Tourism for all - Promoting universal accesibility

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World Tourism Day Speakers



Mr. Ivor Ambrose, Managing Director, European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT)

Ivor Ambrose is the Managing Director and co-founder of ENAT, the European Network for Accessible Tourism. He has worked for over 30 years as an environmental psychologist, senior researcher, development and policy advisor in the fields of building design and evaluation, public housing, accessibility and assistive technologies for disabled and elderly people, accessible tourism and information systems.


Mr. Benito C. Bengzon, Jr., Undersecretary for Tourism Development, Department of Tourism, Republic of the Philippines

Undersecretary Benito C Bengzon Jr completed his bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant administration from the University of the Philippines in 1984. From 1989 to 1992, he took up his masters in business administration at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business and in 1999 graduated from the National Defense College of the Philippines with a masters degree in national security administration. He started his career with the Philippine Department of Tourism in 1986 where he was involved initially in tourism planning, product research and development. From 1993 to 1999, he headed the DOT’s investment promotion unit. In 1999, he was assigned to Tokyo as tourism attaché. He returned to Manila in 2007 and handled the marketing team for Japan and later also for the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific. In 2010, he was appointed assistant secretary for international tourism promotions and designated as the spokesman of the Department. In November 2014, he was appointed as undersecretary of the tourism development sector. He also currently sits in the Civil Aeronautics Board as alternate vice chairman and is a member of the Philippine Air Negotiating Panel.


Mr. Monthien Boontan, United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Thailand’s Senator 


Ms. Sandra Carvao, UNWTO Chief Communications & Publications

Sandra Carvão is Chief of the Communications and Publications at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Spokesperson for the Organization since April 2010. Between 2007 and 2011, Sandra was Deputy Chief of the UNWTO Market Trends, Competitiveness and Trade in Tourism Services Section. Prior to joining UNWTO in 2003, Sandra was Market Manager at the Portuguese National Tourist Office in Lisbon. Sandra has a degree in International Relations and Economics Branch, by the Instituto de Ciências Sociais e Políticas/Universidade Técnica de Lisboa and a postgraduate degree in Marketing by the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.


Ms. Mary Chen (nee WONG MEI LEE), Editor of Challenges, Malaysia’s 1st National Disability Magazine

Mary Chen is the Director of Challenges Media, a social enterprise focusing on disability advocacy and inclusive community development. She launched Challenges Magazine, Malaysia’s 1st cross-disability national magazine, in 2008 as a media skills training project to train persons with disability as self-advocates. A disability advocate herself for the past 3 decades, she is also a member of the Asia Pacific Network on Accessible Tourism (APNAT).


Ms. Rut Gomez, UNWTO Media Officer

Rut Gómez Sobrino is Media Officer at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) since 2015, where she manages media relations and advises on strategic communications and corporate affairs. After initiating her career in the international media field as radio broadcaster and editor, she developed her career at different UN agencies, where she led C4D and media development-related initiatives. Gender equality, sustainable development, good governance, training of journalists, institutional capacity building and food security have been some of thematic areas that she has addressed through her work. UNESCO, UN Women, UNDP and UNCDF are some of the organizations that she engaged in the last decade. Rut graduated from Communications and Information Sciences (Universidad CEU San Pablo, Madrid) and holds MAs in International Relations (Istanbul Bilgi Universitesi) in Euromediterranean Studies (Cairo University), a Diploma in Development Management and a Certificate in Poverty Reduction (both awarded by the University of London, SOAS-CEDEP). She is currently finalizing her doctoral thesis on Applied Economics.


Mr. Sergio Guerreiro, Senior Director, Knowledge Management and Corporate Affairs, Turismo de Portugal

Sérgio Guerreiro holds a BSc in Economics and an MSc in Public Management and Administration from ISCSP-UTL, School of Social and Political Sciences (University of Lisbon). He has over 20 years of experience in the field of tourism, working as a policy analyst and Director at Turismo de Portugal. He is currently Senior Director for Knowledge Management & Corporate Affairs, responsible for Business Intelligence and Analytics, Innovation and Corporate Affairs. He is a member of the Market Intelligence Group of the European Travel Commission, Portuguese Delegate at the Commission for Europe of UNWTO and Vice-Chair of the OECD Tourism Committee. He is currently a visiting lecturer at Universidade Europeia and a PhD candidate at University of Lisbon.


