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Sustainable development

Geraldine Panapasa
Sunday, October 29, 2017

THE Pacific region is known for its unique culture and tradition. Add the breathtaking natural environment and genuine hospitality and the islands become a one-of-a-kind getaway for tourists from the world over.

And while Fiji and the rest of the Pacific have enjoyed their fair share of benefits from the tourism industry, a more pressing challenge remains - enforcing sustainable tourism development.

Our article on Page 4 highlights the importance of cultural and heritage tourism all the while creating awareness about sustainable tourism development.

In a bid to ensure the tourism industry progresses in a sustainable manner, stakeholders and the community joined hands yesterday for a tree planting activity in Suva — one of many initiatives relating to sustainable tourism and endorsed by Cabinet.

About 30 native plants were planted at the Fiji Museum premises and added to the beautification of Thurston Gardens. Suva, being the Capital City, receives thousands of tourists and visitors on a daily basis and initiatives such as the tree planting exercise drives home a very important message about not only protecting and sustaining our environment but also creating a sustainable future for our young in the midst of the looming climate change crisis.

Baby steps to combat climate change can help in the global fight to reduce carbon emissions to well below 2C. We are told the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism has completed eight activities that focus on sustainable tourism development - coral planting, mangrove planting, education and awareness on sustainable tourism, world tourism fair, planting of 200 trees and rehabilitation of the sand dunes forest.

This is just the beginning of a concerted effort to save the world we live in by taking action to reduce global carbon emissions as well as save planet earth from the growing threats of climate change.

The tourism sector has been a major driving force in the local economy and its earnings for the first quarter of this year was more than $377 million, a 10.7 per cent increase compared with the same period last year. In the first eight months of this year, a record 545,110 visitor arrivals had visited our shores compared with 511,760 for the same period last year.

The benefits of tourism can be seen all around. It has provided employment for many people, raised the standard of living and added to the country's growing gross domestic product. But the more developments take place in this sector the more important it becomes for stakeholders and the community to practise sustainable tourism development.

Early this month, the World Bank released its October 2017 economic review of East Asia and Pacific and noted that Pacific Island countries had the potential to yield substantial benefits to the region if tourism was well managed.

For the line ministry, culture and heritage tourism can be a key contributor to attracting tourists to Fiji. But more efforts are needed to ensure there is sustainable growth in the industry as well as maintaining or preserving our unique culture and heritage as development progresses.

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