First destination in the South Pacific Region to adopt criteria and indicators for sustainable tourism
WASHINGTON, D.C. (March, 2014)– Samoa is the first South Pacific destination to complete the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) Early AdopterProgram and the second destination in the world to do so at the national level. Since the late 1990s, Samoa has held a pivotal leadership role in Sustainable Tourism practices and the Early Adopter Program provided the destination with an opportunity to benchmark its performance in the international context.
The Early Adopter Program is overseen by GSTC’s Destination Working Group and implemented by NGO partner Sustainable Travel International. It applies the recently developed GSTC Destination Criteriain assessing current sustainability levels and providing direction for future improvements. These guidelines complement the existing GSTC Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators, which is the worldwide sustainability standard for tourism businesses.
“Samoa has demonstrated exemplary management in the South Pacific. Through their participation in the Early Adopter program, Samoa sets a clear and distinctive sustainable tourism process for small island nations. We look forward to their participation and knowledge sharing as they participate on the global stage in sustainable tourism initiatives”, expressed Dr. Kelly Bricker, Chair of the GSTC.
The Independent State of Samoa is made up of 10 islands in the Polynesia, covering a total area of 2,831 square-kilometers. Remarkably beautiful, Samoa showcases breathtaking coastlines, white sandy beaches, coral reefs, marine wildlife, and rainforest covered volcanic peaks. Samoans are known for their traditional “Fa’a Samoa” way of life which values family and an authentic communal lifestyle.
The evaluation was performed by GSTC implementation partner and leading destination specialist Sustainable Travel International. “Samoa was an early pioneer in the concept of sustainable destination management. The evaluation demonstrates that sustainable tourism is at the very core of Samoa's efforts. This includes a tourism product successfully built around natural and cultural heritage, and considerable frameworks in place at the national level to manage and monitor the impacts of tourism” added Jeremy Sampson, Senior Destination Specialist at Sustainable Travel International, responsible for conducting the on-site evaluation.
The assessment was an initiative in collaboration with the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA), which provided guidance and facilitated resources to meet with the stakeholders. Present at all stages, STA demonstrated considerable understanding and commitment to the process. “Sustainable tourism is the only form of tourism that ensures we are balancing all that is wonderful in our lives, from our pristine environs and our vibrant Samoan culture, to visitor satisfaction that exceeds expectations. Samoa has long supported these objectives and the monitoring and evaluation of indicators. These efforts help know where we are doing well, and alert us to areas of concern that we must immediately address,"stated Sonja Hunter, CEO, Samoa Tourism Authority.
During a 10-day span, the assessor met with key representatives to discuss tourism planning and management, sustainable development, heritage protection, and environmental conservation. The assessment determined the destination’s readiness to demonstrate GSTC-D adherenceoutlining a number of good practices and areas where the destination can improve.