Mr. Mario Hardy, Chief Executive Officer Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)

Mario Hardy was appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) on November 1, 2014, and he’s the founder of Venture Capital firm MAP2|Ventures. Mario previously worked a total of 26 years in specialised aviation businesses and occupied several leadership roles in Montreal, Vancouver, London, Beijing and Singapore. In 2016, Mario received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from Capilano University for his philanthropic work in Cambodia where he helped develop a school for underprivileged children and for his support in the development of a Community Based Tourism (CBT) project in Vietnam. Lived on 3 continents, 7 countries and has over 12 years of experience working in Asia.


Mr. Martin Heng, Accessible Travel Manager & Editorial Adviser, Lonely Planet

As Accessible Travel Manager, Martin Heng’s mission to make travel easier for those who are hampered by issues of accessibility, whether it be through illness, age or disability.  He believes the most important thing to do is build a community that is happy to share ideas, information and experiences through words, pictures and video.In Lonely Planet since 1999, Martin Heng had different roles, including Trade Publishing Manager and Editorial Manager, overseeing the production of the entire range of printed books. 


Mr. Xu Jing, Director, Regional Programme for Asia and the Pacific

Beginning his career in tourism at the China National Tourism Administration, Xu Jing holds a Master’s Degree in Tourism Management from the University of Surrey in England. He joined the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in 1992 as Officer to the Regional Representation for Asia and the Pacific. He is currently UNWTO’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific and the UNWTO’s Executive Secretary of the General Assembly and the Executive Council. Xu Jing holds honorary academic positions in a number of universities: Chinese University of Hong Kong, University of Suzhou, Sun Yat-sen University, Shanghai Institute of Tourism, Hainan University and Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Kyunghee University (Republic of Korea) and University of Balearic Islands (Spain). He is also a senior advisor to the Chinese Municipalities of Guilin and Huangshan.


Mr. Hideto Kijima, President Japan Accessible Tourism Center

Mr. Kijima (Kiji), born in 1973, is a passionate traveler and sportsman. 17 years old he injured his spinal cord T-11 in a rugby accident but has not stopped exploring the world. He has visited more than 100 countries in his wheelchair. Kiji started his professional career in an advertisement agency as a marketing planner. In 2004 after 7 years in his old job he decided to dedicate his time to his own business as writer, consultant for accessibility issues and motivational speaker where he can use his travel experience. In 2011 he founded the information Center for international travelers with mobility impairment who wish to visit Japan. He is now Chief executive of the Barrier Free Institute and President of Japan Accessible Tourism Center. He also continued his sport activities and practices cycling (hand-bike), skiing (mono-ski) and swimming. He has been for more than 10 years member of the Japanese Paralympic national team in the discipline of World Trail Orienteering Competition.


Mr. Weerasak Kowsurat, Secretary-General of Thai with Disability Foundation and former Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand

Weerasak Kowsurat served as Thailand’s Minister of Tourism and Sports and later became Chairman of the Board of the Sports Authority of Thailand, as well as Chairman of the Board of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. His political positions have included: Deputy Leader of Chartthai Political Party, Vice Minister for Culture, and Vice Minister for Social Development and Human Security. He also served as Deputy Secretary General to the Prime Minister in International Affairs. Kowsurat was twice elected a Member of the Thai Parliament and was recorded the youngest Secretary to the President of the Thai National Assembly. He is currently Secretary-General for the Federation of Thai Film, Motion Pictures and Contents Association. In 2004, The Gender Equality Promotion Associated voted Kowsurat “Man of the Year”, he received an Outstanding Executive Award from UNIFEM for promoting a campaign to stop violence against women and children, and was named Child Rights Protection Ambassador by the NGO’s children protection working committee.


