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Introduction by Jerry W. Bird, Africa Travel Magazine Editor

Having had the pleasure of working as a volunteer with PATA in the mid 90s, it gives me great pleasure to include this timely address by Janice Antonson, Chairman of that worthy organization. Equally proud is her husband Rick Antonson, a close friend, who is CEO of Tourism Vancouver - and author of a new book , “Timbuktu for a Haircut. ” This is one of the best travel related books I have had the pleasure of reading. My review will appear soon on this website plus others in our network, and in Africa Travel Magazine.



Mrs. Janice Antonson
PATA AGM, April , 2008
Chair's Speech, Colombo, Sri Lanka

Ayubowan ...

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, and distinguished life members of PATA. It is a privilege, an honour, to be standing before you as Chairman of the Pacific Asia Travel Association.

As a child growing up in Northern Canada, I dreamed of traveling to countries such as China, Thailand, Japan, and Australia. I could not wait to visit places like the Philippines or India. And, not surprisingly, I viewed Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon) as exotic and enthralling. And it is…..

Through involvement with PATA I have traveled to each of those countries, and more, and enjoyed the wonders of their hospitality and history while making fascinating friends and colleagues. This has taught me how deeply important different cultures are to our world, to my career in aviation and to tourism. Simply put, no part of the globe is as intriguing and enthralling - and welcoming, as is Asia Pacific. These past days I have enjoyed the richness of Sri Lanka and I've seen a country steeped in history, facing notable challenges, and seeking a confident tomorrow.

PATA, too, is steeped in history, faces notable challenges, and seeks to create a confident tomorrow. As we go forward, we will build upon our strengths, while calling upon the advice and views of you, our membership. And we will look to our board of directors for increasingly hard work on many fronts.

After 57 years of struggles, accomplishments, and hard won influence, PATA's responsibility overlooks a vast geographic membership where some countries are in trouble, while others neighbour on uncertainty Many member countries adapt to rapidly rising economies, while others cope with abject poverty. There is little consistency other than challenge. Yet, thankfully, throughout our region weaves the strong thread of tourism -- threads that will bring both solutions and prosperity. Our industry's fabric is tightly interwoven with threads both local, and global.

There has never been a more important time for PATA than today -- unless, of course, it is tomorrow.

PATA accepts the onerous responsibilities of ensuring travellers, and their host industry &endash; 'tourism,' shape a better world, one in which member countries and their residents benefit from the cultural, environmental, social and economic strengths inherent in a viable, sustainable tourism industry.

PATA asserts a leadership role on behalf of our member businesses, associations and nations -- all of whom need governments to better comprehend the complexities and vulnerabilities of tourism world-wide.

We will continue to initiate positive dialogue, to offer new ideas, and to interpret data and articulate opinions. We will prod and nudge and cajole elected officials, senior bureaucrats and business decision makers &endash; all with the goal of furthering PATA's objectives on your behalf.

To serve as your Chair of PATA is an exceptional opportunity -- however it is one brief year and my term will be shaped in part by ensuring that PATA reacts swiftly and effectively to our world's winds of change.

We will undoubtedly be buffeted by the unforeseen, and, as is PATA's pattern, we will respond vigorously and efficiently to whatever circumstances arise. We will be vigilant in our professionalism.

There are many known issues which continue to weigh on the shoulders of the tourism industry, and which have a direct impact on our members.

Some of these dilemmas, such as Climate Change, seem nearly insurmountable. It is in the face of such daunting tasks that PATA initiated the CEO Challenge in Bangkok later this month &endash; to ensure PATA stays at the forefront of defining action. Climate Change and travel are fundamentally linked in the minds of the public -- it has reached society's tipping point. We can never shirk our responsibilities, nor minimize tourism's role compared to other industries.

Were our industry to ignore the role of creating a more responsible world of travelers, we would forever regret it. We encourage you and your colleagues' to join us in Bangkok April 29th and 30th for the first CEO Challenge addressing these issues that will affect tourism forever.

Tourism's role on this planet is as important &endash; perhaps more important, that any other industry's. Yet, as custodians of the tourism industry, we each face the ongoing challenge of hiring &endash; and retaining, educated, experienced staff &endash; in all aspects of our industry.

Tourism deserves to be led by the best and the brightest, and for travelers to be serviced by the best-trained individuals, people who make tourism a lifelong career of choice.

