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Put wellbeing of tourism workers first, panelist tells industry bosses

Thursday 3 November 2022 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in National, Travel

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Put wellbeing of tourism workers first, panelist tells industry bosses
The group that attended the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Leadership Summit at Edgewater resort on Wednesday. - 22110206

Tourism industry has been urged to value its people first at the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Leadership Summit held at The Edgewater Resort on Wednesday.

Panel guest, Massey University senior lecturer Dr Apisalome Movono, said the tourism industry needed to value its people first.

“If we want to build more resilient futures then we must look inwards, we need to flip the narrative and most importantly value our own people,” Movono said at the meeting,” Movono said.

“For too long we have prioritised our guests, which is why we are loved the world over, which is why people fly thousands of miles to be here, because we have a genuine care based hospitality approach.

“Tourists depend on our people, our culture, our customs, therefore in order for us to build forward and move together as a region in the face of multiple shocks that are yet to come, we need to think deeply and look within ourselves and prioritise the wellbeing of our own people.”

Speaking to Cook Islands News, Movono said one way operators could put the wellbeing of people first was by paying fair wages and giving staff flexible working hours.

“It’s not complicated, it doesn’t have a big cost implication, it’s just being more human and being more caring of your staff and your people,” he said.

Movono said tourists are always put first and staff’s happiness was often not considered.

The summit was opened by Cook Islands Associate Tourism minister Tingika Elikana.

Elikana said the theme “Partnering for a resilient, prosperous, and inclusive Pacific through sustainable tourism” reflected the need for the industry to emerge from Covid-19 more sustainable.

Cook Islands Associate Minister of Tourism Tingika Elikana signs the Pacific Leader’s Sustainable Tourism Commitment.  22110208
Cook Islands Associate Minister of Tourism Tingika Elikana signs the Pacific Leader’s Sustainable Tourism Commitment. 22110208

Kelvin Passfield, technical director at local environment NGO Te Ipukarea Society who attended the conference, said he “was hopeful” tourism could change to become sustainable.

“There’s been a lot of talk about rebuilding tourism in the Pacific after Covid and building it back in a more sustainable way than the way it was going.

“I think there’s a lot of economic pressure just to get the numbers back up again to what they were pre-Covid and that perhaps the environment could take a backseat to the economic gains. But I’m hopeful they will do the right thing and build it back better and more sustainably this time.”

Passfield said he thought it was good to have a meeting on sustainable tourism.

“I think it’s good that they’re keeping the topic alive and I would hope to see a lot of the talk transform into action on the ground for sustainable tourism.”

At the end of the summit, Elikana signed the Pacific Leader’s Sustainable Tourism Commitment.

A media statement from Cook Islands Tourism said the commitment is designed to place sustainable tourism as a top priority for environmental, socio-cultural, and economic development in the region.

It said the Cook Islands have joined other Pacific Tourism Organisation members in committing to “making tourism in the Pacific a force for good by adopting the Pacific Sustainable Tourism Policy Framework (PSTPF) to put the sector and our communities on a path to sustainable recovery by 2030”.