Communique 1997

Tourism in the 21st Century:

Cultural Exploitations, Environmental Degradation or Economic Development?

2nd Student Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders

14-20th October, 1997


The second Student Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders was held in Apia, Samoa from 14 to 20 October, 1997. It was held under the auspices of the Universityof the South Pacific, with the funding support of the Tourism Council of the South Pacific, the School of Social and Economic Development (SSED) of the University of the South Pacific, and the University of the South Pacific Students Association. It was attended by Heads of Government, accompanied by their advisers, of Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa.

Under the general theme of tourism, the conference discussed a wide range of issues including the role of tourism in economic development; the challenges of negative advertising in relation to gender issues; the sustainable management of the environment; the need to educate tourists on aspects of everyday life in our Societies; the encouragement of culture-oriented curricular; and the recognition of a dearth of Pacific islanders in upper-management positions in the tourism industry.

The presence of countries with little or no tourism industry enhanced discussions. It was especially pleasing to have Nauru represented at the conference for the first time. Nauru does not have a tourism industry. It does, however, have a number of tourism-related investments in the Pacific islands region. This provides Nauru with a unique perspective of tourism which was generously shared.



  •  The conference acknowledged the importance of tourism to the Pacific islands region while recognising that not all countries in the region have established tourism as an industry. At the same time the conference recognised the importance of diversifying the economies of Pacific islands countries in order to ehance their overall economic ability. This diversification shall also take place within the tourism sector. It was suggested countries may develop niche markets and/or eco-tourism in this regard. The conference recognised the imbalance in ownership of tourism facilities in favour of foreigners. It was agreed that all tourism developments shall have local investment, labour and resources. Furthermore, a percentage of net earnings from any tourist operation shall be paid to the government concerned. This percentage shall be determined by that government.


  • The conference acknowledged that tourism does have adverse effects on the environment. It was agreed that Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) shall be done before any tourism developments take place. Current practice of performing EIA's only on those developments take cater for a substantial number of people disregards the very real damage to the environment done by any development project. The conference also agreed to broaden the terms of reference of the Tourism Council of the South Pacific (TSCP) to undertake issues concerning the environment and tourism. It is suggested an agency to be set up within the framework of TCSP. The agency shall be funded by regional using a formula based on tourism earnings. This agency shall, as one of its main tasks, undertake regional environmental audits every three years. The conference decided that respective national environmental audits shall be undertaken by the country concerned. These national audits shall be undertaken every year.


  • The conference agreed that culture was essential to a country's well being. It was recognised that positive measures were needed to maintain/preserve Pacific islands cultures. Tourism was acknowledged as playing an effective part in the maintenance of culture. At the same time, however, countries were warned of the commercialisation of cultures for the sake of tourism. Recognition was given to the need for local populations to reassert and continue to discover their cultures. This was especialy true for the cultural forms that have been extensively used in the tourism industry, that is, dance, music and stories. It was suggested that festivals celebrating cultural diversty should be actively promoted for the benefit of locals.


  • The Pacific islands must prepare its people for the world in the same manner in which they have prepared the world for the Pacific islands. The conference recognised and acknowledged the value of western education and at the same time recognised the value of Oceania's knowledge.
  • It was agreed that culture-oriented and region-specific curricular must be introduced in all educational institutions. This curricular must provide the foundation for local involvement in all levels of tourism employment.
  • Great concern was raised by the delegates over the possible negative perceptions of tourists with regard to the choice of images in tourism advertising. Of particular concern was the portrayal of women.
  • It was agreed that all available media would be utilised to inform tourists of culture and dress codes, and to describe aspects of everyday life in respective countries. 


  • The conference acknowledged the images used in tourism advertising may be construed as gender-biased. It was agreed that legislation shall be enacted to ensure the portrayal of women in advertising is done with respect and dignity. In this regard, sexist and gender-biased language and images shall not be used in advertising. Furthermore, due care will be taken to ensure the images used in marketing the Pacific region are not able to be misinterpreted as advertising for sex tourism.
  • With regarding to employment opportunities, the conference recognises the importance of human resource development therefore equal opportunity shall be practised for all levels of tourism employment.


To conclude, the delegations conveyed their appreciation for the opportunity to exchange ideas on tourism in the Pacific region. They expressed their gratitude to the keynote speakers for sharing their views and enhancing the discussions of the conference. They also expressed their gratitude to the organisers of the conference for a job well done. All the delegates recommended another conference next year; recognising the importance of regional discussions in the face of the 21st century. The Honourable Prime Minister of Tonga kindly offered to host the 3rd SPICOL conference.

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