Submitted by leannem on Mon, 07/13/2020 - 11:23
Momi Bay Resort
July 13, 2020 by leannem
Environmental Monitoring and Governance

3 March 2020, Apia, Samoa – The importance of integrating environmental considerations in sustainable tourism planning was emphasised during a webinar hosted by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), through its Environmental Monitoring and Governance programme. 

Titled “Environmental Consideration in Sustainable Tourism in the Pacific Region”, the webinar invited a representative of the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) as well as representatives of the tourism sector in the Pacific to share their thoughts and expertise on why it is important to ensure that tourism operates in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. 

Dr Gregory Barbara, SPREP’s Environmental Assessment and Planning Officer, presented on how environmental considerations can be integrated into sustainable tourism planning through the use of environment planning tools such as the Regional Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Guidelines for Coastal Tourism. 

The Guidelines, developed by SPREP in partnership with SPTO, helps guide tourism developers towards better environmental planning, and also supports tourism activities operating in an environmentally friendly manner. It also assists in raising awareness and understanding of the EIA process in the Pacific region’s tourism sector; promotes EIA best practice on coastal tourism development; encourage government agencies, resource owners and tourism developers to comply with national EIA regulatory frameworks; and supports sustainable and resilient coastal tourism development that protects the environmental, social and cultural assets that are the foundation for tourism. 

“Tourists are often looking for cultural and environmentally friendly options for their holidays. Appropriate use of low impact attractions can be a drawcard for these types of holidays,” Mr Barbara said. 

“The EIA process can help to identify environmentally sustainable options for tourism developments,” he added. 
He also touched on the importance of protecting areas such as coral reefs, which provide coastal protection, improve water quality, and attract both marine life and tourists. 

“Tourism developments and ventures need to protect these areas and not cause unintended impacts through increased demand for fresh fish in restaurants, souvenir trade, waste or poorly guided tours directly damaging corals,” said Mr Barbara. 

Ms Christina Leala-Gale, SPTO’s Sustainable Tourism Planning Manager highlighted some of the initiatives which currently exist in the region, which include the Regional EIA 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.”

Representatives from the tourism sector, Mr Colin Philp, Manager of Leleuvia Island Resort and also the Co-Chair of the Duavata Sustainable Tourism Collective in Fiji, and Fa’amatuainu Lenata’i Suifua, Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Tourism Authority, also provided their expertise and insights on the usefulness of environment planning and tourism development, and the role of the national tourism office in promoting environmental planning on tourism development. 

Mr Philp said, “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.”

Fa’amatuainu spoke on the importance that the Government of Samoa places upon sustainable tourism, saying, “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 explained the role of the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) 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 STA of any concerns. 

STA 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 STA, and is enforced through an annual inspection programme. 

In closing, Director General Latu posed some important questions which need to be addressed moving forward. 

“One of the things that I keep hearing about and I would like to see addressed in the context of COVID-19 is that for us as a collective – governments, NGOs, stakeholders and the public at large – to build back better in terms of post-COVID-19 recovery. I think from what we’ve heard is that we all agree that we need to build back better but the question now is, what does that look like?”

“Ms Leala-Gale also raised an interesting point which talks about a new vision for tourism in the Pacific. But how do we build that new vision for tourism in the context of placing sustainability at the heart of our recovery?” he concluded. 

The webinar was the fourth in the “Transitioning to a Post-Pandemic Pacific” series, which has taken place over the last four weeks. The full webinar can be accessed at this link

If you would like to know more about the Regional EIA Guidelines for Coastal Tourism, please contact Mr Jope Davetanivalu at [email protected], or Dr Gregory Barbara at [email protected]