The South Pacific Tourism Organisation has commended the Asian Development Bank for drawing attention to the issue of sustainable eco- tourism at the ADB Pacific Update Conference held in Suva, Fiji last week.
The Pacific Update Conference is an annual event that brings together leading thinkers and policy makers in the region to discuss development and policy issues at both the country and regional levels, and is co-sponsored by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University (ANU), and the University of the South Pacific (USP).
This year’s event featured a parallel session on Sustainable Eco-Tourism which saw the participation of SPTO, Cook Islands Tourism and the Ministry of Tourism Solomon Islands.
The session provided an opportunity for insightful discussions on sustainable tourism which SPTO recognizes as important in view of the fact that sustainable eco-tourism is still at an embryonic stage in the South Pacific.
SPTO Chief Executive Officer, Chris Cocker presented a Regional Tourism Update at the meeting which focused on the current status of the region in terms of sustainable tourism development and SPTO’s initiatives in this area.
The presentation recognized that a few Pacific Island countries have mainstreamed sustainable tourism policies in their national planning strategies and that donor and development partners have begun to assist in the implementation of sustainable tourism development projects and programs in PICs.
“However, in terms of challenges, sustainable tourism practices can be expensive, there are weak governance and policy frameworks and enforcement processes in place as well as lack of adequate technical expertise in this area,” Mr. Cocker said.
“There are also varying levels of appreciation and commitment to sustainable eco-tourism and a lack of appropriate systems in measuring and monitoring sustainability.”
The meeting heard that most regional eco-tourism projects are short term as they are project driven, with some projects focused more on conservation and neglecting the profitability aspect.
It was also noted that regional eco-tourism programs are fragmented making it difficult to get a clear picture of regional progress. There is also lack of funding/resourcing and promotion of eco-tourism in the region as a whole.
While these challenges existed, there is also a growing interest amongst new travellers in off-the-beaten-track destinations and those who seek spectacular landscapes, unspoilt nature and environmentally responsible, culturally rich and pristine destinations, which are opportunities for the region.
According to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) the core values of the new traveller are changing with a combination of luxury, environmental & cultural responsibility and a growing desire to give back to the destination and communities. Travelers are seeking a compelling story to tell and are looking for the WOW factor in a destination. All of these presented opportunities for sustainable eco-tourism for the Pacific.
The session also featured presentations from Cook Islands and Solomon Islands, two destinations that feature the environment, people and culture as their unique tourism selling products with great emphasis on the importance of sustainable eco-tourism.
Cook Islands launched its National Sustainable Development Plan 2016-2020 last year, reflecting the government’s commitment to sustainable development which includes sustainable tourism.
Solomon Islands have mainstreamed eco- tourism into its Tourism development frameworks with an emphasis on niche products and community involvement.
Established in 1983 as the Tourism Council of the South Pacific, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) is the mandated organisation representing Tourism in the region. Its 18 Government members are American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and the People’s Republic of China. In addition to government members, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation enlists a private sector membership base.
For more information, contact:
Alisi Lutu, Marketing Manager
South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or +679 3304177