The Pacific Business Monitor 2021 Report released by the Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) Network today revealed that while COVID-19 adversely impacted the Pacific business community throughout much of 2021, positive sentiments among Pacific business owners and leaders increased towards the end of the year.

The report indicates that the severity of negative impacts on Pacific businesses, business revenue, and business leaders’ community wellbeing, all decreased over the year by 10 percent, 15 percent and 16 per cent respectively.

The Pacific Business Monitor is a regular survey commissioned by the PTI Network to understand the ongoing effects of COVID-19 on the Pacific’s private sector, as well as identify challenges and support needed for businesses to recover. The 2021 Report collates responses gathered across all eight surveys conducted between January and November last year, across major industries, in sixteen Pacific Island countries.

The 2021 report revealed that while Pacific businesses continued to be significantly impacted by severe economic challenges such as international border restrictions, uncertain market conditions, and global trade disruptions, many increasingly embraced diversifying, as means of reducing cost and damage to their business. This included an increased focus on selling online.

By the end of 2021, almost half of all respondents reported diversifying their product offering, with over one third pivoting towards ecommerce. This is a significant increase from the year prior, with the Pacific Business Monitor 2020 Report showing only 29 percent of businesses adopting diversification, and 22 percent pivoting to ecommerce.

PTI Australia Trade & Investment Commissioner, Caleb Jarvis, said the shift by Pacific businesses towards digital and diversification was positive for log-term businesses survival and ability to thrive in the global markets.

“It is increasingly clear that 2021 was a year in which Pacific businesses demonstrated both tremendous resilience and ingenuity. For many communities and businesses, the health crisis is far from over, bringing with it elongated economic pressures and challenges. As outbreaks swept and continue to sweep the region, the period is defined by a fundamental schism: for some, near-term business survival remained the only agenda item. For others, more proactive measures are being taken, with a concentrated shift towards moving online and revaluating offerings.

Throughout 2021 calls for assistance in accessing new markets, implementing ecommerce, upskilling staff, updating technology, and refining business models, all grew noticeably – particularly amongst female-led businesses. This a great indication that there are an increasing number of businesses actively seeking out initiatives they can leverage to support themselves into the future, different as it may it be.”

Released alongside the Pacific Business Monitor 2021 Report, the PTI Network released the Pacific Business Monitor 2021 Report – Female-Led Focus which revealed that female-led and female-owned businesses in the Pacific have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, facing greater negative financial and wellbeing impact than their male counterparts. Only 27 percent of female-led businesses were fully operational in late 2021, compared to 51 percent of male-led businesses.

Timeframe expectations for returning to ‘business as usual’ were also later amongst female owners and leaders than amongst their male counterparts, with only 36 per cent of female-led businesses expecting revenue to return to usual levels by 2022, compared to 58 percent of male-led businesses.

PTI New Zealand Trade Commissioner, Glynis Miller, noted the need to recognise the gendered impact COVID-19 has had on businesses in the region.

“The gendered impact of COVID-19 must be considered by both the Pacific’s private sector and governments alike, as efforts to support the recovery of Pacific economies come to pass. With the Pacific Business Monitor 2021 Report – Female-Led Focus highlighting the gender effects of the COVID-19 crisis, we must be acutely aware of ensuring to shape a nuanced, intersectional response that accounts for the realities that women-owned businesses in the Pacific are facing.”

While the opening of borders and allowing international tourists to visit the Pacific remained crucial for many businesses in the region throughout 2021, COVID-19 has also brought to the fore the importance of embracing change. The report has revealed that many businesses are looking to refresh how they do, what they do. This is valuable information for stakeholders, partners and organisations working in the region to ensure that they are delivering programmes targeted to the nuanced needs of the Pacific private sector. Throughout the PTI Network we used the results to inform our programmes last year and will continue to do so this year.”

The PTI Network is an agency of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, that facilitates trade and investment in the Pacific Islands.

To view the PTI Pacific Business Monitor 2021 Report and the Pacific Business Monitor 2021 Report – Female-Led Focus visit the PTI Australia website.