Facing Climate Realities Brings New Opportunities for Pacific Island Destinations Charting a New Course in Tourism

16 May 2022

Many Pacific Islands and territories are highly dependent on tourism. In 2019, Pacific Island tourism generated $6.29 billion in receipts and 69,443 jobs; the sector generated 20 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). While the Blue Continent is welcoming the reopening of borders with great enthusiasm and relief, there is no expectation that tourism will go back the way it was before COVID-19.

In this article, we take a look at Pacific Island climate-focused initiatives that signal an evolution in the region’s approach to tourism. 

  • Palau Island created a pledge for tourists to ensure they will do everything to protect the island while visiting.
  • Sustainable Travel International is working with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) to create the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework 2030. The framework reflects the aspirations of the SPTO and its members, the tourism industry, civil society organizations, regional organizations and global development partners.
  • Aotearoa New Zealand’s tourism industry recently launched their Tourism Carbon Challenge, urging every tourism business to measure its carbon footprint, to take action to significantly reduce carbon emissions by 2030, and contribute to a tourism industry that is net zero carbon ahead of New Zealand’s 2050 goal.
  • The Pacific Tourism Waste Action Initiative (PTWAI) is a Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) led programme focused on addressing key waste management challenges in Pacific communities through tourism.
  • Australia-based tour operator Intrepid Travel’s global growth inspired the company to look beyond sustainable tourism schemes to B Corp certification. The company has also been active in promoting its Climate Action Plan and Carbon Management approach, providing a model for other regional businesses to follow.
  • Local operators are also showing more transparency by measuring their footprint and finding ways to reach carbon neutral, such as Ziptrek Ecotours in New Zealand. Ziptrek started measuring their carbon emissions years ago and for three years have achieved zero carbon business certification as they offset 100% of carbon emissions. They are also educating their clients through a dedicated campaign on instagram.

When facing climate change and looking at the Pacific or Blue Continent, who better than the local and indigenous communities are better connected to the land and better understand the urgency of the situation. The Climate Reality Project for Australia and the Pacific are building a platform to elevate Pacific voices on climate change. This project was launched by Al Gore, and they also participated in the COP26 in Glasgow, on a call to act on Pacific Voices for urgent climate action.

Feeling inspired to learn more about Pacific Island experiences and ideas for addressing climate change?

Join us on 2 June 2022 for a webinar, Meet the Experts: Climate Change & Pacific Islands: What Travel Businesses can do to Help?

This panel discussion will be moderated by Christina Beckmann, ATTA vice president and creator of Tomorrow’s Air, the collective in travel dedicated to carbon removal with permanent storage, who will be joined by the following panelists:

  • Christina Leala-Gale, Sustainable Tourism & Research Manager, SPTO 
  • Dr. Susanne Etti, Global Environmental Impact Manager at Intrepid Travel 
  • Trent Yeo, Executive Director at Ziptrek Ecotours & TIA 
  • Ciaran McCormack, Manager Australia & Pacific at The Climate Reality Project 

This 90 minutes session, hearing from the local experts, will be followed up with a Think Tank workshop on the 16th of June 2022, where you will get a chance to interact and share your experience. Save the date!