The 30th Joint Commissions Meeting of the United Nation's World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) started on Monday in Fiji's third largest city of Nadi, focusing on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable tourism development.
Speaking during the opening ceremony, Fiji's Minister for Tourism Faiyaz Koya said that hosting the meeting in the Pacific for the first time was crucial for the region.
The 3-day meeting, which is being attended by the countries such as Fiji, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Australia and Papua New Guinea, was an opportunity for Fiji and the Pacific to showcase tourism opportunities, Koya said.
The minister added that it is an opportunity to show the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) which is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism what Fiji and the region can offer in tourism products.
Koya said that at the same time the meeting highlighted the challenges that the nations in this region face due to climate change.
Tourism in Fiji and the Pacific is a vital contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs a large number of Pacific citizens.
In Fiji's case, for example, the tourism sector contributes at least 30 percent to the GDP and employs 1 in 3 persons in the workforce.
Koya said that it was this very livelihood that was being adversely affected by climate change caused by unsustainable practices around the world.
The Pacific region is the smallest contributors to global warming. "However, we are the ones that are affected the most by climate change, rising sea level that not only affects sectors such as tourism but also affects arable land," Koya said.
Therefore, the Regional Seminar on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism Development being held in the margins of the Joint Commissions Meeting is timely.
Through this seminar, Koya said that the Pacific Island countries needed to bring to the forefront the challenges faced by the region.
Fiji's Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said in a message for the meeting that the economic engine of global tourism has changed the lives of millions of people across the Asia Pacific region.
As UNWTO partners, they are all committed to the pursuit of responsible, ethical and sustainable tourism development in the Asia Pacific region.