30 October 2023, Papeete, Tahiti – In a significant move towards a more sustainable and resilient future for Pacific tourism, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has announced a strategic partnership with the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) to develop a single-use plastic standards and certification programme. The collaboration was unveiled during the second Pacific Sustainable Tourism Leadership Summit (PSTLS), held from October 16 to 17 in Tahiti, French Polynesia.
The efforts are part of the Australian Government-funded Pacific Ocean Litter Project (POLP) which through SPREP will collaborate with the SPTO to support the research, design, development, implementation, and monitoring of a dedicated standards programme on single-use plastics and alternative products targeting tourism business operators. These include accommodation, food and beverage, tour operators, event management, cruise, and airline businesses.
At the summit in Tahiti, POLP held a side event which focussed on role of the tourism industry in helping address the issue of single-use plastic litter in the coastal marine environments of Pacific Island countries.
Stakeholders present including representatives from national tourism offices welcomed the collaboration between SPREP and SPTO with Vanuatu’s Tourism Office being one of the first to express interest.
“The Pacific is a vast ocean, but its challenges are shared, and so must be our solutions. We acknowledge this partnership is positive for our region and look forward to participating in the programme and working closely with all the stakeholders involved in this space,” said the Chief Executive Officer of Vanuatu’s Tourism Office, Ms Adela Issachar Aru.
The Chief Executive Officer for SPTO, Mr Christopher Cocker said collaborations like these allowed for the pooling of resources, harmonisation of common objectives and engagement with a wide array of stakeholders.
“The focus of this partnership is on sustainable tourism and addressing the issue of single-use plastics, which profoundly impacts the Pacific’s environment and economies,” Mr Cocker said. “This partnership is in alignment with the objectives of the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework and Standard and the fundamental objective of this partnership is a streamlined and coordinated Pacific approach, a fit-for-purpose programme that has been informed by the Pacific and what our aspirations and priorities are to help the sector address waste management and pollution control.”.
The work is set to commence in early 2024, with research, design, and development expected to be completed by August next year. The remainder of the year will be dedicated to programme implementation and ongoing stakeholder engagement.
The development of the programme will take into account international frameworks, with a focus on adapting them to the unique Pacific context, while also incorporating lessons learned from existing national programmes across the region. The workplan for 2025 and beyond will be collectively developed by SPREP and SPTO, with an emphasis on continued implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and data collection.
“While the Pacific remains a tourist paradise, the single-use plastics issue threatens the very essence of its charm. This partnership is yet another example of regional agencies coming together to address this problem to preserve the Pacific’s pristine environments. Tourists also have a role to play by making responsible choices and supporting businesses that prioritize sustainability,” said the Director of the Waste Management and Pollution Control Division at SPREP, Mr Anthony Talouli.
“Our hope is that, through this programme, education, and responsible tourism practices, the Pacific can continue to thrive as a destination that not only wows visitors with its beauty but also serves as a model for sustainable tourism practices.”
The theme of this year’s summit, “Co-Creating Resilient Destinations,” provided a unique platform for Pacific tourism stakeholders to engage in dialogue, connect, and exchange insights on the region’s journey towards sustainable and regenerative tourism. Organised by SPTO, the PSTLS brought together influencers and change-makers committed to setting Pacific tourism on a sustainable and resilient pathway for the benefit of Pacific communities.
Throughout the two-day summit, delegates engaged in knowledge-sharing talanoa sessions that revolved around key priorities, including partnering for green investment to boost community prosperity through tourism and climate financing for tourism resilience. Several side events were also conducted, addressing various aspects of sustainable tourism.
The Pacific Ocean Litter Project (POLP) is about reducing the volume of single-use plastics ending up as marine litter in Pacific coastal environments. The 7-year project (2019-2027) is funded with AUD 16 million from the Australian Government and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in collaboration with the governments and peoples of Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
POLP will support the phase-out of specific types of single-use plastics from land-based sources, including household litter and tourism waste. It will also support behaviour change in the users, consumers and producers of plastics and the introduction of alternative products.