March 26 morning, By Len Garae - Daily Post: Stakeholders have challenged South Pacific Tourism Organization’s draft document called “Pacific Regional Tourism Strategy 2015 – 2019” which places Vanuatu with Fiji in the category of “Advanced Group” of countries that receive 100, 000 arrivals and above saying, it is not fair for Vanuatu to compare with Fiji as Fiji receives about 700, 000 arrivals in one year compared to Vanuatu’s 300, 000 (from both sea and air). Furthermore they argue that Fiji is the Region’s “hub” while Vanuatu is a small new, emerging market. While indicators show that the trend is promising, it is still a long way away from Fiji.
Consultant of Trip Consultants, Ross Hopkins who has been hired by the South Pacific Tourism Council Organisation to produce the Draft Document, has welcomed all constructive comments and concerns saying that is the reason he has to go through it with each member country’s stakeholders to get feedback on it in order to produce the final Regional Policy Document.
Brief exchanges between members on how to improve on the statistics by knowing exactly how many visitors visit the country per year seem to agree on the need for an act to be passed by parliament to mandate all stakeholders to collect the necessary data from the tourists when they disembark at the wharf or airport.
Acting Director of Ports and Harbour Henry Worek says the best way to have correct data on the number of visitors that visit the country is to make it mandatory to pay the Environment’s Foot Print Levy of $10 or Vt1, 000 per visitor that arrives in the country.
Director for Environment Protection and Conservation Albert William says, “We are preparing a draft to be tabled in parliament and meanwhile, we can confirmed that our latest statistics confirm a figure of 300,000 visitors to the country in one year”.
Consultant Hopkins says tourism has the potential to play a substantially greater role in the regional economy. A number of underlying strategic issues have been identified which need to be addressed as key components of the Pacific Regional Tourism Strategies:
• Supporting Sustainable tourism Development
• Targeting poverty alleviation and positive gender impacts
• Increasing yield and economic impact
• Strengthening public/private sector partnership
• Utilising technological innovation
• Developing and enhancing quality products
• Improving access and transport
• Developing capacity and the Pacific people
The Vision for the tourism sector in the Pacific Region, endorsed by the SPTO Board and Council of Pacific Tourism Ministers (Apia 2013), is that “Tourism will inspire sustainable economic growth and empower the Pacific people”.
Hopkins agrees that the traditional hurdles of not having seaport facilities in the islands, lack of trained manpower and lack of hotel rooms in the islands mean it is still a long way before visitors can have the opportunity to visit the islands to experience real life on the ground.
The document is going to be finalised later this year.