Vanuatu co-chair

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade, Bob Loughman co-chairs UNWTO meeting (Photo: J Spooner)

The recent United Nations World Trade Organisation (UNWTO) Regional Conference on Sustainable Development through Tourism in Bhutan was represented by the Deputy Prime Minister and same time Minister for Tourism, Bob Loughman, Director General Roy Mickey Joy, First Political Advisor (PA) Simil Johnson and Director of Tourism Jerry Spooner.

The DPM had the support from all commission members to regain the vice chairmanship to the East Asia Pacific Commission for UNWTO, for another term of three (3) years.

In addressing the policy and governance frameworks necessary to support sustainable development through tourism, the Deputy Prime Minister provided an update highlighting that Vanuatu now for the first time has a tourism policy. “The development of the Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Policy is guided by the National Sustainable Development Plan and the Global Sustainable Tourism Councils Criteria for Sustainable Destinations”, he said.

He also highlighted the importance of the Implementation Plan of the policy. “Key actions are for the Vanuatu Government to work with academic institutions to conduct environmental and social baseline analysis of key tourism destinations in Vanuatu and determine sustainable carrying capacity for tourist arrival numbers to ensure impact on Vanuatu’s environment, culture and people is minimised”, the Deputy Prime Minister stated.

“We want to showcase our pathway to sustainable tourism by hosting the Sustainable Islands Tourism Conference in November so I encourage you all to come”.

The high-level dialogue called for consultation with local communities when planning policies to support sustainable development in tourism. The highlighted approach in the dialogue is, he said, “It is very vital that the well-being of our communities is at the forefront of our Government decision making, and that all decisions are evidence based from conducting rigorous scientific evaluations”

DG Joy continuously emphasised in the high-level dialogue “the need to see more representation, involvement and access to benefits from UNWTO resources from the Pacific island member countries”, to which the UNWTO Secretary General replied with assurance that he will reveal later his plans on how he will ensure there is fair representation, participation and access to benefits by the Pacific Member Countries.

The First Political Adviser and Director of Tourism also attended another joint meeting of the UNWTO Commission for East Asia and the Pacific. The discussion also emphasised the importance of integrating global best practice models for destination planning and management.

Recommendations were put forward for Vanuatu to consider when managing the implementation of the Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Policy. The First Political Adviser further emphasised the importance for the segregation of data information for reasons that tourism development has grown rapidly therefore support through capacity building is needed along with better cooperation between the pacific island countries.

In the discussions, the UNWTO Secretary emphasised also the importance for governments to put more effort into rural local community tourism involvement in the development of the tourism sector and that tourism should benefit both tourism business owners and people in the community, but not just business owners if we want to work towards sustainability.

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