Tourism chief joins regional discussions

Samoa Tourism Authority Chief Executive Officer, Fa’amatuainu Lenata’i Suifua, was recently part of regional discussions on how environmental planning can be factored into tourism development.

The discussions were part of a webinar hosted recently by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme [S.P.R.E.P.], through its environmental monitoring and governance programme.

According to a statement released by the Apia-based regional organisation, discussions during the webinar revolved around the topic “environmental consideration in sustainable tourism in the Pacific region” where a representative of the Pacific Tourism Organisation [S.P.T.O.] as well as tourism sector representatives in the region shared their thoughts and expertise on why it was important for tourism to be environmentally friendly and sustainable.

Dr Gregory Barbara, who is the S.P.R.E.P. Environmental Assessment and Planning Officer, did a presentation on how environmental considerations can be integrated into sustainable tourism planning, through the use of environmental planning tools such as the regional environmental impact assessment [E.I.A.] guidelines for coastal tourism.

Speaking on behalf of Samoa’s S.T.A., Fa’amatuainu spoke on the importance that the Government of Samoa places upon sustainable tourism.

“The Government has prioritised and emphasised sustainable tourism development for Samoa and this is evident with sustainable tourism outlined in the Samoa National Development Strategy, and also in the Tourism Sector Plans with is vision of Samoa becoming the leading Pacific destination for sustainable tourism,” he said.

He also used the opportunity to explain the role of the S.T.A. in promoting environmental planning on tourism development, in that it encourages and promotes sustainable tourism development through close collaboration with other Government agencies who conduct screening and scoping of tourism developments before advising S.T.A. of any concerns. 

S.T.A. also has a Planning and Development Division, which is responsible for leading and enforcing the minimum standards for the Samoa accommodation providers. These standards are used as an evaluation and planning document by S.T.A., and is enforced through an annual inspection programme. 

Christina Leala-Gale, the S.P.T.O. Sustainable Tourism Planning Manager, highlighted some of the initiatives which currently exist in the region, which include the regional E.I.A. guidelines for coastal tourism, marine tourism guidelines, and a monitoring programme for the accommodation sector which measures the impact of tourism on the environment. 

In looking at tourism post-pandemic, Ms Leala-Gale acknowledged that the Pacific region will have to look towards a new normal after COVID-19, and that the goal is for Pacific tourism to emerge from the pandemic stronger, more sustainable, and resilient. 

“We have to be keeping in mind that we cannot isolate the environment from the economic recovery process, so we do look forward to a post-COVID-19 tourism sector that really looks at the health of people and the environment while growing sustainably in terms of economic returns for the region.”

Colin Philp, Manager of Leleuvia Island Resort and also the Co-Chair of the Duavata Sustainable Tourism Collective in Fiji, said enforcement will always be an issue for tourism in developing economies.

“As an industry, we must contribute positively to enhancing, restoring, maintaining, and most of all monitoring our day-to-day operations. Enforcement has always been and always will be an issue in our developing economies, so as an industry it is important that operators recognise the need to maintain a strong moral and ethical connection to the environment.”

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