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close this bookThe Courier N° 122 July - August 1990 - Dossier Tourism - Country Report: Mali (EC Courier, 1990, 104 p.)
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View the documentTourism in the South Pacific - A significant development potential
View the documentTourism as a development concept in the South Pacific

Tourism as a development concept in the South Pacific

An integrated approach under the South Pacific Regional Tourism Development Programme

by Richard ARNDELL

Tourism development is sometimes seen as a panacea for overcoming trade deficits, providing foreign exchange, and developing local economies in general. But to what extent are tourism revenues re - exported by travel operators, leaving the host countries with only the social, environmental and cultural degradation created by the tourists influx? This article looks at the measures introduced to combat these imbalances in the Pacific Regional Tourism Development Programme, from the beginning of the design stage through into implementation.

The potential and the fears

The Pacific ACP States requested financial assistance at regional level from the EC for tourism development in 1981. At that time, there was quite some opposition to tourism development in the South Pacific islands. Although the potential economic benefits were recognised, there were fears that the expansion of tourism would be accompanied by serious disruption of local social life and traditional cultures; and that any benefits that accrued would be leaked out of the country to buy food and other materials, or that international hotel chains and travel operators would transfer profits abroad, serving their own interests rather than the economic development of the host countries.

There was a real basis to these fears; financial leakages of up to 75 % have been recorded for some developing countries. And the sudden influx of inflated wages in the tourism industry can overturn traditional social and cultural values and the balance of local social hierarchies.

At the same time, for micro - economies such as the Pacific Island countries, isolated by distance and with limited local resources, the economic advantages to be derived from tourism provide opportunities for general economic development and the acquisition of foreign exchange earnings not foreseeable from any other sector.

The origins of the programme

The first phase of the Pacific Regional Tourism Development Programme was approved under LomI in January 1985 for a total of ECU 3.2 million. The programme included standard measures for promoting the South Pacific ACP States as a tourism destination, including market research, the production of films and brochures, representation at travel fairs and training in tour operation and hotel management.

A major aspect of the programme was the establishment of the Tourism Council of the South Pacific (TCSP), located in Suva, Fiji, housing the programme’s secretariat and also a computerised data base of statistics on the sector in the region. Growing from the project, the TCSP was established in October 1988 as an independent intergovernmental organisation by a Memorandum of Association signed by the ministers of tourism of the Pacific Island countries. Its director and division managers are now all Pacific Islanders, and it expects to be financially self - supporting by the end of 1990.

The programme was extended into phase two by funding for ECU 7.4 m approved under LomII. The programme is conceived in four sections corresponding to the four divisions of the TCSP: tourism planning and development; marketing and promoting; research and statistics and education and training.

Development concepts and linkages in the integrated approach

In order to combat negative influences and to channel economic development from tourism along lines compatible with the host countries’ own social, cultural and economic aspirations, the first phase of the programme, joined to the traditional measures of support for marketing and promoting, a number of development concepts designed to protect the local cultures and to ensure that a fair share of the economic benefits remained in the host countries and stimulated development of the economies as a whole.

These concepts fell into three broad categories:

- linkages survey and pilot projects;
- cultural awareness programmes;
- assessment of the economic impact of tourism.

Environmental protection was added as a fourth category under phase two.

The linkages survey and pilot projects were designed to provide practical information on how tourism revenues could best be spun off into developments in local economic sectors, particularly agriculture, traditional construction and handicrafts. Criteria for environmental impact assessments and other tools for protecting nature sites were introduced as a precondition for tourism development. The awareness programmes were aimed at providing the tourist with a genuine insight into local culture (external awareness) as well as helping local people to relate to tourism in a way which permitted harmonious local development (internal awareness). Economic impact analysis is an essential tool in the maximisation of tourism revenue and its injection into the home economies.

It is significant that the first division of the programme as conceived in phase two is “ planning and development”; the provisions for tourism development plans, including the promotion of investment in tourism plant and the transport infrastructure, accompany the economic linkages and cultural awareness measures in the same division as an integrated programme. Marketing, promotion, training and so on are included in the other divisions.

Sectoral linkages

Linkage pilot projects studies have been launched on hotel construction in Tuvalu and Western Samoa; handicrafts in Tonga and Kiribati; tourism - agriculture linkages in Fiji; nature and archaeological sites in Fiji, Tonga and the Solomon Islands; fruit processing in Vanuatu; and the use of local materials and designs in Papua New Guinea.