Mr. Krisana Lalai, Journalist and Human Rights Worker

Krisana Lalai is a Thai journalist and human rights worker in respect with equality of people with disabilities and unprivileged people. He is also the leader in the Friendly Design Ambassador Project in Thailand, to construct inherently accessible buildings and environments for everyone especially for senior citizen and people with disabilities. He has a Bachelor Degree in Education from Suan Dusit Rajabhat University. He also took mini-MBA at Thammasat University and High level Administrator in energy, Ministry of Energy, and has been working on this field since 1992. He is known as “Journalist 11 prime ministers”, because he had special interviews with prime ministers and former prime ministers of Thailand.


Mr. Svend Leirvaag, VP Industry Affairs, Amadeus IT Group

Svend Leirvaag, Vice President Industry Affairs, is responsible for Amadeus’ government and institutional affairs globally, as well as Amadeus’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes, such as the Click for Change partnership with UNICEF, and Environmental Sustainability activities. He is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University’s School of Business, and started his career in 1986 with Scandinavian Airlines. Svend has broad international management and consulting experience from many different industries, including airlines, hotel chains, travel management companies, and online travel distribution, specializing in commercial strategy and customer management. He holds his current role in Amadeus since 2011. Svend is married, has two children (and a dog) and is based in Madrid.


Ms. Anita Mendiratta, International Strategic Advisor and Author

Anita Mendiratta is a trusted and respected strategic advisor and five-time author in Tourism & Economic Development. Working closely with leaders in governments, the private sector businesses, and international organizations including the United Nations and providing critical direction, insight and inspiration into destination development, recovery and competitiveness. 


Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi, former Secretary-General, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

Top Thai economist, former Director General, World Trade Organization and former Secretary-General, UN Conference on Trade & Development (UNCTAD), Dr. Supachai Panitchpakdi was born in Bangkok and has a Master’s Degree in Econometrics & Development Planning and a Ph.D. in Human Resource Planning & Development by Erasmus University. Dr. Supachai began his career with the Bank of Thailand, and subsequently worked as BOT Official Spokesman, Member of Parliament, Deputy Minister of Finance, President of the Thai Military Bank and Senator. Keen to reform and revitalise the organization during his stewardship, he has established a Panel of Eminent Persons to oversee the start of reform of UNCTAD.


Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, former Secretary-General of ASEAN

Former Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan was elected in 2008. A graduate in political science from Claremont Men’s College in California, Dr. Surin holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He was a Member of Parliament of Thailand served for seven consecutive terms. During this period, he was appointed as secretary to the Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1986. Subsequent appointments were as assistant secretary to the Minister of Interior in 1988 and as Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister from 1992-1995. He was appointed as the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1992-2001 and elected as a party List MP of the Democrat Party in 2001.


Mr. Paul Pruangkarn, Communications Manager, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)

Paul Pruangkarn is the Manager – Communications at the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), headquartered in Bangkok, Thailand. Paul worked at an Internet start-up in Bangkok as the Senior Business Development Manager and as the Sub-Editor and on-air personality at Radio Thailand English Language News. Paul has also worked for companies such as Reuters, British Petroleum, and Traditional Home Magazine. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Classics with a concentration in Mediterranean Art and Archaeology from the University of Buffalo in New York. 


Mr. Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

Mr. Rifai is Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). He has an extensive background in international and national public service, the private sector and academia. He was Assistant Director General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), held several ministerial portfolios in Jordan (Planning and International Cooperation, Information and Tourism and Antiquities), CEO of Jordan’s Cement Company, Director of the Economic Mission to Washington and Director General of the Investment Promotion Corporation of Jordan. Mr. Rifai has a Ph.D. in Urban Design and Regional Planning (University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia), an M.A. in Engineering and Architecture (Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago), and a BS.c. in Architectural Engineering (University of Cairo in Egypt). 


