Memorandum of Understanding with Melanesian Spearhead Group
SPTO Signs Memorandum of Understanding with Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat
25th October, 2017, Port Vila, VANUATU– The South Pacific Tourism Organisation looks forward to more development in tourism for Melanesian countries following the signing of an Memorandum of Understanding with the MSG Secretariat in Port Vila today.
The MoU is the first of its kind on tourism to be signed between the two organisations reflecting a new milestone for engagement in a meaningful way. MSG Acting Director General, Peter Eafeare made these observations during the signing and highlighted the MOU as not just a piece of paper but one that would lead to the implementation of the collaborative activities outlined.
The organisations are expected to work together to collaborate and partner in tourism planning, tourism policy making; environmental and commercial sustainability, information and data sharing, on event planning and organization, shared product development and marketing and networking. The MoU also makes reference to collaboration with airlines on product development and packaging and capacity building and training as well as MSG research.
The MoU clearly outlines genuine partnerships, mutual recognition and respect, a joint team approach and the sharing of information as Principles of Cooperation and is expected to guide the relationship between the two organisations for the next 5 years.
“MOUs are important to bring together parties to strengthen parties and the key is walking the talk and implementing the key activities agreed upon by both parties,” SPTO CEO Chris Cocker said.
“Tourism involves the Pacific’s greatest assets – people, environment and culture – and has great potential for the Pacific as highlighted in the World Bank’s Pacific Possible report launched in Samoa in September.”
“Tourism is also important because of its linkage to Fisheries and Agriculture sectors as it has been the backbone of our communities in the past”
“Regional Visitor Arrivals in 2016 recorded at 2 million which is a 4% growth from the 1.6 million in 2015, higher than the world average growth rate of 3.9%.”
“The Pacific is blessed as we are custodians of beautiful land, ocean, people, given through birth and inheritance for our sustenance and also to preserve it”.
He highlighted the great potential for Solomon Islands and PNG in the area of cruise tourism and niche tourism, learning from Fiji’s example which currently have 40% of the Pacific’s regional market share.
“We would like to see more development and promotion of food tourism, eco-tourism, etc, as niche tourism products as we cannot compete with just “sand, sea and sun,” he added.
Mr. Eafeare noted the importance of information sharing and ensuring that airlines are not using commercial viability as an excuse not to connect.
“The mandate of MSG through its Leaders’ commitment is that we have people-to-people connectivity and institution-to-institution connectivity and we have infrastructure connectivity which includes airline and shipping,” he stated
Mr Eafare recognized that the task is daunting for all of the sub-region and the entire South Pacific but it is not insurmountable and it takes a meeting of minds to develop a platform on which the countries could engage.
He also noted the importance of involving the people in the region, particularly in the Melanesia sub-region where there is often a strong focus on extractive industries, logging, etc and not on the very environment that could provide a source of income to sustain the livelihoods.
The signing of the MoU is one of the highlights of SPTO’s week long activities in Port Vila which include a regional marketing managers meeting, co-hosting the first Pacific Insights Conference with the Pacific Asia Travel Association and Vanuatu Tourism Organisation, a SPTO Board meeting and a Council of Regional Tourism Ministers meeting on Friday.
Established in 1983 as the Tourism Council of the South Pacific, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) is the mandated organisation representing Tourism in the region. Its 18 Government members are American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and the People’s Republic of China. In addition to government members, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation enlists a private sector membership base.