence I hold.

Of course at that time I had no idea PATA was a trade marketing association and that Daniels was often jetting off to conferences and meetings with his friend and PATA's Vice Chairman for Development Peter Semone. But still, PATA had their membership code of conduct which they would have to uphold against Daniels if I had sufficient evidence (which I did) right? Wrong, instead PATA ignored my complaint and instead removed the code of conduct from their web site! That is why I believe PATA are not just frauds, but are nasty frauds best out of the hospitality business. It is trulely coincidental yet perhaps not surprising that the pro-Balinese hotels in Bali (see Bali Ethical Tourism) I really love and recommend are apparently not members of the Pacific Asia Travel Association or of the Bali Hotels Association for that matter. In reflection it seems to me the institutional tourism industry of Bali as typified by PATA membership actually equates to higher prices, lower quality, less authenticity and more Balinese suppression! That is why I would advise anyone who asked me to avoid the Pacific Asia Travel Association like the plague!

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