The study on the design and development of a locally owned village hotel/guest house in Western Samoa proposes the construction of a complex of individual traditional circular bungalows, or fale with terraces overlooking one of the longest white beaches in the country, a few hundred metres from the nearest village. A reception fale and a kitchen/dining fale form part of the complex. Local building materials will be used in construction: poumuli and ifilele wood for foundations and rafters; the roofing being traditionally thatched and braided. Modern materials such as stainless steel taps and ceramic tiles will be added for functional effect. The construction and carpentry will be carried out by craftsmen from the nearby village. The site is owned by the village or by individual villages, and foods such as fish, eggs, taro, breadfruit and several tropical fruits are available for supply.

Estimates of capital costs of construction and furniture and fittings, based on prevailing price levels of local material and labour, together with an analysis of foreseeable visitor demand, give a healthy internal rate of return on the project.

The tourism - agriculture linkage study in Fiji examines ways of increasing the linkages between the agricultural sector in the Sigatoka Valley in the West of Fiji’s main island and the hotel sector (capacity: 2800 rooms) on the adjacent Coral Coast, in the context of the already ongoing Sigatoka Valley Rural Development Project (SVRDP).

Estimates of the local production of fruit and vegetables, allied to foreseeable levels of purchases by the hotels, indicated that there was considerable scope for extending the links between the two sectors. However, the potential for this was limited by doubts in the hotel sector as to the quality and reliability of supplies, and also by limitations on the quantity of productions imposed by climatic conditions, labour shortage and land tenure arrangements. Moreover’ the extreme seasonality of some crops often led to heavily fluctuating farmgate prices. These factors appeared to have created a barrier of mutual lack of confidence between the two sectors.

The report proposed an improvement in the planning of agricultural production in the Valley, obtaining at the same time more detailed and reliable introduction on the hotel sector’s demand for individual crops. Marketing could be improved by support from the National Marketing Authority. Increased use of cold storage facilities would extend the seasonal availability of certain products. Further information on the seasonal availability of crops was to be gathered - and a coloured poster has now been produced showing the months when local fruits and vegetables can be obtained. A commercial cookery book concentrating on recipes of local fruits and vegetables has now been produced; and it is proposed to launch a promotional campaign for the use of local agricultural produce under the title: “ Get a taste of tropical Fiji.”

Implementation of the recommendations was to be coordinated by a Committee of representatives of the Ministries of Tourism and Primary Industries, the National Marketing Authority, hotel managers and chefs, and the TCSP.

The feasibility study on the identification of nature sites and nature subjects of special interest in the Solomon islands was complied with the objectives in the government’s Third National Development Plan of a balanced development of tourism in mind. Sites were identified which offered best access to the enormous diversity of wildlife, forests, mountains, flowers, lakes and oceans of the country’s habitat. An interesting feature was the proposal to introduce tourism in one forest area as a more economic alternative than logging the trees - thus conserving the natural domain. Under the Tongan handicrafts study, a wood replantation programme was proposed to provide material for the sector, whose development would provide both cash income and employment to the village economies and give particular support to women’s groups.

Environmental protection

The TCSP published Guidelines for the integration of Tourism Development and Environmental Protection in the South Pacific in February 1990. This document gives very detailed and comprehensive guidelines on legislation to protect the environment, physical and other environmental protection measures, the planning of development projects, preceded by environmental impact assessment (EIA), education and information on wildlife and “carrying capacities.” A list of protected areas or proposed protected areas in the South Pacific countries is also given.

The “ carrying capacity “ of an area is defined as the maximum number of tourists that can be catered for while making full use of the recreational facilities and without damaging the environment. Limitations to capacity may be physical (crowding, visual deterioration), biological (degradation to wild life) or social/cultural (unacceptable change to local lifestyles). The parameters of capacity are defined in detail, as well as measures for avoiding damage.

The ways and means of organising environmental impact assessments (EIA) at the beginning of tourism development projects and of monitoring ongoing projects are set out in detail. Particular attention is paid to waste disposal.

