Cocker: Tourism an important lifeline for island nations

Picture: SUPPLIED

The Pacific tourism industry is an important lifeline for many Pacific Island countries, according to the CEO of the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) Christopher Cocker.

In his message for World Tourism Day, he said the industry had generated a total of $US4 billion ($F8.56 billion) in tourism receipts in 2019, accounting for about 7.8 per cent of regional gross domestic product (GDP) from 2.9 million visitor arrivals (2.2 million air arrivals and 728,091 cruise arrivals).

He said on World Tourism Day, it was important to envision the role which the industry could play in helping the region to rebuild post-pandemic.

“The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has designated 2020 as the Year of Tourism and Rural Development, a most fitting theme to reflect on at this important juncture as tourism stakeholders the world over anticipate the reactivation of tourism,” said Mr Cocker.

“As a leading employer and key economic driver in our region, Pacific tourism undoubtedly has the potential to continue creating jobs and opportunities to advance inclusion and growth, alongside environmental and cultural preservation.

“Looking ahead, the long and uncertain road to recovery requires a commitment to co-ordination and co-operation at all levels, to ensure that the development and benefits of tourism are spread as widely as possible, so as to include all segments of society but most especially rural and vulnerable communities.”

He added SPTO remained committed to supporting the recovery efforts of its members and all tourism stakeholders as well as to transform the organisation into a global leader in sustainable tourism development.

This was said to benefit the Blue Pacific and make a difference in the lives of the Pacific people.

“Finally, COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of tourism as a key economic driver, both globally and in the Pacific.

“We are a resilient industry and we will come back with renewed strength, post COVID-19.

“The majority of our Pacific Islands are COVID free and are looking forward to welcoming visitors back when borders reopen.”

Mr Cocker said the key to survival during these uncertain times was to invest in human capital, innovate, diversify and collaborate to build sustainable futures.

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