The South Pacific Tourism Organisation continues to be a major contributor to the discussions on Sustainable Tourism in the region in line with 2017 being declared as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism Development by the United Nations.
SPTO Chief Executive Officer, Chris Cocker participated in a seminar on sustainable tourism in French Polynesia last month (November 21st – 22nd) as part of a project on Sustainable Development and Circular Economy led by the French (Pacific territories) committee for the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council (PECC). The workshop was organized by PECC in collaboration with the government of French Polynesia. Leading international development agencies like the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and other key partners attended the workshop.
Sustainable Tourism is one of the three areas of focus by the French (Pacific territories) committee for PECC to examine, explore and elucidate if a circular economy approach can support sustainable economic growth across the Asia-Pacific region.
“Circular economy” promotes avoidance or reduction of waste, transformation of waste into energy or other reusable forms, thereby closing the loop in the make-consume-waste model that is a “linear economy.” It promotes keeping products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value over time.
By adopting “reduce, recycle, reuse” approach towards zero-waste, it promotes a sustainable and energy-efficient economy that is restorative and regenerative by design.
The seminar on sustainable and responsible tourism addressed how a vital economic activity, especially for developing economies, can grow sustainably without contributing to the degradation, decline and potential demise of the ecological-cultural value base itself.
Mr. Cocker said, “Sustainable tourism is recognized as having the potential to boost employment and economic growth for local communities and indigenous peoples by engaging them in various tourism activities, and in some cases, alleviate poverty. However, there is still much to be done to increase awareness and strengthen commitment from communities in the region”.
Sustainable tourism that integrates the concept of the circular economy promotes the conservation of natural resources and reduction of tourism-related carbon footprint. This can also be expanded and integrated into other sustainability programs associated with micro-industries, micro-financing, and sustainability practices for other industries that are
interdependent with tourism. Sustainable tourism also promotes education and first-hand understanding for and preservation of local cultural heritage and diversity.
Through their participation, SPTO was able to explore the strategic and tactical integration of circular economic factors into tourism which can contribute to increasing the economic, social, and environmental benefits.
Throughout 2017, SPTO has continued to focus efforts on bringing a thorough understanding of sustainable tourism to key stakeholders and partners in the region and recognizes the possibilities that a circular economy could bring to the tourism sector in the Pacific.
Mr Cocker had attended the World Circular Economy Forum in Finland earlier this year and continues to be inspired by this innovative approach to sustainable tourism for development. He also capitalised on the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Tourism and International Transport for Tahiti, SPTO private sector members and key public officials.