Concluding months of transition for the U.S. chapters of the
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), travel agent Jim Ferguson
last week was named director for North America.
Ferguson’s appointment, officially announced at the SoCal PATA
general meeting in Los Angeles last week, caps an 18-month-long
effort to restructure PATA all around the world; the organization
began in 1951 as a body to help Pacific Asian nations develop
Over the years, PATA evolved into more of a business-to-business
marketing organization. But in recent years the organization “lost
its way,” said Peter Semone, PATA’s vice president at the
association’s Bangkok headquarters, who was in Los Angeles last
“The whole system of travel and tourism was changing,” said
While the association will still handle marketing and
development assistance, Semone said PATA will now focus efforts on
advocacy, serving as the voice for Pacific Asian nations.
Ferguson was set to take up the position Aug. 1 at the PATA
office in Oakland, Calif., though the association’s North American
office will likely be moved to Los Angeles eventually to be closer
to the U.S. offices of many member suppliers and national tourism
The move will centralize operations for the 14 active chapters
in North America.
Ferguson replaces former director Bill Hastings, who left the
position in January after about four years. An agent who also
served as sales director for Universal Travel Systems, Ferguson
brings to the role 20 years of experience in the travel
The appointment brings new leadership at a time when members are
struggling to cope with the affects of the SARS outbreak.
PATA next month will launch Project Phoenix, a public relations
campaign to bring tourists back to Pacific Asia. With about $2.5
million in funding and in-kind services, the campaign will include
advertising in major U.S. newspapers. The ads will direct U.S.
consumers to a Web site, www.seeyouinpacificasia.com, which in
August will allow direct booking. Part of PATA’s new focus is to
target consumers directly, said Semone.
The association also has a new partnership with Travelocity,
which will feature Pacific Asian destinations with PATA and
participating national tourism organizations providing content.
The Web site will also refer consumers to travel agents, but the
details have not yet been worked out, said Paul Cohen, PATA’s
consumer marketing advisor. One option is to use PATA specialists,
but the program, launched about three years ago, never really took
off. Instead, the Web site will likely refer to agents from
specialist programs run by member nations, as well as PATA member
agents. Or PATA may look for partnerships with the American Society
of Travel Agents or a consortium, he said.
“The majority of travel to the region is still going to be
booked through agents,” said Cohen.
PATA has also created an inter-Asia Web site, www.
travelwithpata.com, which will list hot deals, offer information on
destinations, and, in the event of another crisis, travel