Declan Hughes of FlyCruiseStay reports for Irish Travel Trade News from this year’s PATA Exchange in London.
Having received an invitation from the UK & Ireland Chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association to attend its one-day event, ‘PATA Exchange 2019’, at the Guoman Tower Hotel, London, on 11th March, I didn’t have to think twice. The PATA Exchange is PATA’s flagship event and a key date in the UK & Ireland travel industry calendar. Run as a one-day B2B trade-show, PATA Exchange connects buyers and sellers from across the whole Asia Pacific region.
PATA is a not-for-profit membership association that focusses on the responsible development of travel and tourism within the Asia Pacific region. The PATA Exchange uses an appointment preferencing system to match suppliers with interested decision-makers from a range of tour operators and agencies. All attendees have the opportunity to pre-select those that they would like to meet ahead of the event, and are provided with an appointment schedule of up to 24 appointments of 15 minutes each.
There was space for 75 sellers at this year’s event, including tourism boards, airlines, cruise lines, hotel groups, independent hotels, DMCs, and representation companies. The buyers are product managers and decision-makers from a broad range of tour operators and agencies across the UK and Ireland. Priority seller registration is currently open for PATA UK & Ireland members only – and they were many. All in all, 20 meetings were organised for me on the day, lasting 15 minutes each. The online booking system provided by PATA allowed me to choose whom I wished to meet and, if the request was mutual on both sides, meetings were confirmed in advance.
Eastbound Long-haul Flights
With so many long-haul flights out of Dublin now flying east, fares to Asia and Australia / New Zealand have never been better. What better way to capitalise on the rapid expansion east from Dublin Airport than to meet with key suppliers operating to or from these exciting destinations!
Our eastbound clients are spoiled for choice and we strongly recommend that they fly ex-Dublin in order to avoid paying the excessive long-haul LHR departure tax that, for example, flying from Shannon via London Heathrow can bring. This is especially so because flying ex-Dublin offers an array of flights, with Cathay Pacific non-stop to Hong Kong; Hainan Airlines non-stop to Beijing and Shenzhen; Emirates via Dubai; Etihad via Abu Dhabi; Qatar Airways via Doha; and Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. (BTW: As of 6th April 2019, Istanbul (New) Airport will become fully operational and use the IATA airport code (IST), replacing the older Atatürk Airport.)
The great team from PATA were very friendly and helpful in every way, so it was easy to get down to business. Speed networking is the way forward to propel your business to another level and, with so many suppliers, tourism boards, marketing agencies and so on under the one roof, it was an efficient and effective way to do business. Of course, being Irish always helps! With a delicious and healthy complimentary buffet breakfast served during registration, along with a delicious lunch and tea breaks on either side, delegates were fuelled for the day ahead.
The views, particularly over breakfast, from the Guoman Tower Hotel, were spectacular! Overlooking the iconic Tower bridge, I could see the impressive and futuristic Shard, where www.FlyCruiseStay.com celebrated its private 5th Anniversary party on the 54th floor at the Gong Bar, which was kindly hosted by the Vice President of Shangri-La Hotels.
It was also great to meet with suppliers who have become friends over those five years in which we have been in operation – including Dr Mario Hardy, Chief Executive, PATA; Gerard Panga, Tourism Attache and Director, Philippines Department of Tourism, UK & Ireland; and, of course, the seasoned and travel pro that is Chris Crampton, UK & Ireland Sales Manager, ICS Travel Group.
For me, the Asia region in general offers much better value, a fully immersive travel experience, service levels above European levels, and, of course, the destination is both exotic and erotic. In a world where your clients seek more experiential itineraries, authenticity is key – therefore, Look East!