Heads of national tourism offices from 15 Pacific island countries met in Rarotonga, Cook Islands last week for the yearly board of directors meeting of the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), the region’s peak tourism development and marketing body, which was held before the regional tourism ministers meeting also held Rarotonga.
With ‘sustainable tourism’ as the theme of the threeday meeting, sustainability has been at the forefront of discussions.
More than a buzz-phrase, Pacific island countries are increasingly embracing and adopting sustainable tourismpractices, with the host Cook Islands using the platform of the meetings to launch the country’s sustainable touris policies at the Prime Minister’s welcome event that week.
However, while there has been substantial movement in this area, sustainable tourism has not been fully mainstreamed into national and international policy discussions.
Thus, coordinated and extensive efforts need to be undertaken to raise awareness among policy makers and the public of the vital role sustainable tourism can play in all three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – as well as in achieving the
objectives of the post-2015 development agenda.
One such opportunity is the United Nations International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development2017(IYST2017).
Two years ago at their meeting in Tahiti, the SPTO directors had endorsed the United Nations initiative on sustainable tourism to declare 2017 as IYST2017.
As part of their commitment, the directors agreed at the
i. promote Pacific Island Countries participation in this
global event at the national level;
ii. designate a national tourism event to celebrate and
promote IYST; and
iii. endorse SPTO’s planned initiatives to promote the IYST
“Through the establishment of its new Sustainable Tourism Development Division, SPTO has continued its advocacy role to promote the economic and social contribution of sustainable tourism, the conservation of our environment, protection of our cultures, and the development of business
opportunities for tourism private sector,” said Chris Cocker, Chief Executive Officer of SPTO.
Coming up in 2017, SPTO will mark IYST in a number ofways: via a special event at its annual tourism marketing forum South Pacific Tourism Exchange in Sydney in May; at a side event at its board and ministers meetings next year; and by incorporating IYST in workshops, conferences
and its usual activities.