Submitted by Sosikeni Lesa on Mon, 03/07/2022 - 17:30
Participants at the sustainable tourism development training at SPREP
March 7, 2022 by Sosikeni Lesa
Environmental Monitoring and Governance

06 March 2022 - Public servants in various Government ministries in Samoa have been equipped with new knowledge on sustainable development and planning, and a renewed appreciation of their roles in making this a priority in the development of the nation’s tourism industry.

It follows the “Sustainable Development and Planning” training which brought together representatives from the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA), Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) and the Ministry of Works Transport and Infrastructure (MWTI) last week. Organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Environment Programme (SPREP) and South Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO), the three-day training was held at the Pacific Climate Change Centre (PCCC) at SPREP’s Vailima compound.

A key goal of the training was to improve knowledge and awareness of participants on the importance of sustainable development, the use of sustainable planning tools and understanding their functions in line with Samoa’s PUMA Act 2004. SPREP’s Acting Director, Environmental Monitoring and Governance / Environmental Planning Adviser, Jope Davetanivalu, said the training was a success in many ways.

“I want to acknowledge and congratulate all the participants for their willingness to work with us on this very important topic. From SPREP’s perspective, we are all about helping our member countries, and in this time of COVID-19 restrictions, I am delighted that we were able to host this training on campus for Samoa,” Mr Davetanivalu said. “The team at SPREP looks forward to working with the government of Samoa, through all the participants, to put into action what was discussed and learned during the workshop, which we hope will be beneficial to the country and the environment. The monitoring of the environmental and social impacts of tourism is extremely important.”

SPREP produced a joint Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) guidelines with the SPTO for the tourism sector in 2018 and throughout the pandemic, the organisation hosted a series of EIA webinars including two webinars focused on Tourism recovery post COVID-19.  SPREP’s Environmental Assessment and Planning Officer, Dr Gregory Barbara, said the timing of the training was critical given the COVID-19 situation.

 “The past few years have been very difficult for the tourism industry, not just in Samoa but everywhere else,” Dr. Barbara said. “As part of efforts to support the tourism sector and assist the operators set themselves up for success in the COVID recovery, SPREP, STA, SPTO and others have been developing toolkits and other capacity building to support sustainable tourism.”

Participants during the sustainable development training at at the PCCC, at SPREP's headquarters at Vailima
The three-day training was attended by STA, MNRE and MWTI representatives. 

The presence of STA, MNRE and MWTI, and their contribution to the talanoa on a way forward, was an integral part of the training.

“It was a unique opportunity for all three agencies to identify and agree on areas of collaboration. By doing so, STA, PUMA (MWTI) and DEC (MNRE) are better positioned to administer the EIA and environmental and social sustainability (ESS) tools for better sustainable tourism development outcomes in Samoa,” Dr Barbara said. “We look forward to continuing the dialogue and to see where SPREP can help and how we go about doing that.”

STA’s Manager of Research and Statistics, Mr Kitiona Pogi, acknowledged the usefulness of the training.  

“We often mention and talk about the term sustainable tourism. But what does it really mean?  It's about developing and monitoring tourism development and activities in a responsible manner so as not to harm our environment and ensure long term viability and insulation for our future generations,” Mr Pogi said. He highlighted the importance of improving policies and regulations to guide tourism development, from as early as the planning stages. “With that in mind, tools such as the EIA guidelines for coastal tourism in Pacific Island countries developed by SPREP and SPTO is a great starting point.”

SPTO’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr Chris Cocker said the training is a step forward in sustainable tourism and development. “As the regional body mandated for tourism development and marketing in the Pacific, SPTO recognises that this training is a step towards achieving the vision of our leaders in the tourism industry that the Pacific islands are empowered by benefiting from sustainable tourism,” Mr Cocker said.

For more information on the Environmental Impact Assessment Guidelines for Coastal Tourism Developments in Pacific Island Countries and Territories, please contact Mr Jope Davetanivalu at [email protected]