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Monday, 31 January 2022 04:14

Business events option for Pacific diversification

Felicity Bollen, New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade; Chris Cocker, Pacific Tourism Organisation; David Vaefe; Pacific Cooperation Foundation Felicity Bollen, New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade; Chris Cocker, Pacific Tourism Organisation; David Vaefe; Pacific Cooperation Foundation

Conferences, incentives and meetings are among the sectors Pacific Islands need to look at closely to spread its appeal as a destination post pandemic, a hybrid workshop heard in Auckland recently.

Chris Cocker, chief executive officer of the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) gave an update to interested parties in New Zealand late January. The event was held in conjunction with the New Zealand Foreign Affairs & Trade Aid Programme and the Pacific Cooperation Foundation, with about 20 attendees at the live presentation in the MFAT Auckland office, joined by an audience on Zoom.

Cocker says that as the Pacific continues to open it will find itself in a highly competitive situation with other countries around the world.

“One thing we know is that we need to diversify more into niche markets and highlight tings like our geology, heritage and culture.”

He says pre-Covid much of the imagery was around sand, sea and sun.

“Lots of places have that and after a while it all looks the same. Markets like bird watching, eco-tourism, honeymoon and meetings and incentives are some of the areas to focus on.”

Cocker points out that of SPTO’s 20 members only three – Fiji, French Polynesia and Cook Islands – were open to tourists as of January 2022.

He says five others – Samoa, Vanuatu, Niue, Tonga and Kiribati – have communicated intent to open. ‘However, they are all at different stages and things are changing constantly,’ Cocker adds.

The other 12 members have not shared any plans with the organisation about reopening.

“The key lessons from those that have opened are that the safety of the visitors as well as the locals are paramount and a key to this is a high vaccination rate. There need to be robust heath and safety protocols at the border, the (tourism) industry and the country need to be prepared and collaboration amongst the key stakeholders is essential.”