Fiji and the Pacific Region, for the first time hosted the United National World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) 30th Joint Meeting of the Commission of East Asia and Pacific (CAP) and Commission of the South Asian (CSA).

The Joint Commission Meeting preceded by a Regional Seminar on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism Development with over 130 delegates attending from the East Asia, South Asia, Pacific region, including Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, to name a few. The Regional Seminar was inaugurated by the Hon. Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Lands and Mineral Resources, Hon Faiyaz Siddiq Koya.

The main objective of the Regional Seminar was to identify challenges faced in tourism development in the region and how these could be addressed through various mechanisms and initiatives. The Seminar also focused on strengthening governance and management mechanisms to ensure that tourism serves as a positive force, minimising environmental impact, helping conserve biodiversity and contribute to the wellbeing of local communities.

The Fijian officials’ delegation to the Seminar was led by the Permanent Secretary for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Shaheen Ali. The Permanent Secretary during the Seminar called for greater collaboration amongst member states to address issues affecting sustainable tourism development in the region, especially for small island states.

“Sustainable development is the only future for tourism, it should not be considered a burden, but as a means of venturing into new areas of development and investments. Therefore, domestic policies need to incentivise innovation and technology that reduces pollution and manages waste in a sustainable manner”, said the Permanent Secretary.

Mr. Ali stated that this was the first time the UNWTO Secretary -General hosted a meeting in Fiji and most of the delegates had never visited the region. Therefore, it was an eye opener for the delegates to have an up close experience on the plights of the small islands states due to climate change.
“In order to ensure that the Pacific was at the forefront of discussions at the Regional Seminar, we invited Pacific Island Countries that were not members of the CAP-CSA. This enabled the countries to engage with UNWTO Secretary-General and other member states”, added the Permanent Secretary.

“There are a number of action oriented outcomes from the Seminar, and as the host, Fiji will ensure that the UNWTO provides regular updates on results of the actions taken”, said Mr. Ali.

The Permanent Secretary called on the UNWTO to play a greater role to support member countries in their national initiatives by providing more research, accurate data and capacity building. Furthermore, the UNWTO was requested to be an advocate, on behalf of member states, in the international arena, such as COP and other United Nations fora on sustainable development.

“We must continue working towards striking the balance between tourism and sustainable development, as they are not mutually exclusive but rather complimentary” said Mr. Ali.

“One of the favourable outcomes that has emerged Fiji’s hosting of the Joint Commissions Meeting is that Fiji will now play a greater role in the UNWTO. This will ensure that Fiji and the Region is able to capitalise on the technical expertise, resources and programmes available for small island developing states at the UNWTO”, added Mr. Ali.


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