Tourism is a cornerstone of the Pacific region’s economy, contributing significantly to national development. However, there is a glaring gap in the availability of skilled labour, particularly in higher positions within the tourism sector. This article aims to highlight the urgent need for academic development in tourism, focusing on vocational training and education, to meet the growing demands of this vital industry in the Pacific.
Several institutions in the Pacific region offer tourism-related courses, including the University of the South Pacific (TAFE), Fiji National University (TVET), and the Australian Pacific Training Coalition-APTC. Despite these efforts, there is a shortage of qualified personnel in managerial roles and other skilled positions such as chefs, cooks, and housekeepers. This has led to an increasing reliance on foreign workers, particularly in countries like the Cook Islands.
Every Pacific country should articulate a national vision for vocational training aimed at creating a skilled labour force that supports sustainable economic development. Fields like tourism and agriculture, which are the economic backbones of most Pacific Island countries, should be prioritized. National policies should facilitate easier access to training resources throughout the region and encourage various modes of delivery to ensure equitable access for all.
Investing in educational programs that support the tourism industry is crucial. These could range from cultural exchange programs to vocational training in tourism-related fields. For example, in Fiji, four government secondary schools are fully funded to deliver secondary school based TVET. Such initiatives can help meet the emerging investment needs of the tourism sector vis-à-vis education.
Tourism is not just about scenic beauty; it’s also about cultural exchange. Tourists often seek cultural experiences to understand themselves better and to appreciate the diversity of the world. Therefore, culture is an integral part of tourism, and educational programs should incorporate cultural studies to make tourism more enriching and meaningful.
Hotels and resorts should offer internships and attachments to young graduates. This not only provides practical experience but also helps in creating a skilled workforce that can meet the industry’s demands. Such initiatives are particularly important in countries like Samoa, where many young graduates are forced to migrate due to a lack of local job opportunities.
Local governments should invest more in green and eco-tourism businesses. This not only benefits the environment but also provides job opportunities to locals. Eco-tourism should be developed in a way that brings benefits to the local community and wider segments of society.
The Pacific region has a burgeoning tourism industry that requires a skilled workforce for sustainable growth. Academic development in tourism, particularly vocational training, is not just an option but a necessity. Both government and private sectors must collaborate to fill the skill gap and make the Pacific a global leader in sustainable tourism.
Tourism Development in the South Pacific: The Cases of Nauru and Tuvalu; Tourism Stories Pacific 2022-Resilience through Crisis; Tourism As A Driver of Growth in the Pacific; Skilling the Pacific – Technical And Vocational Education And Training in the Pacific; The Pacific Association of Technical and Vocational Education and Training;Technical and Vocational Training for Sustainable Development In the Secondary Curriculum; Ecotourism Development in the Pacific Island Countries;A review of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Policy and Planning Frameworks in the Pacific Islands.
Note: This article is based on research and aims to present a balanced view. It is advisable for readers to conduct their own research for a more comprehensive understanding of the subject.
Photo Credits: SPTO Image Gallery – Pacific Sustainable Tourism Leadership Summit Tahiti 2023