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Image: Group photo of the Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Joe Natuman (center, green shirt) with the regional Tourism Council Ministers and SPTO Board of Directors at Ramada Resort. Photographer: Whitelight Media.

30 October 2017, Suva, FIJI – Regional Ministers of Tourism were reminded at the 27th meeting of the SPTO Council of Ministers held in Port Vila, Vanuatu last week that regional collaboration and partnership through learning and exchange will ensure the sustainability of the regional tourism industry.

The comments were made by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Tourism, Trade, Commerce and Ni-Vanuatu Business from Vanuatu, Honorable Joe Y. Natuman at the opening of the meeting on Friday October 27th, which brought to an end a week of regional tourism meetings in Port Vila.

The Ministers were briefed on a number of regional tourism activities including the progress to date on the agritourism initiative by the key partners, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), SPTO, Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO), International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the Pacific Community (SPC).

The Ministers expressed their support for planned regional and national activities outlined in the way forward for agri-tourism development in the Pacific and approved that SPTO develop proposals and seek funding to support the development and promotion of food tourism in the Pacific.

The Ministers acknowledged the assistance from the Asian Development Bank in the development of regional tourism and invited the ADB to attend the 2018 SPTO Council of Tourism Ministers in October to provide an update on the progress of its regional tourism projects. The ADB had attended the 26th Council meeting in Rarotonga in 2016 during which they announced their tourism development projects for the Pacific.

The Ministers also acknowledged the presentation by the New Zealand Maori Tourism Association, and the invitation to the World Indigenous Tourism Summit in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand on 15-18 April 2018.

With regards to the work of the SPTO Secretariat, the Ministers approved the SPTO Work plan and budget for 2018 and also the proposal by the government of Samoa to host the SPTO series of meetings in 2018 which will include the 28th SPTO Council of Ministers of Tourism meeting.

In recognition of the important role of the region’s private sector in tourism development, the Council also approved the appointment of five (5) tourism industry members to serve on the Board of Directors from its next meeting in 2018.

The Council of Ministers meeting was preceded by the SPTO Board of Directors meeting where a number of issues related to SPTO’s policies, activities, work programme and budget were passed. Prior to the Board meeting, a regional marketing meeting was also held to discuss regional tourism marketing efforts

Other key decisions made in relation to the work of SPTO, include the approval by the Board of Directors of a Terms of Reference for the recruitment of an Aviation Expert to undertake a review of the aviation sector and develop high level strategies and priority regional actions for endorsement by SPTO members.

The Directors also approved the proposed three-year Private Sector Membership Strategy (2018 – 2020) and 2018 Membership & Corporate Sponsorship Work Plan tabled by SPTO and have given their support to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Guidelines for Coastal Tourism Development in the Pacific region that have been developed.

In specific relation to Small Island States, the Directors have supported an initiative of the SPTO Secretariat to establish a SIS committee chaired by Niue that will hold regular discussions with regards to SIS priorities and approved the development of project proposals and concept notes for submission at the 2018 SPTO Donor Forum in February.

The Directors also approved the proposal by SPTO to join the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) as an Affiliate Member which will be very beneficial to SPTO’s government and private sector members.

At the end of the four-day series of meetings, the Ministers acknowledged the good efforts by the government of Vanuatu and its organizing committee in successfully hosting the series of SPTO meetings in Port Vila. The Ministers conveyed their gratitude to the Government and people of Vanuatu for the warm welcome and kind hospitality extended to them since their arrival.

The Council of Ministers meeting was attended by 17 of SPTO’s 18 government members.