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Sustainable tourism development, as defined by the World Tourism Organisation, is tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social, and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the leading regional agency for the protection of the environment in the Pacific, has contributed to strengthening sustainable tourism development in the Pacific by developing various environmental planning and assessment tools, which were highlighted during the second day of the 10th Pacific Island Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas.
SPREP Environmental Planning Adviser, Jope Davetanivalu, presented the sustainable tourism planning tools during a session on “Sustainable and Regenerative Tourism in the Pacific – Tools for Making Progress”. He outlined why these tools are important for sustainable tourism development.
“The objective of environment assessment is to prevent and mitigate undue harm that can be caused to people and their environment in the development process,” Davetanivalu said.
Davetanivalu’s presentation focused on one tool in particular, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Guidelines for Coastal Tourism Development in Pacific Island Countries and Territories.
“In 2018, a partnership between SPREP and the Pacific Tourism Organisation, with its Member countries and partners, endorsed these guidelines.
The purpose of the guidelines is to help increase awareness and understanding of the EIA process across the Pacific region’s tourism sector. It also aims to promote best practice EIA for coastal tourism development, while assisting national and regional authorities with promoting and facilitating a biodiversity-inclusive EIA process in marine and coastal areas.
“This is vital because there have been a lot of impacts of coastal tourism developments such as coastal erosion, destruction of ecosystems such as mangroves, and solid waste pollution due to poor planning and assessment. These impacts are unhealthy for our biodiversity,” Davetanivalu said.
Strengthened partnerships and relationships amongst important stakeholders such as government agencies and tourism developers will be formed through these Guidelines that will encourage them to comply with national EIA regulatory requirements. It also supports sustainable and resilient development that protects the environmental, social and cultural assets of coastal environments, which provide a foundation for tourism and livelihoods in our region.
“The Guidelines provide tourism operators and developers with tools and prompts on things to consider to make their developments more sustainable. They are used by SPREP and SPTO members to raise capacities of the tourism industry on how to make decisions on future tourism developments,” added Davetanivalu.
He also revealed that the Environment Assessment Guidelines have been used by a few of the region’s tertiary institutions to train future regulators and decision makers in the area of environment assessment and planning.
“As we continue to build and strengthen our island resilience to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise, the Guidelines provides us with an important tool to assist us in making sound planning and informed decisions towards sustainable and regenerative tourism development,” he concluded.
The “Sustainable and Regenerative Tourism in the Pacific – Tools for Making Progress” session was held on 25 November, 2020.
The 10th Pacific Island Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas is being held virtually from 24 – 27 November 2020. It is being organised by the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, and hosted by the Government of New Caledonia.
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