Turn focus to tourism, World Bank urges

A REPORT from the World Bank has noted that tourism plays an important role in Pacific island economies and is one of the region’s few economically viable sectors, which could create up to 128,000 jobs by 2040.
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Total tourism spending in Pacific Island countries for 2013 amounted to $US1.4 billion - just more than $1000 per visitor.

In 2014, a record 1.37 million overnight visitors arrived across eleven Pacific Island countries, with Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Samoa and Vanuatu making up the top five destinations.

Two thirds of visitors traveling to Pacific Island countries are from Australia and New Zealand, while the United States, China, Japan and Europe represent important growth potential.

However, more arrivals does not necessarily mean more spending, and due to the ecological sensitivity of Pacific Island countries, attracting low-volume, high-yielding tourists is crucial.

The latest World Bank report, The Pacific Possible: Tourism report, has been released for public comment and it has outlined a plan for long-term, balanced and manageable tourism growth to the year 2040.

John Perrottet, the report's author explains: "Tourism is one of the Pacific region's most economically viable sectors, with significant opportunities for sustainable growth in the Chinese tourist, cruise ship, luxury travel and retiree markets."

Perrottet, who is a senior technical specialist at the World Bank continues: "By taking a targeted approach to tourism development, Pacific Island countries can ensure visitor numbers are kept at sustainable levels, while attracting higher-spending tourists - helping to protect the precious natural environment and cultural heritage that make this region so special."

World Bank country director for PNG and other Pacific islands Franz Dreez-Gross said: "Tourism has a multiplier effect in local economies, helping to boost business activity and the livelihoods of people working in various other industries, including agriculture and retail. We hope this report will assist Pacific Island governments in sustainable planning for more tourism arrivals from both existing and emerging tourism markets."

The report is the third of seven in the World Bank's Pacific Possible series, which looks at potentially transformative opportunities for Pacific Island countries that warrant further research, understanding and policy action. The series aims to inform government and stakeholder decisions on planning and long-term decision-making.

The report said that sustainable planning around emerging tourism markets could help Pacific island countries gain as much as $US1.8 billion per year in additional revenues and create up to 128,000 additional jobs by 2040.

There are four key strategy areas for attention: improving international transport links to the region; attracting higher-spending tourists; improved public sector engagement; and improving linkages between tourism and local economies.

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