The Global Business Network Private Sector Partnership Forum 2018 of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS-GBN), which is a platform to enable the members to explore and develop partnership opportunities and exchange know-how and best practices for sustainable tourism development opened yesterday at Maritim Resort and Spa, in Balaclava.
The two-day event is organised by the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) and the Government of Mauritius. The theme of the forum is strengthening private sector partnerships for sustainable tourism development
In his opening address the Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping, Mr Premdut Koonjoo, pointed out that the very principles of sustainable tourism are highly relevant to SIDS. He recalled that the stage for inclusive and sustainable tourism had already been set at the third international conference on SIDS held in Samoa in 2014.
SIDS were called upon to establish appropriate national policies and structures to make the tourism sector more resilient following the meeting, he said.
Speaking about the successful transformation of Mauritius, the Minister highlighted that this came about with sound economic policies over the years and more importantly it was based on new emerging sectors of growth such as the tourism industry. From the very beginning the synergy between Government and the private sector to build the tourism industry was crucial, he observed
According to him today, after 50 years of Independence, tourism has become a vibrant industry and is the first pillar of the economy contributing around 10% to GDP and sustaining more than 100 000 jobs. Statistics show that earnings from tourism represents around USD 1.8 billion, and tourism arrivals peaked to 1.3 million in 2017 and it is expected that arrivals will reach around 1.4 million in 2018.
While referring to the tourism ecosystem, the Minister said that it is an ever-changing one and SIDS countries have many common issues, face similar challenges and are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. SIDS generate less than one percent of greenhouse gas emissions yet have to face problems due to global warming, he observed. Tourism is a key sector of the economies of and as a result of the projected growth the 57 SIDS countries cannot afford to go wrong with their respective tourism industries, he cautioned.
Minister Koonjoo called for the need to discuss how to uplift SIDS' value propositions, innovate and transform to rise above competition.
"It cannot be business as usual and we have to change our strategies to become successful in the future and this will depend on many factors such as reinforcing connectivity to compensate for our remoteness, building partnership to promote sustainable tourism and putting resources together to find solutions in the future", he said.
For her part the UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing, Ms Fekitamoeloa Katoa Utoikamanu, pointed out that the concept of partnership is not a new one for SIDS as it is the motto, the cornerstone for policies and actions for SIDS sustainable development.
"UN-OHRLLS has an advocacy mandate for SIDS and it goes without saying advocacy efforts must be done in partnership with the relevant parts of the UN system, civil society, media, academia and foundations" she said. Over the years, the UN-OHRLLS has leveraged partnerships to raise awareness about the special and highly complex situation of SIDS and sustained the mobilisation of international support for SIDS and increased dialogue with international financial institutions on SIDS-specific issues and continue to do so.
The Secretary-General of the Mauritius Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Raju Jaddoo, stated that SIDS' population as Islanders are more outward-looking, broadminded and open, adding that the 57 SIDS across the world have one common goal that of ensuring sustainable development and a sustainable tourism model cannot be dissociated with the ocean. It is also true that these countries have started calling themselves as large ocean States as they have realised the vast opportunities that the ocean can provide, he said.
As regards the tourism industry, Mr Jaddoo highlighted that one in every ten jobs throughout the world is directly or indirectly based on the tourism industry which accounts for 10% of global GDP and as a crucial economic driver the sector's importance will increase. According to the UN Tourism Organisation international tourists' arrivals will increase from 1.2 billion in 2017 to 1.8 billion by 2030 which means that tourism will remain a key contributor to growth, investment and employment in the decades to come, he said.
The SIDS-GBN Private Sector Partnership Forum's agenda comprises five sessions. Focus is on: tourism as a driver of the Sustainable Development Goals; promoting tourism through cultural heritage; improving connectivity for tourism; environmental sustainability and renewable energy; and, financing for sustainable tourism development.
Around 60 representatives from the 12 SIDS as well as international organisations such as the United Nations, FAO, WHO, World Bank, European Union and Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub are attending.