Biography of Paul K. Cummings
Paul Kominatos Cummings was born in Sydney in 1949, the son of Greek parents formerly engaged in the import-export trade in China. He was the third generation of his family to do business in Asia and was influenced from a young age by his parents’ appreciation of Asian cultures.
After completing a bachelor’s degree in Engineering and a master’s in Business Administration, he fell in love with travel on a three-month overland journey from Europe to India via Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
On returning to Australia, he worked for R.C.A. Records as an engineer assisting in the development of the emerging technology of multi-channel audio.
With the conclusion of the Vietnam War in 1975, unlike most, Paul believed that Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos would become the next great new tourist destinations and decided to help make it happen.
Paul founded a travel company, Orbitours, to specialise in the region. First visiting Laos and Vietnam in 1980, Orbitours quickly became the world’s leading tour company to these destinations, handling clients from Europe, Australia and North America. In 1984, he led the first tourist group to visit Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat since the outbreak of war in 1970.
In 1992 he became a founding shareholder and director of Diethlem Travel Cambodia (a joint venture with a leading Thailand tourism company) which remains one of the country’s leading travel firms. As security allowed, he helped develop new destinations in Cambodia such as Preah Vihear, and the former Khmer Rouge base at Anlong Veng.
In Vietnam and Laos too, he developed numerous innovative itineraries, reopening many areas which had long been closed to tourists. He organised specialised trips for such groups as Australian soldiers who had fought in Vietnam (sometimes meeting their opposite numbers) and for refugees who wished to return to visit their families. He has been interviewed for numerous newspaper and magazine articles and radio programs and has contributed to several guidebooks including Lonely Planet. He was a founding contributor to the Mekong Forum, a body that coordinated cross promotion for tourism in the Mekong region countries.
In 1995, against a background of warming relations between the U.S.A and North Korea, he escorted some of the first American tourists to Pyongyang for a sports festival where the famous Mass Games were performed with Muhammad Ali as Guest of Honour.
Among other journeys, he has crossed the Sahara Desert by truck from the Algerian coast to Niger, traversed Indonesia from east to west, inspected the border between North and South Korea from both sides, witnessed voodoo ceremonies in Haiti, and joined a camping tour across the 1970’s USSR spending time getting to know young East Europeans. His time in Cambodia, however, remains special to him.
Today he is retired and lives in Sydney with his partner and continues to take a keen interest in technology, travel and international affairs. He lists his other interests as food, wine, friends, and Samoyed dogs – not necessarily in that order.
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