Meet J.C. Wong, the youth ambassador changing the way you think about tourism

Art by Rard Almario

 

In the book Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Stephen Hawking writes: “I hope that going forward, even when I am no longer here, people with power can show creativity, courage and leadership. Let them rise to the challenge of the sustainable development goals and act, not out of self-interest, but of common interest.” I think about how 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, the protesters in the US fighting for the Green New Deal, and Youth Strike for Climate PH and all the local activists got the motivation to take action. I figured that it must all start from somewhere. Some have passion coursing within them, while others cultivate theirs in a nurturing environment where they are free to propose ideas through trial and error.

One such organization is the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s Youth Tourism Professional Student Membership Program. To the uninitiated, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) is a non-profit membership organization that promotes sustainable tourism through developing programs in the Asia Pacific Region. They currently have 800 members, including 95 government tourism bodies and over a hundred business organizations in the airline and hospitality industries. The Youth Tourism Professional Student Membership Program, led by their ambassador J.C. Wong, is a good incubator for programs that can educate the public as well as propose solutions to private sectors.

As the 20-something youth ambassador, J.C. manages 4,000 PATA Young Tourism Professionals (YTPs), 75 educational institutions, 25 PATA student chapters, 35 local chapters and events in the pacific region. She organized events and initiatives such as The Youth and Sustainable Tourism Workshop and Buffet for Youth, which calls for creative ideas on how to reduce food waste.

Despite her success in her career, she wasn’t always sure what her career path would be. “I didn’t know what I wanted exactly for my career until two years ago,” she shares. “There were many trials and errors, grabbing every single opportunity that came towards me.” She heard about tourism for the first time when she attended an educational fair held by Taylor’s University in Malaysia. After being involved in many curriculum activities offered by her university, she found herself at the PATA headquarters for an internship, and quickly became a youth ambassador.

We got the chance to talk to J.C. over email about how she started on her career as a young leader in sustainable travel and the valuable work that PATA inspires among its members.

 

YOUNG STAR: Can you tell us about your history? What were you like growing up?

J.C. WONG: Curious, competitive, and a go-getter. I was a young teenager who spent most of her time outside exploring different things and perfecting them. If I chose something, I wanted to be good at it. Since then, I made my way up representing my school, district and country in various curriculum activities like competitive cheerleading, scout, basketball, dodgeball and the PATA Student Chapter. My mother would always complain to me that I treat my home like a hotel, just for the sleeps, then I’m out to get my hands dirty.

 

Why is it important to innovate new ideas for sustainability?

Our industry relies heavily on the wellbeing of destinations, cultural heritage and local communities. If we don’t sustain these elements, it’ll be a major disaster for both our industry and humankind. Plus, there are so many things that fall within the area of “sustainability.” We need as many ideas as possible to fit as many sectors, departments, areas and sizes — the more the merrier. This purpose-driven task brings us back to the initiatives that PATA has been doing as an association: gathering all industry professionals under one platform to walk the talk concerning sustainability. Start the conversation, provide the tools and push the implementation plans.

 

Have you seen a positive impact in any of the communities you have helped when it comes to sustainable tourism?

Using the Buffet for Youth Challenge as an example, every team is judged on the longevity of their implemented plans. The recent updates we heard from our winning team is that they managed to reduce 49 percent of their food wastage and managed to gather volunteers who they named “Food Champions” to advocate and continue their legacy.

This is what we do. We provide the platform, tools and network for our members to leverage their business and passion, while influencing them with the sustainable mindset.

 

Can you share some sustainable tips that you have personally tried?

I try to follow the “Responsibility Business Traveler Guidebook” as much as I can. My luggage is never over 13 kilograms, no plastic straws, no to plastic bags, support locally produced merchandise, and responsibly engage with the local community.

Looking back from where I stand now, I truly believe these experiences made me who I am today, which molded my passion towards human capital development. As a result, it fueled my goal to create a world with no generation gap, especially in the workforce.

 

 

For more information about the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s Youth Tourism Professional Student Membership Program, visit www.pata.org.

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