Experts call on Kiwis to be better tourists as Pacific reopens


    Tourism experts are calling on Kiwis to be better tourists when they plan and travel for holidays, as borders slowly reopen in the Pacific.

    Massey University’s Regina Scheyvens and Dr Api Movono, and Good Travel co-founder Eliza Raymond on Thursday discussed the future of tourism in the Pacific, and the part Kiwis play in this.

    Fiji is the only country in the Pacific that’s open to tourists. Cook Islands will be next, with reopening booked for 14 January.

    Scheyvens and Movono extensively researched the impacts of the pandemic on tourism-dependant communities in the Pacific, profiling five countries: Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Fiji and the Cook Islands.

    Scheyvens said with the effects of Covid still at the forefront for many Pacific countries, cyclone season approaching was an added challenge for them, she said.

    All Pacific countries they researched, except Cook Islands, did not have a consistent and significant wage subsidy in place to assist tourism workers.

    Concern from the Pacific post-pandemic was how tourists could help build and add to sustainable tourism.

    Interviewing indigenous people in the Pacific for their research, Scheyvens said the consensus was that tourism operators and workers want tourism to complement their way of life.

    Culture and environment was important, she said.

    “There are interesting possibilities of travel in months ahead, but let’s get it right this time,” Scheyvens said.

    Movono said Pacific countries were resilient during the pandemic, despite most workers experiencing major declines in their earnings.

    People went back to farming, set up small businesses and bartered services and goods to survive.

    “The resilience and future of Pacific people is interconnected to their culture. Maintaining their culture and the process to transfer these knowledges is important,” Monovo said.

    Raymond pointed out ways Kiwis could become better tourists – helping maintain and sustain Pacific communities – by considering their social, spiritual, mental, physical and wellbeing.

    She said Kiwis should consider spending their money mindfully, and look at who they are supporting through their dollars and how sustainable those tourism operators are in bettering their workers’ lives and the natural environment.

    She said travellers should expect to pay more for holiday experiences and tip a lot, “because Covid protocols come at a cost now”.

    “Travel off season and off tourist trail, too,” Raymond said.

    Practical things such as supporting locally owned and operated tourism businesses, spending time with locals, respecting their time, and celebrating their cultures would go a long way for Pacific communities, she said.

    “Use the opportunity to listen and learn from people you’re with in the countries you travel to.”

    Kiwis should also consider reducing carbon emissions and set aside money in their holiday funds to donate to a local non-governmental organisation, she said.

    “Pre-trip, learn your destinations, their culture, language, history and natural environment. Book consciously – how you will spend money and minimise environmental impact.

    “During the trip, connect, respect, participate, learn, appreciate and reflect. Step outside your comfort zone, and be flexible.

    “Post trip, continue to learn and give back to local NGOs if you can.”

    She said something good could come out of the Covid crisis for the Pacific.

    “Listen to Pacific people on how we can help support them, and think about how we can be better tourists.”.