SPTO and SPREP MOU signing
Waste Management and Pollution Control

11 November 2023, Rarotonga, Cook Islands - The pursuit of sustainable tourism development in the Pacific region, where people and the environment take center stage, has received a tremendous boost with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) and the Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO).

The signing of the MOU between SPREP’s Director General, Mr Sefanaia Nawadra and the Chairman of the Pacific Tourism Organization and Chief Executive Officer of the Tourism Authority of Kiribati, Mr Petero Manufolau, took place at the Atiu Hostel, a stone’s throw away from the Rarotonga National Auditorium where Pacific Leaders gathered for the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting last week in the Cook Islands.

“SPREP is very pleased to ink this MOU today with SPTO. As an organisation, we are here to promote co-operation in the Pacific region and to provide assistance in order to protect and improve its environment and to ensure sustainable development for present and future generations,” SPREP’s Director General, Mr Nawadra said. 

“The MOU continues the work we have already started. For instance, SPREP has helped SPTO set up their sustainable tourism programme with resources mobilasation. On the technical side, we have assisted them with guidelines for tourism development as well as on waste management. We look forward to building on this work for a more resilient Pacific.”

The MOU signed in the Cook Islands followed the announcement of a partnership between SPREP and SPTO last month to develop a single-use plastic standards and certification programme. 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.  

Speaking about the significance of the MOU, Mr Manufolau said SPTO and SPREP share a common vision for the Pacific, safeguarding the future for generations to come through environmentally responsible tourism, one that is done in harmony with our cultures. 

“Our commitment to these Pacific values drives us to strengthen strategic partnerships and foster inter-sectoral collaboration, as we understand that the health of our environment is intrinsically linked to the success of our tourism sector,” said Mr Manufolau, adding that the renewal of the MOU represents a significant step forward for the Pacific region. 

“It reinforces our commitment to ensure that our partnerships are aligned with our shared goal of improving the environmental stewardship capacity of the tourism sector, so that by 2030, our Pacific Islands will be empowered by and benefitting from tourism that is resilient, prosperous and inclusive.  It improves the well-being of our communities, protects, restores and promotes our cultures, islands and ocean ecosystems.”

The Pacific is renowned for its breathtaking natural beauty, and the region's cultural richness makes it a sought-after destination. However, tourism's dependence on the environment means that without the environment, there is no tourism. Hence, it is our collective duty to protect our precious land and ocean resources for the well-being of our future generations.

“This MOU comes at a critical time, as Pacific leaders in the environmental and tourism sectors have just concluded their main meetings this year for SPREP in Samoa, and SPTO recently in Tahiti. Their calls for stronger inter-sectoral collaboration resonate with us today, and we take it as a mandate to work hand in hand to fulfill our shared vision that will also put us on the pathway to achieve our aspirations in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent,” said Mr Manufolau.

“Let us recognise the responsibility we bear as stewards of this incredible region, the most beautiful part of the planet, and the potential we hold in ensuring its future remains vibrant and sustainable. Together, through the unwavering commitment embodied in this MOU, we can make a positive difference for our Pacific home.”

The Pacific Tourism Organization is a regional intergovernmental organisation comprising 20 Pacific Islands Government members and also private sector members whose purpose is to market and develop Pacific Islands tourism in a sustainable manner.

SPREP is a regional, intergovernmental organization comprising 26 members consisting of 21 Pacific Island Countries and Territories and five developed countries with direct interests in the Pacific region.