SPTO seals Partnership for Tourism and Rural Development with US Embassy

The World Tourism Day was celebrated this month on 27 September, calling attention to Tourism and Rural Development. Together with UNWTO and partners, SPTO contributed to the development of the UNWTO Recommendations for Tourism and Rural Development, which provides support to government, private sector, development partners and the international community in promoting inclusive, sustainable and resilient tourism development.  This is crucial as the sector continues to navigate the impacts from the pandemic.

In the spirit of solidarity, SPTO acknowledges the extraordinary challenges of 2020 felt across the industry in the Pacific and remains positive of the opportunities ahead. It also notes the importance of partnerships in supporting the recovery process.  On the occasion of World Tourism Day, SPTO and the United States Embassy entered into a new and exciting partnership through the US Embassy’s Economic Resilience Grant to implement the ‘Building Resilient Tourism Futures Project’ which will benefit Small Medium Enterprises in Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu.

SPTO CEO Christopher Cocker said, “We thank the Government and People of the United States for recognizing the importance of providing support during these challenging times to Pacific Tourism SMEs through such grants.  The benefits of this project will be far reachingand how  fitting that we celebrate World Tourism Day with the launch of this partnership which will be particularly relevant given that SME’s are the heartbeat of our economies and integrate so readily into communities providing income not only to businesses, but also to the communities that they work with”.

US Ambassador H.E. Joseph Cella said, “The U.S. Embassy is delighted to celebrate World Tourism Day by supporting local tourism organizations and associations that are finding innovative solutions to the economic adversities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Congratulations to the Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO)! This support for their project will augment the bridges which exist between our countries, in the short and long term, as they continue to build local capacity and resilience across the Pacific.” Combined with the previous five grants, U.S. Embassy Suva has committed a total of USD$175,000 (FJ$373,600) to projects working toward economic recovery and resilience this year.

Implemented in partnership with The Travel Foundation, the project will support the development of a practical Recovery Toolkit to help the region’s experience and excursion SMEs adapt, diversify and meet evolving consumer needs and connect successfully to US and other international tourism markets. Businesses will be encouraged and supported to use the Toolkit and knowledge through virtual workshops, and explore opportunities for business links which will be created.

More than 95 percent of the Pacific’s tourism sector are SMEs which will need to evolve and diversify quickly to meet new market demands, if they are to survive the recovery period. With businesses today prioritising the ‘localisation’ of their supply chains as part of their sustainability strategies, it is envisaged that the knowledge gained through their participation in the project is likely to have far-reaching impacts.

Mr Cocker concluded by saying, “The legacy of this project is that once the Toolkit is developed, it can be replicated t other SPTO member countries and provide lasting impacts, well beyond the funding period. We look forward to working together with strategic partners such as the US Embassy and development partners for a better and more empowered Tourism sector, post COVID19”.

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