The environmental guidelines for tourism operations themselves form the basis on which development should be operated on a day - to - day basis and planned for the future. Protection of natural ecosystems (reefs, forests...) and processes (animal behaviour, lakes and water - courses) are covered - and also education of tourists, prevention of site - erosion, protection of cultural (e.g. religious) sites. Guidelines are given for tourist behaviour management in coastal areas (prohibition of spearfishing, prevention of anchor damage to reefs), and inland areas (bans on hunting, collecting or fires in forest areas).

As regards the list of protected areas, a word of warning must be made about site reservation. There is strong economic pressure on developers to preserve tourism sites only just enough to protect the “ product “. The influx of tourists into natural sites will inevitably produce environmental degradation in any event. The policy of the Pacific governments has therefore been to restrict development to a few selected sites, which are major tourism assets, but sufficiently far from population centres to avoid socio - cultural conflicts and in which the environment can be properly protected.

It is hoped that this policy will be continued, and that the majority of the designated protected sites will therefore not be the object of tourism development at all - but be simply preserved for the normal social, cultural and economic development of the local people as they determine it, in the context of the natural ecosystems.

Having said this, the Environmental Guidelines nonetheless provide a most useful set of legislative and other measures and criteria for integrating tourism development with environmental protection, based on consultation with, and the consent of, the local people.

Cultural awareness

Awareness programmes were included, aimed at providing the tourist with a genuine insight into local culture (external awareness) as well as helping local people to relate to tourism in a way which permitted harmonious devopment (internal awareness).

For example, to improve external awareness of the region, the annual “Travel Manual” giving details on the hotels, nature sites and tourism facilities in each country also gives the main social and economic indicators: land mass, population, GDP, and a brief history. And the films produced under phase one were conceived not as advertising tools, but as documentaries designed to give the Pacific people a voice in putting across the South Pacific landscapes and cultures to the world. Internal awareness programmes included teaching the “linkages” of tourism with local agriculture and other production sectors in schools, as well as the conventional professional training modules.

In addition, the linkages projects, economic impact assessment and environmental protection measures are also powerful tools for protecting local cultures, and indeed stimulating their independent growth and self expression.

Economic impact assessment

Most of the Pacific ACP States have a relatively big trade deficit and are hampered by lack of foreign currency. Tourism development could help to close these constraints, provided expenditure in the tourism sector remains in the national economies.

The situation as to present and potential expenditure thus has to be analysed, and measures taken to ensure that a maximum proportion of the returns from tourism stay at home.

The TCSP’s “Background Papers on the Economic Impact of Tourism”, produced in preparation for Phase II of the programme, propose the gathering of information in four areas: employment generation, generation of foreign exchange, contribution of tourism to the national income and government expenditures.

Existing data in the region is rather weak, and so visitor surveys have been made in several countries. Data has been gathered on the propensity to import, and on employment generation; and data on the import content of hotel food and beverages was examined.

The propensity to import, also called the leakage factor, is a key issue.

The leakage factor contains not only the direct import by the tourist establishment (first round) and the import component of goods and services purchased locally (subsequent rounds) but also the leakage due to import content of capital goods

needed to develop the tourist sector such as development of facilities, amenities and infrastructure, and also payment in foreign exchange to production factors such as interests, profits, salaries to expatriate staff, foreign management fees, etc.

Existing data will now have to be expanded by further visitor and tourism establishment surveys, economic impact surveys and sector linkage studies showing the spin - off effects of tourism on local development sectors, particularly agriculture. Phase II of the programme gives added weight to these efforts by including 18 man months of technical assistance for economic analysis, with a view to boosting the information obtained under Phase I into the development of coherent practical tools for assessing the returns from the sector and converting them into overall economic development in the longer term...

Looking to the future

Getting into the second phase, the TCSP having been established, Pacific islanders now occupying the posts of director and heads of the various divisions at the TCSP, and the basic promotional material and linkages and impact studies having been gathered, the promotion of the South Pacific as a tourism destination is now starting to gather momentum. Private investment in tourism plant and infrastructure is being encouraged, promotion is being stepped up by agents and operations in America, Japan, Australasia and Europe, and development is being sought of the regional air transport network.

The project having been planned from the start as an integrated development programme, the structure and tools for assessing economic returns, making linkages to local sector development and protecting the environment have now been put in place.

It is hoped that, on this basis, the development of tourism in the South Pacific will offer a means for fulfilling the Pacific ACP States’ aspirations for economic growth, while strengthening and conserving the economic, social and cultural expression and autonomy of the Pacific Island peaples.