Partnership to Assist Tourism Employees Impacted by COVID-19

A unique partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) and Fiji Hotels and Tourism Association (FHTA) has been cemented today [8 July 2020 (Suva, Fiji)].

The main objective of this partnership is to provide relevant training opportunities to Pacific island tourism and hospitality businesses and workers who have been impacted by the economic disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which will allow participants to find alternative employment as soon as possible.

These partners will collaborate to promote and deliver a series of virtual development training courses for employees who have been affected by COVID-19. The courses, provided by APTC, will comprise of micro-credential courses which will be a prerequisite for an additional skills course.

Micro-credentials are certification-style qualifications that individuals choose to study to improve a skill found in a particular industry area. They are short, low-cost online courses that provide learners with a digital certification or a ‘digital badge’ when complete. The micro-credentials being delivered through this partnership are products of TAFE Queensland, who manages APTC for the Australian Government, and have been contextualised by APTC’s Pacific Innovation team over the last few months for delivery in the Pacific context.

In his keynote address today, the Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Hon. Faiyaz Koya said, “We must remain motivated and venture into small business or entrepreneurial development to continue being productive, even if it involves venturing into new businesses and stepping into a new direction or career path, learning is a continuous and ongoing process, and we need to keep learning innovative skills and acquire new knowledge in order to live and work more productively and effectively”.

The project will initially focus on 40 unemployed staff before expanding to cover an additional 3,000-plus in the country, as well as other Pacific island nations including Kiribati, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The courses including all the materials such as data packages, advocacy support, communication and monitoring reporting are made possible by UNDP, through the support of the Government of Japan.

In his special address, the Japanese Ambassador to Fiji, H.E. Mr Masahiro Omura said, “Through this programme, UNDP, together with key partners in the hospitality sector will provide online training to both, tourism industry workers and business owners adversely affected by the economic disruptions caused by COVID-19. This programme will help the trainees acquire new skillsets, motivating them to find new jobs, start new ventures in order to support their livelihoods. I eagerly look forward to this program being initially implemented here in Fiji, and progressively expanded to the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga, Kiribati, Nauru and Vanuatu.”

Speaking at the Launch, the Australian High Commission Regional Counsellor – Political and Economic Development, Ms Renee Deschamps said “COVID-19 will require us to strengthen our partnerships bilaterally and across our Pacific Region, as we attempt to minimize the social and economic costs and work towards recovery. I look forward to seeing more of these types of partnerships being formed in the foreseeable future.”

The Resident Representative of the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, Levan Bouadze said, “Thanks to the generous contribution and support of the Government of Japan, we are pleased to be engaging with key-partners to empower and build the resilience of Pacific island people with meaningful opportunities to overcome the adverse socio-economic impacts of COVID-19. Following the roll-out in Fiji, the training is being earmarked to be introduced in other Pacific island countries including Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu.”

According to the Chief Executive Officer of APTC, Soli Middleby said, “COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the region’s Tourism sector and in line with the Australian Government’s COVID-19 Development Response we are pleased to be working together for the benefit of the Pacific tourism workforce, and to support economic recovery and prosperity in the region through skills training. The world of work is changing – a theme that was acknowledged at the 2019 Pacific Skills Summit in Suva, Fiji.”

“As the pace of change quickens, it is important as training providers and skills stakeholders to work together to provide the skills our workforce needs to adapt and stay competitive. Such collaboration is key to realising the vital link between skills and sustainable development for our region, as acknowledged under the Pacific Skills Partnership. Upskilling, reskilling and agility are key to ensuring the Pacific thrives in these ever-changing, technology-focused times. This has become all the more important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic”, Middleby added.

Pacific Tourism Organisation CEO, Christopher Cocker said, “We are thrilled to be a part of this project, which offers an important opportunity to the thousands of employees around the Pacific
that have been affected by COVID-19. It is also “walking the talk” with our recent release of the SPTO NZMFAT Pacific Tourism: Scenario Development and Recovery Pathways Report. Tourism is undoubtedly one of the hardest hit industries in our region and we are grateful to the Government of Japan, UNDP/UNCDF and all other partners for this valuable opportunity”.

FHTA CEO Fantasha Lockington said “It was an opportunity we were actively looking for, so fit perfectly into addressing a specific need for tourism workers to continue to receive upskilling even during furloughed periods. FHTA greatly appreciates everyone’s participation in enabling the project from development through to launch phase and expects it will be very successfully received”.
The Launch was attended by government, partners and allies, private sector and media representatives.

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