Early May 2017, we were participating to World Tourism Forum in Lucerne, Switzerland. We had the chance to hear and discuss with Mario Hardy, who is a Senior Travel Executive, currently managing PATA, the Pacific Asia Travel Association. Here are the 7 questions we’ve asked him:

Mario, can you tell us who you are and what you’re passionate about?

I’m the Chief Executive Officer of the Pacific Asia Travel Association, a public/private non profit organisation with a focus on the sustainable development of tourism to/from and within the Asia Pacific region.

You’re in the travel business for more than 30 years. What are the biggest changes you’ve observed?

The biggest change I’ve seen is the vast and fast growth that tourism has experienced. As per UNWTO,  there are now 1.2B international visitors crossing borders every year and this number is expected to grow to 1.8B in 2030.

Do you have any predictions for the tour market in Asia in the coming years?

Based on research conducted by PATA over the last 2 years, Asian millennials want local and authentic experiences. They do not want to be spectators anymore, they want to be the actors. They wish to learn to fish with local fishermen, to learn to cook and and eat with local families…

What are the biggest challenges that group travel agencies and tour operators have to face in Asia today?

The need for destinations and private sector tour operators to disperse tourists in less crowded places. There is a great need to promote secondary destinations, to encourage people to visit lesser known places and move away from the bucket list phenomena.

Pacific Asia Travel Association is active for more than 66 years: what is the biggest impact on Asian tourism and travel PATA had?

PATA has directly contributed to the growth of tourism within the Asia Pacific region over the last 6 decade. It has helped countries recover in difficult times, it has helped them strategise and plan their growth.

What’s your preferred destination for a private travel, and for a tour?

This is a rather difficult question to answer. I’ve travelled to 85 countries so far and I’ve found something I love in each one of them. However, there are a few places that carries a special place in my heart such as Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Slovenia.

You’re traveling around the world for a lifetime: what is the most surprising experience you can remember?

There are two countries I’ve visited that positively astounded me that never expected I would visit. The beauty of the landscape, the rich culture and heritage and friendliness of the people of both countries were beyond anything I’d expected. Those are Azerbaijan and Pakistan.

Thank you Mario for answering our questions!