Recently held (29-30 April 2008, Bangkok-Thailand),   the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) inaugural     Summit on CEO Challenge 2008: Confronting     Climate Challenge; the significant event focused on     the development of innovative responses to climate change threats and to advocate immediacy in finding solutions relating the travel and hospitality industry. The Association's President and the CEO, Mr. Peter de Jong told the 236 delegates to his delight that so many industry leaders from all sectors of travel and tourism accepted the challenge to share their thoughts, ideas and actions on climate change. "It has really delivered on our goals, with so many good ideas, innovative programs and practical solutions, and, most importantly, opportunities for collaborative action," he said. At the Summit's opening at 0845 on April 29, H.E. Weerasak Kowsurat, Thailand's Minister of Tourism and Sports addressed the conference's theme, focusing on climate change and what role the travel industry play in the preservation of unpolluted air and waters, maintenance of lush jungles and a pristine natural landscape that forms the core of tourism product. Thailand is playing its role in the development of Sustainable Tourism through protecting its environment and in the same time, upkeep of cultural respect, which would help to achieve the vision of carbon neutral growth and eventually a carbon free industry. Following the opening address, the electronic keynote message by Nobel Prize laureate Dr. Pachauri focused on the science of climate change in terms of changing temperature, sea level and melting glaciers. Dr. Pachauri emphasized the adverse affects of climate change on life on the planet due to heat waves, cyclones, floods, and droughts. With a forecast temperature rise of 1.8 to 4 degrees Celsius during the 21st century, he emphasized that we act NOW to "save energy" before it's too late. Mr. Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future Ventures (UK) and Ms. Anna Pollock, CEO of DestiCorp (Canada), brought into the lime light the key issues of climate change governed by over growing population, the increasing rate of life expectancy and the current food crisis that faces the world today. After the tea-break session, a panel of Industry experts shared their commitments and adopting practical measures towards finding solutions to climate change. The panel had Mr. Renton de Alwis, Chairman of Sri Lanka Development Authority; Wally Stone, Tourism New Zealand; Mr.Sonu Shivdasani, Chairman and CEO of Six Senses; Mr. Bernold Schroeder, Senior Vice-President and Managing Director-Hotel Operations from Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts and Mr. Peter Trautmann, CEO of Munich international Airport. More sector-specific recommendations for action came out in the closed session for the media, the six Boardroom Challenge breakout sessions in the afternoon of the Day One, which focused on airlines, airports/aviation, destinations, distribution, global hotels and resorts, and regional hotels and resorts. While each sector had its unique opportunities for collaboration, a common theme running through all of them was the need for industry associations such as PATA to advocate, educate and facilitate. Europe and North America markets has an encouraging growing number of consumers and tour operators now insist on green benchmarking before booking hotels, tours and ground handling services in Asia Pacific. "In Europe, consumers say: 'We will not buy your hotel unless you have an environmental program we can see'" - Said Mr.Edwin Fuller, President and Managing Director of Marriott Lodging International. Bangkok's leading hotels like the Sofitel Centara Grand Bangkok, the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Ramada Menam Riverside Hotel and the Pullman Bangkok King Power committed on environmental friendly approach in advocating a clear message to their guests on saving on water and energy. The award winning Environmentally Friendly Company the Six Senses Resorts & Spas now invests 0.5% of gross income from each hotel back into a sustainable, environmental and responsible fund (SERF). This averages out at US$100,000 per hotel per year across the group. Six Senses' carbon offset program now replaces all carbon emissions from guests' flights as well as emissions from hotel operations. The company offsets emissions from coal fired power plants in South India by replacing them with wind turbines. Mr. Sonu Shivdasani in his directives told Industry delegates: "The travel industry needs sweeping goals. Not improvements of 10 to 20%, but 50 to 100%. Goals need to be structured in profit and loss plans. Eventually, we need to offset travel entirely," he said. One of the most impressive initiatives from the Six Senses is the implementation of deep sea water cooling on the islands of Maldives. Although a drop in the ocean, addressing the threat of water rising level, a joint effort by governments and the private sector could help slow down the rising sea waters levels. Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts have a corporate goal to cut carbon emissions between 10-30% per property and 20% across the group within 12 months. Marriott aims to reduce emissions by 20% in 10 years. Ninety-six percent of its hotels have embraced recycling. Australia-based tour operator Intrepid Travel aims to become a carbon-neutral company by the end of 2009. Sri Lanka and New Zealand as environmental friendly destinations are striving towards carbon-neutral status. While New Zealand aspires to become a fully sustainable, carbon neutral, destination by 2015; Sri Lanka-within its cultural greetings "Ayubowan" (May all living beings on earth have long life) is adopting multiple environmental codes and aims to be carbon-neutral within 10 years by positioning itself as a 'Tourism Earth Lung'. Mr. Renton de Alwis, Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority said: "We're offsetting, which also offsets the guilt of the long haul market." Sri Lanka's leading tour operator and hotellier Jet Wings are comitted to educate visitors through their Educational Eco Tours and have made a milestone achievement creating a man made marshland abound its unique Vil Uyana Resort near the famed Sigiriya Rock. On the second and concluding day (closed for the media) the 2-day Event ended with a series of plenary sessions on Tourism & Climate Change, Sharing the Airline Burden, redefining Growth and application of practical solutions to tackle climate change. Speaking for the airline industry, Tony Tyler, the CEO of Cathay Pacific, admitted that a few years ago, complacency was a problem. "Airline leaders thought, 'We're at 2%. No one is going to have a go at us.' We were complacent about the PR aspects and now we're regretting that we've become the poster boys of international evil.We do feel under pressure from the media and governments, especially in Europe." Addressing the problem, IATA's Environment Director and a former World Wildlife Fund campaigner, Paul Steele said that in the past 40 years, the airline industry had eliminated soot emissions, reduced noise by 75% and increased fuel efficiencies by 70%. By 2020 airlines aim to increase fuel efficiency by another 25%. At the conclusion of the PATA CEO Challenge, event facilitator Mr. Rohit Talwar recommended action plan for the heads of travel and hospitality concerns: 1) Start a discussion with your management team and Board to agree on principles and priorities for a climate change strategy, 2) Create a compelling vision to ensure internal and external stakeholder support, 3) Conduct an environmental audit; set targets; measure, verify and record results (There are specialized service providers, such as Green Globe, that can assist), 4) Communicate your environmental action plan with internal and external stakeholders, 5) Where emission reductions are impractical, offer optional offset charges to your customers and provide adequate incentives for their take-up. Although a team of experts attended the Event from different parts of the world, there were many missing particularly from the PATA Chapter Asian countries, which would have made a more stronger impact in channeling the awareness of this significantly important educative forum concerning the climate change affecting the travel industry, perhaps the one of its kind event held by the Industry specifically focused on tourism and climate change. Would not the future Events along the similar formula more useful to the Industry with a larger number of participating experts (CEOs) on the panel and also including the audience PATA members so the Event more interactive and the message reaches to the masses? Airlines, hotels and the NTO could play a better role to host media as there was a mere presence of international media that would have otherwise helped widen distribution of this conclusive Event. The Tourism Authority of Thailand hosted a half-day media tour and a gala dinner cum thematic cultural evening for the delegates to sample Thai hospitality and cuisine. Next to the venue is the Central World and Zen Shopping complex equipped with trendy restaurants not to miss on the top floor of Zen complex, the Spice Maharajah Indian Restaurant , which is the venue for palatable authentic cuisines from India. Supporting Airline: There was a lack of support from the airlines to provide rebated air tickets to the Registered Delegates one of the reasons a fall in number of attendants. Sri Lanka Airline, however rendered some support . Delegates from South Asia preferred to fly the Sri Lankan Airline to the Event, calling flights from Karachi to Colombo via Mumbai, with daily flights from Colombo to Bangkok and vice versa. Sri Lankan Airline has regular operation of flights to Middle East, Europe and the far west countries. The dynamic airline has made its positive contributions in the airline industry that has yield rewards.