The South Pacific Tourism Organization has called on Pacific countries to prioritize Information Communications Technology (ICT), internet services and infrastructure to better support tourism private sector e-commerce needs as the industry moves rapidly from offline to online services.
Speaking at the WTO (World Trade Organization), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and PIFS (Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat) Regional workshop in Nadi, Fiji last week, SPTO Chief Executive Officer Chris Cocker said the internet continues to revolutionise tourism marketing and product distribution globally, however the Pacific tourism industry has failed in many aspects to keep pace with the level of technological change.
“Whilst the internet offers tremendous global opportunity for smaller operators especially Small Island States; many suffer from a lack of expertise, poor and expensive internet connections and limited resources available to capitalise on,” he said in a presentation at the meeting.
“Research indicates that over eighty percent of leisure travel is now planned on the internet (of which over one third is on mobile devices such as smartphones). Research also indicates that in 2012, fifty-four percent of holiday makers globally booked their travel via the internet and twenty-four percent via travel agents. The shift towards online research and booking will continue over the next five years” he added.
SPTO has recommended that the smaller islands receive special consideration in this regard and connectivity should remain the highest priority for PICs with solutions to be fit for purpose of the country needs and ensuring access for all through bridging the digital divide.
SPTO has recommended options for reduction of duties on ICT equipment, sharing of infrastructure and accessing Universal Access funds as well as the development of accessibility to high speed broadband, mobile phone and social media.
“There needs to be improvements to e-commerce facilities across rural and urban areas to cater to tourists and businesses (websites, online booking sites, mobile phones and local sim cards or roaming services) and capacity building in ICT skills to support tourism industry and expanding new technology needs and services,” Mr. Cocker said.
He noted that e-marketing and e-commerce functionalities and capacity building training should remain the highest priority for the private sector and solutions should be fit for purpose of the country needs with a need for ongoing and long term support of tourism private sector in terms of financial and technical assistance.
Another key area that needed to be addressed is to transition the mindset of the tourism private sector from offline to online marketing with tourism and ICT industries working cooperatively to address ongoing ICT issues and challenges that need a collaborative approach to lobbying national and regional governments.
SPTO under the European Development Fund (EDF) has attempted to support the PACPs to improve their online and digital marketing capacities but there is need for ongoing and long term training.
He emphasized that there are no quick fixes to e-commerce and internet challenges in the Pacific Tourism industry, however highlighting the need for key stakeholders to work together.”
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.
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South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO)
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