ADB: Vanuatu must focus on tourism sustainability

TOURIST arrivals in Vanuatu increased by 45 per cent in the 10 years from 2005 to 2015, but a new brief from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) warns that continued growth is not inevitable and sustainability will require government action.

Touris as a Driver of Growth coverHighlighting the rapid increase in Vanuatu tourist arrivals, the brief, Tourism as a Driver of Growth in the Pacific: A Pathway to Growth and Prosperity for Pacific Island Countries, offers a series of recommendations to help make this growth sustainable.

These include a review of the national tourism strategy to focus on sustainability, and consideration of new infrastructure investments, such as further enhancing the waterfront areas of Port Vila and Luganville, and improving water supply and sewage treatment facilities across the country.

As cruise ship tourism is a key driver of increased visitors to Vanuatu (with 256,000 passenger visitors in 2016, up 28 per cent from 2015), the brief recommends expanding technical and vocational education and training opportunities to help more locals find employment in the sector.

Tourism as a Driver of Growth graphicThe brief identifies tourism as a unique opportunity for economic growth in the coming decade that could help Pacific island countries self-sufficiently fund national objectives, such as improved health services, education and transport. Along with generating employment and income growth across the region, tourism development can serve as a catalyst for the protection and preservation of natural and cultural assets, the brief notes.

Visitor numbers across six Pacific Island countries examined have increased by almost 50 per cent in the past 10 years, but the brief warns that continued tourism sector growth will not happen automatically, and that its benefits will continue to be unevenly distributed unless governments take action.

The brief recommends countries create an enabling environment to facilitate tourism growth and maximize its benefits. This means investing in infrastructure, human resources, and product development and marketing, as well as ensuring that tourism policy, strategy, and the regulatory environment are designed to grow the sector sustainably.

“While many Pacific countries are using tourism effectively to generate income and employment, opportunities exist to expand and increase its benefits and ensure its sustainability,” said Rob Jauncey, Regional Advisor with ADB’s Pacific Liaison and Coordination Office.

“As Pacific countries develop and pursue strategies to grow their tourism sectors, ADB stands ready to offer insight and advice, and provide technical assistance, finance, or coordination support.”

The brief was produced by ADB’s Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI), a regional technical assistance program undertaken in partnership with the governments of Australia and New Zealand. PSDI works with ADB’s 14 Pacific developing member countries to improve the enabling environment for business and to support inclusive, private sector-led economic growth. It has operated in the region for 11 years and assisted with more than 300 reforms.