MICRONESIA CONSIDERING INDEPENDENT TOURISM ORGANIZATION

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By Agnes E. Donato

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 14) - Due to funding problems, the Micronesian chapter of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) is now reviewing whether or not it should continue being a member of the PATA International network.

Outgoing Marianas Visitiors Authority managing director Jonas Ogren said it is expensive to be a member of PATA International. Members, for example, usually have to travel all the way to Bangkok, Thailand to attend the group’s meetings.

PATA Micronesia is composed of 88 tourism agencies and businesses from the CNMI, Guam, Palau, Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.

The chapter held its fourth quarter meeting on Saipan last Thursday and Friday.

"(Membership to PATA International) is something that takes a lot of funding. The issue we’re discussing is whether the money that we spend on that is worth the benefits and the values that we get out of being a PATA member," Ogren told Variety.

He, however, noted that all the Micronesia members agree on the importance of staying together as a regional group.

"I don’t think there is a risk of this group being dismantled. I think that if PATA Micronesia decides that it is too expensive to be part of PATA International, then we will find another way of working together as a region," Ogren said.

He noted that the Micronesia islands had their own independent travel organization before they decided to join the PATA network several years ago.

BECOMING INDEPENDENT

Back then, he added, there was a definite need for the islands to be affiliated with a global organization. Being a big network, PATA International provides its members name recognition, as well as regular survey and research information on the tourism.

"The question now is: Is that need still there? Or are we now connected enough as a group to do things on our own, and be very cost effective at the same time?" Ogren said.

The Micronesia members will again discuss the issue when they meet in Yap in September. They have set a December deadline to decide on which direction to take with regard to their PATA membership.

During last week’s meeting, PATA Micronesia chairman John Salas presented the integration plan of PATA International, which would require members to sign up with the international body in order to belong to a chapter.

The plan, according to Salas, is necessary for PATA to regain ownership of its brand, facilitate financial solvency, and deliver tangible value and services to its members.

"Following the presentation of the integrated plan today, our members will review its value to their chapter membership and decide how their business or organization can benefit from this plan," Salas said on Friday.

PROMOTING THE AREA

He added, "We hope to be able to discuss this matter further in our upcoming quarterly meetings."

For his part, MVA chairman and PATA International board member David Sablan said he would take the chapter members’ concerns to the international body.

Also discussed during the PATA meeting were regional promotional efforts, the development of new markets and the introduction of new air service, including Cape Air and Palau Air.

Rep. Ray Yumul, chairman of the House committee on Commerce and Tourism, served as guest speaker during the general assembly at World Resort Saipan on Friday.

He said, "Our islands possess unique attributes and together as a family of islands, we possess the competitive edge to compete in the international market. I turn to PATA and encourage everyone to work together to meet the challenges that we face in the tourism industry."

June 15, 2004

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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