Encouraging sustainable business practices in Samoa’s tourism industry and enhancing support of local initiatives.
Located in the Pacific, Samoa is comprised of ten islands, the largest and most known being ‘Upolu and Savai’i. Each island features distinct landscapes from tropical rainforests and volcanic landscapes to crystal clear lagoons and sandy beaches. The tourism industry is critical to the prosperity of Samoa’s economy and the livelihoods of the local people. According to the South Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO), over 139,000 tourists visited the islands in 2015. Despite the influx of foreign visitors, authentic cultural traditions and values still dominate every aspect of life on the islands.
As a small island nation, Samoa’s ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to environmental challenges brought on by climate change, unplanned development, and natural disasters. Impacts from mass tourism can also threaten traditional knowledge and cultural expression, which play an integral role in the Samoan way of life.
Sustainably managed tourism has the potential to address these threats by enhancing climate change adaptation, strengthening community resilience, and funding environmental conservation. In addition to environmental protection, tourism also represents an opportunity to conserve the island’s cultural heritage, improve community well-being, and create career options for the Samoan youth.
Samoa has been a regional leader in sustainable tourism interventions, but there is still potential for the destination to further engage tourism businesses and travelers in destination stewardship and be a model for other destinations in the region to follow. Sustainable Travel International is collaborating with the Samoa Tourism Authority to help small and large businesses play a more active role in ensuring sustainable tourism development.
Hotels, tour operators, and other tourism providers have the power to either harm or benefit the destinations where they operate. Their impact depends largely on how they run their business – from who they hire to how they dispose of their waste.
Part of our work in Samoa is focused on guiding these businesses—through the development of a Sustainability Charter—to identify and adopt more sustainable business practices. That is, practices that are respectful of the local people and environment, such as composting food waste and sourcing products locally. Giving local stakeholders and community leaders ownership of this process will ensure that the practices are feasible, appropriate, and impactful within the destination context. The Charter will also help to reinforce business innovation by highlighting and providing recognition to those businesses that are finding creative ways to incorporate sustainability. Widespread business commitment to these practices will contribute to community well-being, economic development, and environmental conservation.
Foundation for a Sustainable Samoa
In addition to encouraging business sustainability, our work in Samoa is also focused on using the power of the tourism industry to strengthen support for local conservation and community development efforts. To accomplish this, we partnered with the community to develop a travel philanthropy fund for Samoa.
The travel philanthropy fund, the Foundation for a Sustainable Samoa, was launched in 2017 with a mission of maximizing community benefits from tourism in Samoa by creating opportunities for local people to improve their well-being and safeguard their natural and cultural resources. The Foundation is dedicated to supporting small-scale destination stewardship initiatives that contribute to the following four priority sustainability causes: youth career development, environmental education, community economic development, and waste management. By capturing a largely untapped donor base of travelers and tourism businesses, the program will create a new funding mechanism for projects in need of financial assistance. In addition, the fund will raise traveler and resident awareness of key environmental and social issues facing the islands. By educating and uniting destination stakeholders around common causes, the fund will inspire collaboration to more effectively solve these problems. The fund will also be a way for stakeholders to highlight and share Samoa’s commitment to sustainability. By sharing stories of Samoa’s success, not only will the fund inspire activism locally, but it will also provide a sustainability model for other Pacific destinations to follow.
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