WHILE I echo the need for those core leadership roles of PATA, it is true that each chair brings a personal quest of sorts into this role -- a special focus and belief which functions as personal motivation. And here is mine, for you:

Let me echo the calls from those who encourage that we strive, through understanding, to make a world where travel breeds tolerance, where travel inspires admiration of different societies, where travel leads to reconciliation.

It may be, frankly, that 'tourism' is the world's best hope &endash; so let us do more now, before we become the world's last hope.

In Canada, my home country, you will find our Parliament buildings and there we have one of the world's iconic architectural symbols, the Peace Tower. Inscribed within is the powerful proverb:

"Where there is no vision, the people parish".

I endorse the vision of tourism as the road to cultural understanding and therefore I urge that we establish tourism as the pathway to peace.

There is something I'd like you to ponder with me, and to that end I share a poem which has long influenced my personal thinking. I wish its author was not anonymous, as their legacy will be significant, if we heed their words. This is that poem:

When I was young and free and my imagination had no limits,

I dreamed of changing the world.

As I grew older and wiser I discovered the world would not change.

So I shortened my sights somewhat and decided to change my country.

But it too seemed unmovable.

As I grew into my twilight years, in one last desperate attempt,

I settled for changing only my family, those closest to me.

But alas, they would have none of it.

And now I realize, as I lie on my deathbed, that if I had only changed myself first,

Then by example I might have changed my family.

From them, by example, I might have changed my friends.

From their aspirations and encouragement, I would have been able to better my country.

And who knows, I might even have changed the world.

Today, the notion of entwining the goals of 'peace' with the tools of 'tourism' may sound naïve &endash; even impossible, in many countries. Yet there is no better way to comprehend different societies, strange circumstances, unfamiliar peoples, or unknown landscapes than to experience them oneself.

I am fortunate to be living and working in the Bahamas, a country blessed with incredible beauty that relies solely on tourism, and I learn from the Bahamian people everyday just how important it is to understand our differences in order to work together.

Mark Twain wrote "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness."

With the diversity of the countries which PATA represents, I ask, "how can we establish tourism as the pathway to peace?"

Throughout the following year I plan to visit some of our PATA member countries &endash; with a particular priority to help one or two where previous chairs have not been able to visit.

I wish to learn first hand how we, as an organization &endash; and myself as your chair, can help support them and assist their future well-being. We can not shy away from those who need tourism the most.

A global acceptance of diversity is fundamental to the future of our industry. Indeed, without it, tourism will remain an industry at economic risk &endash; certainly one far short of its potential.

I'd like to quote a passage of a speech given by one of my favorite speakers -- my husband, Rick Antonson…

There are over 200 countries that call this tiny planet their home.

Each of us is but one step or two away from someone in each of those countries. They may be family, or a friend; perhaps a client, or a fellow traveller.

Tourism, more than any other industry, takes down the barriers to understanding.

We are about bringing people together -- to share ideas, -- to learn from one another, -- and to celebrate our differences.

Tourism is a vital force for peace.

It behooves each of us to consider what we can do individually and collectively to ensure that one day every leader in the world shares our belief that safe travel and the privilege of assembly are fundamental freedoms for all people.

In closing - I think you will agree with me when I say…..

Where ever someone travels, they become a part of that land's struggles and its future; a part of its people and their dreams….

In that way, after these past few days….

We are all Sri Lankans……THANK YOU.

Mrs Janice Antonson

Janice Antonson is the Vice President of Marketing for the Nassau International Airport in The Bahamas.  She will be responsible for the marketing, communications and air service development for The Bahamas during the development of the new airport in Nassau.

Ms Antonson was previously with the Vancouver International Airport in Canada and was responsible for aviation marketing and air service development.  Prior to her position with Vancouver, she spent two years as an aviation consultant working with various airports.

Having held a variety of positions within the aviation and tourism industry as well as marketing roles for two convention and visitors bureaus and a government tourism agency in Canada, her travels have taken her around the world presenting to airlines, tourism organizations and business partners.  Ms Antonson's formal education has been in marketing, aviation and tourism.

She is past chair of the Pacific Rim Cruise Association based in Vancouver, past executive board member of the Richmond Tourism Bureau in Vancouver, and spent four years as a board member and Director for Crime Stoppers. 

In her role with PATA, Ms Antonson has been on the Executive Committee since 2005.  She was chair of the Carrier committee and was an active member of the previous Marketing committee.