Breaking Travel News
Breaking Travel News interview: PATA chief executive, Liz Ortiguera

Breaking Travel News interview: PATA chief executive, Liz Ortiguera

The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has announced new dates for the PATA Annual Summit.

Originally scheduled to take place live and in-person this month, the forum will now be held from October 25-27 in Ras Al Khaimah.

The event will be the first time that the not-for-profit travel trade association, the largest spanning Asia-Pacific, will host its annual summit in the Middle East.

Here Breaking Travel News speaks to Liz Ortiguera, chief executive of PATA, about the upcoming event.


Breaking Travel News: PATA is headed to Ras al Khaimah later in the year for the Annual Summit – what are your aspirations for the event?

Liz Ortiguera: We are looking forward to reconnecting with our industry thought leaders from across the globe in our first event hosted in west Asia. 

Given PATA’s mission in acting as a catalyst for the responsible development of travel and tourism to, from and within Asia-Pacific, Ras Al Khaimah is at the perfect cross-road destination for PATA’s first physical Annual Summit in two years. 

Our aspiration is to bring together global leaders who are rebuilding a more conscious future for travel and inspire and catalyse best practices across these destination leaders.

We will also be looking to showcase Ras Al Khaimah - a beautiful destination with mountains, desert, and beach terrain - a destination building towards the goal of being the most sustainable emirate in the UAE by 2030.

BTN: What benefits will being able to meet in person after two years bring to the showcase?

LO: Since starting as PATA’s chief executive last year, I reflected on its key strengths and two of them include an ability to create a community within the travel industry and to feature new and interesting destinations.

While there’s a power and efficiency to meeting via Zoom, we are an industry that’s built on experiences, relationships and partnerships. 

Meeting in-person in a great destination is the only way those three elements fully come to life properly. 

The travel sector comprises so many different types of organisations across the public and private sector - and PATA represents all corners of this ecosystem. 

We look forward to reuniting members of our community and introducing new members to our global community as well. 

I’ve been meeting with progressive, dynamic industry leaders not only in Asia-Pacific but Europe and the US as well. 

I look forward to bringing them together in RAK for inspiring and engaging real-life experiences - the antidote we’ve been waiting for after two years of social and travel constraints. 

BTN: How did you settle of Ras al Khaimah as the destination – what can guests expect to find as they join you in the most northerly of the United Arab Emirates?

LO: My predecessor selected Ras al Khaimah prior to the pandemic, and I can absolutely appreciate why. 

I would encourage all our attendees to come early and stay later to appreciate the multiple dimensions of this destination. 

As a travel industry friend described to me - Ras Al Khaimah made her appreciate that a desert can have the colour, dimension, and complexity that we expect to see in the oceans. 

RAK helps you appreciate that.

In addition to enjoying the natural terrain and its indigenous animals (oryxes and camels), RAK offers the cultural heritage of ancient pearling villages to hilltop forts plus adventure activities like the world’s longest zipline and alpine toboggan ride. 

It’s an all-around engaging experience. 

BTN: How would you describe the recovery in the tourism sector in the Pacific Asia region as we head into mid-2022? There have been some positive signs of late?

LO: I would describe it as “cautious optimism”. 

Last week, the Singapore government announced that a raft of social and travel restrictions will be relaxed.

Numerous other destinations across the region are starting to relax travel restrictions by some measures and more will be expected. 

The governments have all been highly focussed on health and safety measures - including the deployment of vaccines - which has laid a critical foundation for the recovery. 

Part of PATA’s role is to help its members (and the broader industry) accelerate in learnings, insights and best practice sharing to support expediting and enabling the recovery. 

As one example, we started regular PATA-World Bank Recovery Insights sessions for our government members for this purpose.

The recovery will be uneven across the region, but I am encouraged that if we rapidly learn and support each other - the individual destinations and the region as a whole will be better for it. 

BTN: Can the market in the region ever fully recover until China reopens its borders? Have you seen any signs of the situation in the destination changing?

LO: First, I believe that travel preferences and needs have already evolved into different forms compared to pre-pandemic travel. 

The recovery will come in part via blended travel that has evolved due to the pandemic - retreats for virtual workforces, silver travellers visiting friends and family, workcations and more digital nomads since remote working has become a global norm. 

Travellers will be taking longer, multi-purpose journeys. 

The prior focus on sheer volume of visitor arrivals will be balanced with increased average spend per visitor and increased duration of stay. 

The lines between corporate and leisure travel will be more blurred than ever before.

Given China’s long-running closed borders, the faster recovering destinations are those learning to target alternative, high yielding source markets. 

The travel industry landscape is certainly dynamic and changing by the day currently. 

As PATA, we strive to support our members in evolving for success. 

More Information

Ras al Khaimah is considered the Middle East’s Leading Adventure Tourism Destination by voters at the World Travel Awards.

Hosted by Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA), the PATA Annual Summit will bring together international thought leaders, industry shapers and senior decision-makers who are invested in driving tourism to, from and within the Asia Pacific.

Find out more about the show on the official website.