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Glasgow Declaration: Interview with Petero Manufolau, Chair of the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) and Chair of the Small Island States and Territories Board Sub Committee and CEO of the Tourism Authority of Kiribati

  • Published on July 13, 2022

Update from the Pacific


We interviewed Petero Manufolau as Chair of the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) and Chair of the Small Island States and Territories Board Sub Committee. Petero is also CEO of the Tourism Authority of Kiribati.


Q: SPTO was among the launch signatories for the Glasgow Declaration for Climate Action in Tourism –  as Chair of the Board of Directors of SPTO, what do you hope will be achieved through this?


A: Being party to the Glasgow Declaration will help the Pacific tourism prepare for a smart restart to tourism where value over volume will be a priority and where tourism businesses will operate along international sustainable standards and guidelines. Sustainable tourism therefore is no longer an option for us but a necessary means to fulfilling our commitment to a more responsible way of managing the tourism sector.


Q: The Tourism Authority of Kiribati is also one of the signatories of the Glasgow Declaration since its launch, how is climate change affecting the island of Kiribati, and tourism in particular?


A: Climate change poses a significant threat to marine and coastal tourism and as a destination made up of 99% Ocean, Kiribati is vulnerable to these threats. The Tourism Authority of Kiribati is grateful to the Government of Kiribati (GoK) for its commitment to help mitigate the impact of climate change in tourism. These include infrastructure development and support for local tourism enterprises to adopt sustainable business practices as framed in the Kiribati Sustainable Tourism Development Policy Framework.


Q: What actions are you taking now to prepare the tourism industry for future climate change – what will be different about tourism in the future?


A: The Tourism Authority of Kiribati is leading the process of transforming Kiribati’s tourism industry to become sustainable and remain viable for generations to come. This commitment is influenced by the Government of Kiribati’s 20-year Vision (KV20) where it recognises the potential contribution of tourism towards stimulating economic development, providing employment, income generation as well as supporting the retention of cultural traditions, sustainable management of national environmental assets and wider contribution towards social-economic benefits. The COVID -19 pandemic however brought the Kiribati tourism industry to a standstill with zero international visitors recorded from April 2020. However, this pause in international arrivals into Kiribati also presented the Tourism Authority of Kiribati with the opportunity to re-evaluate tourism and its real contribution to the economy, community, and environment. On the back of the international climate change agenda, of which Kiribati is a strong advocate of, the Tourism Authority of Kiribati will lead the tourism sector in playing an active role in reducing the industry’s negative impact on the environment, community, and economy. The Tourism Authority of Kiribati recognises therefore that the tourism sector must commit to adopting internationally accepted sustainable operational standards for tourism operators as framed in the Kiribati Sustainable Tourism Development Policy Framework.


Q: What needs to happen to ensure a just transition for global tourism?

A: For People: Leaving no one behind through inclusive tourism

·        COVID-19 has prompted greater considerations of local communities impacted by tourism. The industry must do more to make meaningful connections with local communities that contribute to and rely on the industry.

·        Measuring the value of tourism must not be done in isolation. Instead it must be considered alongside the cost of tourism; taking into account impacts on supporting infrastructure and environmental and social indicators. This will guide sustainable tourism reactivation and recovery in the long run.

For Planet: Accelerating a climate friendly transformation

·        Tourism must pivot to accelerate climate action, protect biodiversity and support resilience.

·        Tourism contributes to greenhouse gas emissions through waste generation and fossil fuels used in a range of activities including accommodation and the transport sector. The development of low emission infrastructure to support tourism investment is critical for the region, and appropriate mitigation and adaptation measures to respond to climatic events will be crucial to sustain this industry

For Prosperity: Re- invigorating investments in sustainable tourism

·        Coordination and communication is key to ensuring that destinations and their communities are benefitting from investments in sustainable tourism

·        Small Island States face unique challenges and would benefit exponentially from targeted support (access to technology, expertise, funding) that enables strategic  partnerships

·        Leveraging data and insights with the power of technology and infrastructure can be a powerful tool for distributing content, coordinating recovery and re-invigorating interest and investments in sustainable tourism

·        National legislative and policy frameworks for sustainable and inclusive growth are required to enhance attractiveness and competitiveness, support SMEs and local development, and manage growing demand in a sustainable and inclusive manner.


Q: What about connectivity to the island (cruise/airlines) – how will that be affected?


A: The Government of Kiribati (GoK) is invested in enhancing air and sea access into the destination and domestically throughout its islands. Developments in this space will help improve accessibility for both cruising and fly in tourism.


Q: What is the biggest obstacle to transforming tourism across the Pacific Islands, and what is needed to overcome this?


A: Pacific wide tourism transformation will be hindered by failure to effectively communicate and innovatively collaborate, towards achieving a smarter and stronger industry that is more resilient, responsive, inclusive and sustainable.

This vision for the future of Pacific tourism industry has its roots in the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework (PSTPF), Pacific Tourism Statistics Strategy (PTSS) and SPTO Digital Strategy Framework (DS). In this regard, SPTO as the regionally mandated body for Tourism, has a critical role to play in coordinating and representing its 20 Pacific Island members to ensure that these strategies will be used to shape tourism activity that contributes positively to Pacific regionalism.     

The Federated States of Micronesia are also one of the signatories of the Glasgow Declaration since its launch.

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