The South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) and the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) teamed up with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to showcase sustainable tourism at UNESCO World Heritage sites and UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, as well as initiatives from across the Pacific that emphasise the importance of culture, nature, social inclusion and responsible tourism for the Pacific.
The event launched a week of regional tourism meetings convened by SPTO and partners on the theme – ‘Protecting our blue Pacific, our livelihood and our home’, which has brought together government officials, business owners and partners to discuss how to more effectively promote sustainable tourism across the Pacific.
“Sustainable Tourism in the Pacific with smart, shared resources, best practices and innovative means of delivering our tourism products and services, for the enjoyment and appreciation of our tourists must be encouraged and supported by all.” Said Tuitama Dr. Talalelei Tuitama, Acting Prime Minister of Samoa in his keynote address to officially open the roundtable meeting.
“Rich cultures and diverse ecosystems underpin the livelihoods, economies and well-being of the Pacific Islands and our people as the Pacific’s cultural and natural heritage attracts millions of tourists each year fostering economic growth and income generation for our peoples.” Added Tuitama.
The Director of Office and UNESCO Representative to Pacific States, Ms. Nisha remarked about Sustainable Tourism as an enabler of development and its importance.
“This meeting marks the beginning of UNESCO’s partnership with SPTO to ensure that UNESCO’s expertise is brought here to support tourism in a manner that protects and promotes Pacific heritage, natural resources, inclusion and rights of all, and green and blue livelihoods.” Said Ms. Nisha.
“Tourism is here to stay, so how do we change the character of tourism so that sustainable tourism grows to replace the mainstream tourism, which leaves negative impacts on nature, life and livelihoods.”
The meeting also witnessed the signing of the letter of intent of partnership between SPTO and UNESCO. The letter indicates the willingness of the two organizations to enter into a long-term collaboration to bring together their resources to support Pacific countries.
The collaboration would support the Member States in the realization of three specific Sustainable Development Goal related targets, namely SDG 8.9 on policies to promote sustainable tourism, 12.b on practical tools to monitor the implementation of those policies and 14.7 on supporting the SIDS and LDCs develop sustainable tourism.
“The signing of the letter of intent of partnership is very important for our pacific region, especially partnering with an international agency like UNESCO, which brings in that international component to help develop the Pacific region because we can’t do it on our own.” Said Mr Chris Cocker, CEO of SPTO.
“The roundtable has enabled us to reflect and to hear from various speakers on how their organisations and businesses are implementing strategies that integrate sustainable tourism and culture that contribute to sustainable economic growth.
“To innovate is to collaborate.” Added Mr Cocker.
More on UNESCO and its sustainable tourism assistance were outlined in presentations from its members during engagement with the meeting delegates.
Other presenters of international, regional and local experts in tourism and other related sectors spoke on critical topics that will provide an opportunity to explore the most effective way of bringing the initiative of emphasising the importance of culture, nature, social inclusion and responsible tourism for the Pacific to foster new partnerships for sustainable tourism development.
In the face of these challenges, Pacific Island Countries have stepped up their efforts to promote the idea of sustainable tourism, which encourages tourism stakeholders from all sectors to work together to ensure that tourism has a positive impact on society, culture, the environment and the economy.
SPTO in collaboration with its member countries, the tourism industry, its private sector members and partners have, under the framework of the Pacific Tourism Strategy 2015-2019 been working towards achieving ‘sustainable economic growth that empowers Pacific people’.
UNESCO, through its World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Programme, offers tools to encourage and assist such initiatives in order to value and protect natural and cultural heritage.
The outcomes paper of resolutions from the dialogue in this meeting will be considered for adoption by the Council of Tourism Ministers during their meeting on the Friday, 5 October at the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel & Bungalows in Apia.