Tourism seals new environment partnership

In light of current high demands for green tourism, The South Pacific Tourism Organisation today signed a Memorandum of Understanding with IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, officially forging a five year partnership to pursue greener tourism developments within the region.

Signing the MOU - Regional Director for IUCN Oceania, Taholo Kami and Chief Executive Officer for South Pacific Tourism Organisation, Ilisoni Vuidreketi. Photo: IUCNSalote Sauturaga

SPTO Chief Executive Officer Ilisoni Vuidreketi said this new partnership would enable both partners to share resources as well as expertise towards addressing the issue of sustainable management of tourism developments with the focus of adding value and benefits to the tourism private sector.

Tourism depends on healthy natural environment and this partnership will allow us to ensure that we take the right steps towards protecting and preserving our island environments, which provide the resource base for our tourism attractions and products

Tourism in the Pacific has grown steadily over the last two decades totaling 1.3 million visitors in 2009 and with it the increase in the demand for general infrastructure such as roads, airports, tourism facilities including resorts, hotels, restaurants and golf courses. The impacts of such tourism developments can gradually degrade the environment on which it depends.

Regional Director for IUCN Oceania Regional Office, Taholo Kami highlighted some key areas that existing conservation agencies are working on that could help the tourism industry to continue with their mandate and at the same time preserve the environment. These include locally managed marine areas, water resource management, and renewable energy.

Environment organizations are doing great work with communities that could be beneficial to the tourism operators. Working with landowning communities to manage their catchment areas means less pollution in river systems and eventually the reefs – something tourist resorts can appreciate. We look forward to strong partnerships between the environment organisations and private sector tourism operators and this is another step forward. ”

One successful model on tourism contributing to conservation currently being undertaken in Fiji is the ventures by RiversFiji. This company has taken white water rafting to greater heights in the country - working with local communities, land owners, local businesses, government agencies and conservation partners – effectively demonstrating that conservation is a win-win situation.

We work hard to educate tourists about local environmental assets and threats, cultural traditions and modern impacts, heritage sites, and local preservation issues,” said Dr. Kelly Bricker, Director of RiversFiji. “Through our work we have broadened Fiji's overall perspective of the economic value of conservation as it relates to its people and have provided a new dimension in the rural highlands for Fiji tourism.”

Activities that IUCN and SPTO will now pursue include the prospect of funding from development banks for low interest renewable energy loans.

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