The Pacific is paving the way for the development of the regions first UNESCO Global Geoparks under the new Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO).
The new agreement will provide the opportunity to assign designated sites that focus on unique natural environments and cultural heritage, as well as boost partnership supporting the development of sustainable & diverse tourism opportunities across the Pacific.
Currently there are 169 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 44 countries globally, but none in the Pacific region. These Geoparks provide a strategic pathway to diversify the traditional “sun, sand, & sea” perception of the Pacific tourism sector, by developing new offerings which celebrate the unique natural and cultural heritage of the region. This initiative is particularly timely and important given the current context of COVID-19 recovery.
The agreement will also support areas of sustainable tourism and its linkages to climate change, resilience, support for micro-accreditations for tourism employees and the development of cultural and creative industries across the Pacific.
The MoU was signed by SPC’s Deputy Director General, Dr Paula Vivili and SPTO’s Chief Executive Officer, Christopher Cocker.
SPC’s Dr Vivili said “this is a strategic opportunity for the Pacific with the potential to enable sustainable diversification of the tourism sector by supporting operators to embed the rich natural beauty and cultural heritage of our region into genuine sustainable tourism practices. SPC’s role is to really support the scientific and technical understanding and to work alongside Pacific countries and communities to ensure we have the best science to support decision making, which is more important now as our economies recover from the devastating impacts COVID19 border closures have had on our tourism sector.”
Cocker welcomed the partnership and also recognised the impact COVID19 has had on the sector “the pandemic has given the tourism sector the opportunity to shift the way we plan and manage tourism. Despite the uncertainties ahead, it is important that our islands continuously aspire to innovate and Geoparks for the Pacific is an untapped prospect for the region as we prepare for restarting tourism.”
The MOU was signed remotely on 8th December 2021 and is effective immediately.
For more information on UNESCO Global Geoparks and to understand the benefit these may provide in the Pacific please check out more information here:
This work is being led by the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO). Information on the feasibility of a Geopark in Tuvalu can be found here: https://purl.org/spc/digilib/doc/ubduz