This was highlighted by UNESCO Director of Office and Representative to the Pacific States, Nisha, during the roundtable discussions at the Council of Tourism Ministers Meeting last week.
South Pacific Tourism Organisation CEO, Christopher Cocker, said this growth rate is good for the region.
“This is very fortunate, although tourism is booming in Fiji, but Fiji is able and has the capacity to cater for that. Some of the islands, on the other hand, are very vulnerable in terms of size and fragile in terms of culture, these are the ones that are of concern to us,” Cocker said.
He said educating the communities, pulling resources together and working with international partners will help increase people’s understanding on sustainable tourism.
“The challenge is sustainability because very little people know and understand about the issue, I’ll give you an example, out of all the Pacific Islands only three have focused sustainable development plans, the rest are integrated into their national development plans. It means that those countries are conscious and concerned that they want to develop their destination in a sustainable manner,” Cocker said.
The new traveler, Cocker said, is more environmentally conscious.
“They will go and visit and stay in a place that is environmentally responsible, they’ll pay for it even though how expensive it is. These travelers also want to look for a destination that is culturally rich and they are seeking for off-the-beaten destinations and as well as giving back to the community. So that fits very well into our Pacific Islands."
“We need to develop and prepare ourselves, and also maximise the opportunity because tourism changes, who knows what the next traveler wants.”
Cocker said while the region welcomes tourism, the focus is more on niche tourism.
“This is what we call high yield low impact. We are trying to avoid mass tourism, in this case like we’ve experienced and learned lessons from our neighbor such as Hawaii and also other mass tourism destination in the region and we should learn from it, and if we can benefit from tourism, develop it in a sustainable manner.”
He also said there is the need for non-government organisations and international and regional partners to work together and channel the initiative to the grassroots because this is where more tourism activity happens.
Nisha said for tourism to be sustainable, it needs three pillars – economic, social and environmental, which means tourism of today, should not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, enjoy their natural and historical resources.
“Sustainable tourism doesn’t say tourism cannot be for masses, it can be for masses, but it’s about controlling the number, not preventing."
“What is the ecological sustainable number of visitors in a particular environment setting, for a particular heritage site, for a particular community because they have their own life, so it is about better regulation and better management,” said Nisha