A group of research students and lecturers from the Australian National University paid a courtesy visit to the Pacific Tourism Organisation’s office while in Suva.
ANU Senior lecturer Sara Beavis highlighted that the visitation to SPTO was one of the last stops for the team as they completed their research and assignments, focusing on Island sustainably post Covid19 in Fiji and the region.
Ms Beavis mentioned that when designing the current programme for their students, they had to ensure that tourism was included in the coverage, as the tourism industry was a sector, if not the only sector that was vulnerable to the effects of Covid19.
“Our last visit was back in 2018, and this is our first visit after Covid19. The tour has been fascinating to see the impacts that Covid19 has had on tourism. We were also interested to hear from the presentations by the SPTO Sustainable Tourism team that the pandemic did provide a pause and an opportunity to redevelop and redefine your strategies and on-ground actions and policies. A very powerful messaging SPTO had provided that’s given us a lot of thought to reflect on.”
ANU Student Aoife Conan echoed similar sentiments to Ms Beavis, adding that the two-week field study in the country gave them an insight into various aspects of the tourism industry in Fiji.
“This is my first visit to Fiji and to the Pacific region. Visiting communities around Fiji, we got to experience firsthand the impacts the pandemic had on the country. We started our journey on 4th September and finished off on the 18th, and it’s been a two-week intensive programme. The pandemic had an enormous impact around the globe, and different communities experienced the pandemic in varying degrees. That was a difficult time for the communities, and an important value was taking and reflecting on how to move forward,” Ms Conan said.
In acknowledging the visiting group, SPTO CEO Chris Cocker mentioned that over the past two years SPTO revised its SPTO Strategic Plan 2020 -2024 and also developed 3 key strategies Pacific Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework, Pacific Tourism Statistics Strategy, and SPTO Digital Strategy Framework.
Mr Cocker added that SPTO also conducted a NTO Needs Assessment, Capacity and skills development through virtual training, webinars, and dialogues, and the development of SPTO SME Recovery Toolkit and Training of Trainers to support SPTO members. SPTO also supported countries like Tuvalu and Tokelau in developing the countries’ national sustainable tourism policies.
“With the pandemic, the industry was at a crossroads and we needed a paradigm shift – to return to pacific values because sustainability is at the heart of our belief system. One advantage of COVID is that it has given SPTO and its members’ time to reset, rethink and rebuild Pacific tourism for the benefit of our people”, he said.