WHILE the extent of how tourism development has affected our environment is unknown, at least two organisations have taken the step to ensure developments in the sector are sustainable.
A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the International Union for Conservation (IUCN) and the South Pacific Tourism Organisation.
SPTO chief executive officer Ilisoni Vuidreketi said the new partnership would enable both parties 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," he said.
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.
IUCN Oceania regional director Taholo Kami highlighted some key areas that existing conservation agencies were 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 organisations are doing great work with communities that could be beneficial to the tourism operators," Mr Kami said.
"Working with landowning communities to manage their catchment areas means less pollution in river systems and eventually the reefs ù something tourist resorts can appreciate.
"We look forward to strong partnerships between the environment organisations and private sector tourism operators."