Newly appointed Director for Tourism Development, Jerry Spooner, says he is very passionate about sustainable and responsible tourism.
He stressed that it is very important that sustainable and responsible tourism does not only consider environmental and social factors.
Director Spooner says the tourism industry cannot be sustainable if businesses cannot make a profit, therefore economic considerations are just as important.
“Therefore, sustainable and responsible tourism seeks to generate greater economic benefits for local people and enhance the wellbeing of the host communities while also minimising negative social, economic and environmental impacts,” he explains in his first interview following his promotion.
“The tourism industry is a significant contributor to Vanuatu’s GDP and is the key sector responsible for entering Vanuatu into the global capitalist system.
“Within this system, tourism relies on continuous growth, minimal government control or regulation, with the idea that economic benefits will flow down from big business to the local level.”
However, the Director adds that evidence shows in Vanuatu that there is a failure of the benefits of the tourism industry reaching the local level, with less than 10% of the overall tourism expenditure reaching Ni-Vanuatu.
“We are also starting to experience impacts to Vanuatu’s environment, unsustainable use of Vanuatu’s resources, and impacts on our traditional values and community structures which tourism relies on to attract tourists to Vanuatu,” he adds.
“In my term as the Director of Tourism, I will be responsible for overseeing the five-year plan to implement our Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Policy VSTP (2019-2030) as well as meet key objectives from the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP).
“A key outcome from my term is to be able to showcase the increase in level of participation by the local Ni-Vanuatu in the tourism industry while we also facilitate foreign investment and partnership, but setting a fair playing field to allow locals to participate is very necessary.”
He looks ahead with confidence to share and discuss in detail the five-year plan with key stakeholders through workshops starting this month.
“The five-year plan outlays clear steps which enables the Department of Tourism to transition from reacting to situations as is the case in the past, to having clear guided plans and management guidelines to minimise and mitigate potential impacts from the tourism industry,” he says.
“This is the key role of the Department of Tourism as the Department responsible for destination management.
“However, we cannot achieve it alone, the journey to sustainable and responsible tourism is where operators, governments, the local residents and tourists share the responsibility towards making Vanuatu more resilient and tourism more sustainable.
“I look forward to this collaborative journey over the coming years.
“It’s not going to be an easy journey, but it’s worth every effort from my view.”