REMARKS TO SOUTH PACIFIC TOURISM ORGANISATION COUNCIL OF TOURISM MINISTERS MEETING
Friday 20 October, 2023
• His Excellency Moetai Brotherson, President of French Polynesia;
• Hounourable Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, Prime Minister of Samoa;
• Ministers of Tourism of the Blue Pacific;
• Heads of Delegation.
• Ia ora na and warm Pacific greetings.
• It gives me great pleasure to provide some remarks this afternoon, as you draw your week to a close here in Papeete.
• Ministers, I know you have had a tough run these past few years. COVID-19 truly did rock the global community to its very core.
• I take this opportunity to thank you for your support and understanding during the COVID-19 pandemic. The nature of the coronavirus and the comprehensive measures we adopted as a region meant that thousands of Pacific lives were saved.
• And we can’t put a price on life.
• At the same time however, it meant that our tourism sectors, a primary source of income and employment for many of our countries, was decimated.
• But little by little, we are seeing our tourism sectors bounce back after three long and uncertain years.
• As we all know, the tourism sector is critical to post-covid economic recovery.
• I am pleased to see that forecasts suggest that we are set to achieve economic recovery and growth through 2023, with some countries like Palau, likely to see more significant rebounds of around 18% growth in GDP on the back of a resurgent tourism industry.
• Beyond economics though, I am glad that discussions in the tourism sector crosscut with other regional issues. Tourism and climate change; tourism and sustainable development; tourism and gender equality; tourism and culture.
• The approach acknowledges that solutions to one issue, can be solutions to many. I commend the tourism sector for recognising and acting on these important linkages.
2050 Strategy and Implementation Plan
• Ministers, may I also take this opportunity to update you on the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. Last year at the 50th anniversary of the Forum in Fiji, our leaders endorsed the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent as the blueprint to advance Pacific regionalism for the next three decades – articulating the region’s long-term vision, values and thematic priorities.
• The 2050 Strategy reflects our collective determination to address pressing challenges, including economic development, our environment, people centered development, and other critical regional issues that have a collective impact on our region.
• In two weeks’ time, our Forum Leaders will convene in the Cook Islands to consider the Strategy’s Implementation Plan.
• The Implementation Plan serves as a call for collective action, to deepen and strengthen our forms of regionalism, by working together more intensively to deliver sustainable transformational change for our people through identified goals, outcomes and associated activities across the seven thematic areas of the 2050 Strategy.
• I know that the SPTO Secretariat has been engaging in the development of the Implementation Plan, and accordingly, there are clear linkages for tourism and our grand strategy.
• While tourism is a cross cutting issue, within the 2050 Implementation Plan there is clear alignment with the Resource and Economic Development thematic area.
• This thematic area highlights the importance of improving socio-economic wellbeing of all Pacific peoples through:
– improving macroeconomic resilience and stability;
– strengthening financial system resilience;
– diversifying economies;
– supporting private sector growth in creating employment and entrepreneurial activity in micro, small and medium-sized enterprises; and
– improving trade and sustainable labour mobility.
• Subject to Leaders’ consideration in Rarotonga, we look forward to engaging with you on the Implementation Plan to ultimately improve collaboration and policies for the planning, development and management of sustainable tourism.
• Ministers, the 2050 Strategy will require a whole of Government and society approach to succeed, and I can’t stress enough the crucial role of tourism in its success.
• Regional fora such as this provide a platform to turn common challenges into collective opportunities. Just earlier this week I met with President Brotherson, where we recalled the old Coral Route, one of the earlier collective tourism activities. Indeed, we have a deep history of harnessing regional solutions to common challenges.
• Ministers, together with SPTO and the able leadership of my CROP colleague Chris Cocker, I know that you will identify the regional solutions we need to support national efforts to get our industries back on track.
• I look forward to hearing your rich discussions on these important matters, and identifying opportunities for greater collaboration at the different levels of Pacific regionalism.
• Meitaki Maata, I thank you.