The key findings from the preliminary feasibility assessment of Geopark potential for selected ecotourism tourism sites in Fiji, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu were presented via a webinar on 26 October 2021. Conducted by Savvy Vanuatu as part of the Pacific Ecotourism Recovery Initiative, the study highlighted the findings from the completed stakeholder consultations and site assessments in Savaii Island in Samoa and Gaua Island in the TORBA Province of Vanuatu. Desktop research findings for Fiji in the potential areas of Viti Levu, Taveuni and Savusavu were also presented with a decision on a chosen site pending. The presentation noted several potential sites in Funafuti Tuvalu where a community consultation and site assessment were conducted by the Department of Lands with the assistance of the Pacific Community (SPC). The overall findings pointed to the unquestionable Geopark potential and the enthusiasm of communities to participate. However, the assessment also noted the need for investment in infrastructure, site hardening, interpretation and access to some of the sites.
In his welcoming remarks, the SPTO Chief Executive Officer, Christopher Cocker noted the unique opportunity provided through the tri-partite partnership between SPTO, UNESCO and SPC to assess the viability of Geopark potential in the Pacific.
“This initiative has responded well to the call for product and experience diversification as a de-risking strategy for tourism businesses and we look forward in pursuing this further for our region”, he said.
Recognising the importance of partnerships to support tourism recovery, Mr. Rajendra Prasad of the UNESCO Pacific Office highlighted the long term goal of UNESCO to explore tangible opportunities for promoting sustainable community livelihoods through tourism.
“UNESCO is pleased to be a partner for this preliminary feasibility assessment and we look forward to engaging on a grander scale through close partnership with SPTO and SPC to support our Pacific Island Countries” said Mr. Prasad.
Mr. Gary Lee of SPC presented the background on the partnership acknowledging the opportunity presented by the COVID-19 pandemic where regional organisations such as SPC and SPTO came together to find innovative ideas to support tourism recovery in the region. This phase focused only on supply side feasibility assessment and the partners will continue to pursue funding opportunities to carry out a comprehensive assessment to include a full market analysis. Funding support from UNESCO and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade contributed to the completion of this assessment.
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Image Caption: Gaua (left) and Savai’i (right) community consultations