On October 17th, the Funafuti Atoll in Tuvalu, the Matavanu volcanic eruption site in Samoa, and the active Yasur Volcano in Vanuatu, now part of the First 100 IUGS Geological Heritage Sites by the International Union of Geological Sciences, were rewarded for commitment to the cause of sustainable tourism and geological heritage preservation in the Pacific.
In a side event from the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Leadership Summit, organised by the UNESCO Pacific Office, The Pacific Community (SPC), and the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), the commemorative plaques were handed over to Samoa, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. These plaques mark the recognition of three iconic sites at the Hilton Hotel in French Polynesia.
UNESCO Pacific Office representative Kristine Tovmasyan emphasised the importance of the promotion of geological heritage based on the model of UNESCO Global Geoparks and reaffirmed UNESCO’s unwavering support for the Pacific over the next two years.
The event also highlighted key issues such as the need to increase awareness among (National Tourism Organisations) NTOs and partners about Geoparks and their potential to foster sustainable tourism development, including economic well-being, community empowerment, the preservation of natural ecosystems, and the promotion of cultural diversities.
NTO representatives, SPTO partners, and industry stakeholders were present at the event.
A panel discussion featuring Samoa Tourism Authority representative Robert Ah Sam, Department of Tourism Vanuatu representative Paul Pio, and Paul Davis from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade shared their valuable experiences and insights on exploring geoparks.
SPC Gary Lee presented insights on the immense potential of Geoparks in the Pacific and discussed the remarkable work done to date.
“Tourists often perceive the Pacific as a relatively homogenous destination consisting of ‘sun, sand and sea’. In reality, the region boasts an abundance of spectacular and unique landscapes, with immense cultural heritage”, said Mr Lee.
As the President of French Polynesia, His Excellency Moetai Brotherson, so aptly articulated, “In the Pacific, we live in the most beautiful part of the world.”
“Geoparks are a platform for the Pacific to showcase this beauty to the rest of the world”, Mr Lee added.
These sentiments were reflected in the Outcomes of the 2023 Pacific Sustainable Tourism Leadership Summit, with countries acknowledging that “developing geoparks is a crucial approach to sustainable tourism management”, and importantly, “countries call on development partners and donors to support their efforts towards developing geoparks”.