Sustainable Tourism Development Initiatives in the Pacific Region


In an effort to promote sustainable tourism development and encourage sustainable tourism practices in the Pacific, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) has implemented a series of initiatives to benefit its 17 Pacific Island government members, all of which are Small Island Development States (SIDS).

Solar Panel Roofing - Radisson Blu Resort Fiji Denarau Island Credit: SPTO

For the Pacific islands, the natural and idyllic environment is a tourism product in itself and one of the biggest attractions for tourists to Pacific shores. “Sustainable tourism” in the Pacific context therefore means a variety of things, including: 1) the protection of natural environment to continue being an attraction to visitors, thus ensuring the sustainability of destinations as tourism products; 2) sustainable practices that would ensure that key players in the region, including hoteliers and other members of the private sector, are at the forefront of protecting assets as islands prone to natural disasters and hazards; 3) protection and conservation of Pacific culture and heritage as a niche tourism product that contributes to its preservation; 4) maintaining and sustaining both land and marine assets; and 5) benefits to local communities through economic development, employment creation, infrastructure development, to name a few.

For SPTO Chief Executive Officer, Christopher Cocker, ensuring the sustainability of tourism destinations and products in the Pacific is of utmost priority to the organization, particularly given the importance of the region’s environment, culture, and people as key assets of the tourism industry. “The protection of our local environment, both land and sea, has been a priority for many generations, and the Pacific is better placed now than in the past, in terms of its knowledge, awareness and acceptance of sustainable tourism.”

“Pacific Island SIDSs have progressed significantly, some more than others, in embracing sustainable tourism largely because we are susceptible to impacts of climate change and natural disasters, which have proven to be drastically damaging to Pacific Island economies given their dependency on the tourism industry”.

Recognising the importance of sustainable tourism, SPTO, in 2015, begun the groundwork to expand its role to not only carry out regional tourism marketing programs but to also focus on sustainable tourism development, aligning with priorities in the S.A.M.O.A Pathway and the global 10-Year Framework Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production (10YFP) of the United Nations (UN). In particular, as part of its strategic transition to undertake sustainable tourism initiatives, SPTO joined the Multi-stakeholder Advisory Committee (MAC) of the 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme, which is led by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) with the governments of France, Morocco and Republic of Korea as Co-leads, in collaboration with the 10YFP Secretariat at UN Environment. The MAC involves 22 governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, private sector businesses, intergovernmental organizations as well as academia and UN agencies and guides the activities of a network of over 100 organizations

SPTO’s membership at the MAC of the 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme provides invaluable support to the organization through the provision of much-needed access to a global network of organisations and individuals collaboratively implementing sustainable tourism projects; sharing of members’ experiences; advice and technical support on project design and implementation; and the opportunity to be able to apply for various funds that are made known to MAC members.

Closer to home, SPTO continues to prioritise sustainable tourism development, advocating its importance to its Board of Directors and Council of Ministers of Tourism. With their support of sustainable tourism and the implementation of related development activities, the organization established a Sustainable Tourism Development Division in 2015. The division’s overall objective is to facilitate prioritized and demand-driven sustainable tourism product development initiatives to assist the sustainability and competitiveness of the Pacific’s tourism industry. Since the Division’s inception, SPTO has been working closely with National Tourism Offices (NTOs) of its 17 government members to prioritise sustainable tourism initiatives for implementation.

SPTO CEO, Mr. Cocker commended the work of national governments in the Pacific in their own efforts to progress the sustainable tourism agenda. “Pacific governments have mainstreamed sustainable tourism policies in their national planning strategies and donors/development partners have also assisted the implementation of sustainable tourism development projects and programmes in Pacific Island Countries as a means to make them more informed of the importance of sustainable tourism. Similarly, key agencies in both public and private sectors have embraced sustainable tourism and have adopted effective sustainable tourism practices and initiatives.”

The organization is also working closely with Sustainable Travel International (STI), a US based non-profit organization that leverages the power of tourism to protect the world’s natural and cultural riches and create economic opportunity. In 2014, SPTO and STI with the support of the Samoa Tourism Authority, launched the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Alliance (PSTA) at the UNSIDS +20 meeting in Samoa. As part of a number of PSTA activities STI and SPTO are working on a 10YFP project that will identify a set of indicators and collect data on sustainable consumption and production in Pacific’s tourism enterprises. The pilot countries are Fiji and Samoa where activities will lead to the development of a practical and accessible sustainability management toolkit that will build the awareness and participation of tourism enterprises in the two destinations. Another project of the PSTA implemented by STI and the Samoa Tourism Authority is the development of the Samoa Fund, a travellers’ philanthropy fund that will be launched as part of the celebrations of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017. Food tourism, eco-tourism, climate change and disaster risk management, and a quality standards program are also high on the agenda for SPTO in 2017, all of which support the Pacific’s contribution to the International Year of Sustainable Tourism.

For more information on SPTO, the 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme and the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, please visit:

Pacific Chefs with Celebrity Chef Colin Chung at the Suva Market, in Fiji, looking at locally grown fresh produce Credit: SPTO

Tuvalu Credit: SPTO

Copyright 2016 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs