“Tourism brings in significant foreign exchange earnings to the region and contributes to national GDPs.”
“In addition, it creates employment opportunities for local communities and contributes to social and infrastructure development,” he added.
In 2015, the total value of tourism contribution to the region was US$3.3bn and this is expected to grow to US$4.4bn by 2019.
Total visitor arrivals to Pacific island countries have also been increasing steadily over the past five years, with close to 1.84 million visitors in 2015.
This year’s theme for World Tourism Day as set by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is “Tourism for All!”.
It focuses on “universal accessibility,” which is the creation of tourism environments that cater for the needs of everyone, including families with children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.
As the official day set aside in the United Nations calendar the celebration seeks to highlight tourism’s potential to contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing some of the most pressing challenges society is faced with today.
“With next year, 2017 established as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, national events such as World Tourism Day signify that we as a region are aligned to global initiatives and priorities,” said Cocker.
“Sustainable and responsible tourism has the power to bring positive changes to Pacific communities, it can empower our people and improve their livelihoods,” he added.
In the lead up to World Tourism Day on 27, SPTO is encouraging everyone to participate in this global event by sharing their personal tourism-related stories on social media with the hash tags #tourism4all and #WTD2016.
A full programme for 27 September will be released shortly.
Based in Suva, SPTO works with 16 Pacific island countries to market and develop tourism in South Pacific region.