Pacific leaders’ role critical for a more resilient tourism sector

Photo: SPTO

Pacific tourism leaders have a critical role to play for a more resilient future Pacific tourism sector.

Tourism in the Pacific is about relationship building, economic development, growth, and connectivity. 

These were the sentiments shared by Geradine Clifford Lidstone, Secretary for Pacific Peoples and Chief Executive of the Ministry of Pacific Peoples, while opening the 2023 South Pacific Tourism Expo at the Royal New Zealand Airforce Museum in Christchurch last week.

The 7th SPTE has been organised by the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) and has attracted a total of 140 buyers and sellers from 20 countries, across 5 continents represented. SPTE 2023 is delivered under the theme of Digital Transformation to build a stronger future for Pacific Tourism.

Clifford Lidstone mentioned that SPTE offered significant convenience for owners and businesses of key Pacific Island destinations to come together on a cost-effective platform, and for SPTO’s Pacific Island partners to travel from all corners of the Pacific Ocean to Aotearoa New Zealand.  Adding that the SPTE provided a great opportunity to showcase the Pacific’s exciting products and experiences, with international buyers from all across the globe.

“I value the presence and participation of our development partners in the Pacific here at SPTE.  Your continued support of the Pacific will always be treasured. I am immensely proud to be welcoming so many from the Pacific family to participate in this event. It is critical for our Pacific business and tourism community to connect with each other, and the wider international tourism family at events like this. I acknowledge the support of New Zealand Māori Tourism, Fiji Airways, and other key sponsors for ensuring we have a successful SPTE 2023,” mentioned Clifford Lidstone.

In acknowledging Clifford Lidstones sentiments, SPTO Chairman Petero Manufolau mentioned that over the next few days SPTE showcases and celebrates the Pacific’s uniqueness to reach out to the buyers and make connections. 

Manufolau emphasised that Digital transformation opened doors for significant growth and allowed the Pacific to increase its customer experience and branch out into industries that were never before possible. 

“Digital transformation in tourism allows daily tasks of organising travel – from choosing a destination and planning an itinerary to booking flights and other modes of transportation efficiently without any constraints with just a click of a button,” Manufolau said.

Meanwhile, the tourism landscape has changed dramatically over the last three or so years, as the tourism industry comes back from the disruptions caused by the pandemic

These were the sentiments of Dale Stephens, Chair of New Zealand Māori Tourism as he officiated at the Pōwhiri (formal Māori welcome and greeting for manuhiri (visitors) into a new space at the South Pacific Tourism Expo (SPTE). 

Stephens highlighted that SPTE 2023 provided a significant opportunity to ‘build back better’ – it was great to welcome back the return of international wholesalers and buyers, travel agencies, national tourism organisations, destination and product market representatives, inbound tour operators, and many others.

“Reflecting on the consequences of COVID for the tourism sector, many operators across the Pacific have to modify their offerings and experiences. I acknowledge that your return to normality and growth is not compromising the quality of Pacific tourism experiences.I know that the reality is that the effects of COVID will linger for some time. I applaud the focus that SPTO has on sustainable tourism planning and development and marketing the unique Pacific regional to achieve sustainable tourism growth. I wholeheartedly endorse the theme of SPTE 2023, for “Digital Transformation to Build a Stronger Future for Pacific Tourism”.

The tourism sector is seen as leading edge in its use of digital technology,” Stephen said.

“NZMT is increasingly putting more effort on trade and tourism in the Pacific – we are unapologetic about that – our shared whakapapa connections and close regional proximity provide the significant and unrealised potential for both Māori and Pacific tourism operators.”

In acknowledging the importance of promoting Pacific cultures to the world and Digital transformation to build a stronger future for Pacific Tourism, SPTO Chairman Petero Manufolau highlighted that for the Pacific, Culture was a living phenomenon and one of the Pacific’s greatest assets, as it provided meaning and identity.  “Culture is our way of life that our people are blessed with and it is defined by our language, our religion, our food, our social habits, our music, and our arts. An excellent example is the Powhiri (formal Māori welcoming ceremony), we have just witnessed. We share a lot of similarities in such ceremonies, though they would have different names there’s a common message. This is also displayed in our languages, culture, and beliefs, embodied in our stories, our practices, our expressions, and our knowledge,” Manufolau mentioned.