Following two years of border closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kiribati was one of five Pacific island nations that reopened to international travel and tourism on August 1st. The border reopening is expected to revive the nation’s tourism sector, which like the rest of the Pacific was hard hit by the pandemic.
Tourism Authority of Kiribati (TAK) CEO Petero Manufolau shared that the silver lining of the pandemic was that it allowed the island nation to re-evaluate its purpose as a tourism destination and realign its priorities, especially in relation to resilience and sustainability.
Mr Manufolau acknowledged that COVID-19 and other pandemic threats have become the new normal and noted that TAK is committed to guiding its stakeholders as they adjust to new trends in travel and tourism.
“We developed the Kiribati’s first Sustainable Tourism Development Policy Framework. This will inform the development of the Kiribati Sustainable Tourism Policy, Tourism Investment Guide and a 10-year Kiribati Tourism Masterplan. TAK is responsible for ensuring that travellers are educated on Kiribati’s new normal priorities as well. The reopening is, therefore more than just a reset, it is a restart for us- a safe, smart, and sustainable restart,” Mr Manufolau said.
In preparation for the reopening of its borders, the Government of Kiribati invested in a medical testing lab and promoted double vaccination and booster shots for all eligible citizens. It also conducted extensive public awareness campaigns on safety protocols against COVID-19 while tourism operators received customized COVID-19 safety training.
In welcoming the announcements of the reopening of Pacific borders, Pacific Tourism Organisation CEO Christopher Cocker congratulated the island nations for their commitment to tourism in the Pacific.
He added that the pandemic had allowed many island nations to rethink, re-strategize and restart their respective tourism industries through improved governance, infrastructure, and communications to name a few.
“These are exciting times. More Pacific island nations are opening up to the world for tourism and travel. This is an incredible opportunity to pave a new way forward for tourism in the Pacific and we must embrace it”, Mr Cocker said.