HONOLULU (eTN) – Peter de Jong, president and chief executive officer of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, has broken his silence over recent allegations concerning the Bangkok-based travel organization’s US tax filing.
“The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) is a non-profit association which maintains fully compliant status with applicable US and other laws, including the assurance of outside independent accountants and legal counsel,” Mr. de Jong said. “PATA’s requisite information filings with the US Internal revenue Service authorities are regularly updated as needed, and are in good order, consistent with its nonprofit organization requirements.”
According to him, Form 990 is the authoritative filing for the IRS. It serves as the nonprofit public disclosure document designed by the US authorities. Mr. de Jong explained that “inadvertently, a particular question on two earlier years’ filings of the IRS Form 990 was not updated in some of the particulars.” He said, “When this was recently brought to our attention, we immediately updated and submitted the filing to reflect current information for the latest filing year 2006.”
He added, “Our 990 filing for the 2007 year will be filed when due in the coming months.”
Further, Mr. de Jong said: “Of course, we regret this clerical error and have taken oversight measures to ensure this cannot happen again. Now that this has been formally corrected and our relations with the IRS and our US non-profit status remain in good order, we move on.”
Does the PATA chief think that a smear campaign is out in full force against PATA? “In some instances, I can only say ‘consider the source’,” said de Jong. “In other instances, I suppose there’s a growing fascination with an organization that has gone from strength to strength in recent years and that has assumed a very high public and industry profile. With that higher profile comes closer scrutiny and criticism. “
The PATA chief also said PATA intends to address these criticisms “by responding transparently and comprehensively to legitimate questions, as we did to TTR’s Mr. Ross, who flagged an administrative oversight on our part. He added: “And by keeping our options open with regard to those with a personal agenda, who may spread misleading reports or seem intent on injuring PATA’s reputation or interests.”
According to Mr. de Jong, PATA’s proudest recent achievement is “without a doubt, the PATA CEO Challenge (PCC), which convened a cross-section of the Asia Pacific and global travel and tourism industry leaders for the sole purpose of sharing practical initiatives to combat climate change in our industry.” He added: “We will now share our findings with local and regional markets, to help local operators, our chapters and smaller companies reduce their carbon footprint.”
Mr. de Jong confirmed that a second PATA CEO Challenge will take place some time in 2009, but dates, theme and venue have yet to be confirmed.
The PATA chief, in addressing the challenges facing today’s Asia Pacific travel and tourism, said: “Apart from the need for us to dramatically reduce our carbon footprint, ‘managing growth’ is perhaps the single greatest medium/long-term issue for our industry: finding a balance between the ever greater numbers of Asia Pacific travelers -and the many millions who will come to visit our region– and the carrying capacity of our region’s fragile environment. ‘Sustainability’ has to become a ‘way of life’ for our industry.”
He added: “Another major challenge is our industry’s human resource deficiency in Asia Pacific. Our ‘hardware’ is going up much faster than we can train the ‘software’ to run and manage it. In all sectors, but particularly in hospitality and aviation, the Human Resource crunch is becoming dramatic.”
How has the increase in fuel prices been affecting Asia Pacific tourism from the PATA chief point of view? “It has become a matter of great concern to all of us. Its increasingly harmful impact on the transportation sector has, of course, a domino effect on all other, dependent sectors.”
Mr. de Jong added: “For shorter flights, consumers often pay a great deal more for taxes and fuel surcharges than for the original ticket. For long-haul travel, the often significant add-on costs may well have an impact on holiday travel. All in all, I fear things will ‘get worse before they get better.”
In closing, Mr. de Jong said he is looking forward to a very exciting PATA Travel Mart (PTM) in Hyderabad, India, which is to be held this coming September. “India is a formidable source market and destination for all of us and Hyderabad is an exciting new destination for many of us to discover,” he said. “PTM remains the region’s best B2B contracting show for travel to, from and within Asia Pacific.”