Mr. David Scowsill, President & CEO World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC)

Prior to joining World Travel & Tourism Council as President & CEO in November 2010, David worked for 6 years in private equity and venture capital, he was CEO of Opodo, pan-European online travel company from 2002 to 2004, before it was sold to Amadeus. He joined the board of Hilton International in 1997 as senior VP sales, marketing and IT, leading the brand re-unification programme between the two Hilton shareholder companies.  David rejoined British Airways from 1993 to 1997 as regional general manager Asia/Pacific. He established the Joint Service Agreement and global alliance with Qantas. He joined American Airlines in 1991 as managing director sales, Europe Middle East and Africa.  David’s earlier career was with British Airways, with a variety of operational and sales roles in US, Europe, Latin America, Gulf States, Africa, and Asia.


Mr. Igor Stefanovic, UNWTO Ethics and Social Responsibility Programme

Igor Stefanovic has been working since 2009 in the UNWTO Ethics and Social Responsibility Programme, focusing on the promotion and implementation of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism. He has been entrusted since 2012 with the coordination of the Organization’s activities in the field of universal accessibility in close collaboration with Disabled People’s Organizations.  Igor joined the UN system at the age of 19, combining his work with a B.A.Sc. in Geography and Tourism Management. He worked for the United Nations and the European Union missions to Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1998 to 2004, on projects aimed at institutional strengthening, as well as law-enforcement and human rights policies in the Western Balkans.  Igor is a holder of a Master’s Degree in Tourism and a Master’s Degree in Cultural Management. He also completed his Masters of Research in the field of cultural identity, intangible cultural heritage and tourism in 2007.


Mr. Andrew Stevens, CNN Anchor

Andrew Stevens is the Asia Pacific Editor for CNNMoney based in Hong Kong. The award-winning journalist joined CNN in 1999 as a specialist business correspondent and has extensively covered news and business stories across the region. He has interviewed many of the world's political and business leaders and has reported on Asia-Pacific for more than two decades. Prior to joining CNN Stevens was a senior correspondent for CNBC Asia, financial editor of The South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and spent six years in London as the economics editor for the Press Association. He began his career in his native Australia as a correspondent for the Australian Financial Review.

  Mr. Natthadej Suyadej, Representative of Wheelchair Holidays Thailand

Mr. Pongpanu Svetarundra, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Tourism and Sport, Thailand

Northwestern University Graduate, Pongpanu Svetarundra is the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Tourism and Sports in Thailand. He is also the Director General of The Public Debt Management Office, the Executive Director at TMB Bank Public Company Limited, Independent Director at Crown Seal Public Company Limited and Director of Thaisri Insurance Public Company Limited. Mr. Svetarundra served as Director of CIMB Thai Bank Public Company Limited, Director of Thai Airways International Public Company Limited, Bangkok Metro Public Company Limited and TOT Public Company Limited.


H.E. Mrs. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, Minister of Tourism and Sports, Thailand

Minister of Tourism and Sports of Thailand, Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul has a degree in Fine Arts, Wellesley College, US and degree in Architecture, Rhode Island School of Design. She is US. Former Assistant to Project Manager MahBoonKrong Center Co, for the interior design of the largest shopping complex in Bangkok. Joined Toshiba Thailand Co as Advertising Manager; having successive promotions leading up to current post as Chairperson. During the 1997 economic crash, led the business towards development, launching a range of IT products. 


Ms. Yang Xiuping, Secretary-General ASEAN-China Centre

Mme.Yang Xiuping, born in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, graduated from Beijing Foreign Language University. Between 1980 and1985 she was a staff member of the Information Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 1985-1988  Attaché of the Chinese Language Division, United Nation Office in Geneva; 1988-1993  Third Secretary, Deputy Division Chief of the Information Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs; 1993-1996  Second Secretary, First Secretary in the Chinese Mission to UN; 1996-1998  First Secretary, Division Chief, Counsellor of the Information Department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs; 1998-2002  Counsellor, spokesperson of the Commissioner's Office of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Special Administrative Region in Hong Kong; 2002-2004  Consul-General of the People's Republic of China in Auckland of New Zealand; 2004-2008  Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to the Republic of Lithuania; 2008-2011  Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka and to the Republic of Maldives Concurrently; 2011-2012  Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka; 2012-2015  Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People's Republic of China to ASEAN; 2015-Present Secretary-General of the ASEAN-China Centre. Married with one daughter.