The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism as one that “that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities”. As per the UNWTO, sustainable tourism should make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity, respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance, and ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.

The Non-Aligned Movement has also emphasized the strategic role of sustainable tourism in socio-economic development and has called on the Member States to promote sustainable tourism. In keeping with the calls of the Non-Aligned Movement, the Republic of Vanuatu has launched the Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Policy (VSTP 2019-2030). The VSTP provides a guiding framework and direction for the Government of Vanuatu and all stakeholders to develop their tourism sector in a sustainable manner.

Vanuatu’s Sustainable Tourism Policy is premised on the vision “to protect and celebrate Vanuatu’s unique environment, culture, custom and people through sustainable and responsible tourism.” The Policy includes five goals: 1) Develop and manage a sustainable and responsible tourism industry; 2) Visitors connect with Vanuatu’s environment, culture, and its people; 3) Sustainable and responsible tourism products and services developed, supported, and marketed to attract responsible, high-value tourists; 4) Tourism that enhances, conserves, and protects the environmental and cultural resources of Vanuatu; and 5) Sustainable and responsible tourism brings improved income and well-being for Vanuatu and its people. Vanuatu is also the first country in the South Pacific to base its Sustainable Tourism Policy on the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) criteria for sustainable destinations. The VSTP has a
12-year time frame up to 2030, for achieving the goals and objectives in this document. This time frame aligns with the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP, 2016-2030) for Vanuatu. While tourism is only mentioned briefly in the economic goals of the NSDP, ensuring a sustainable and equitable tourism industry is largely influenced by environmental, social and cultural factors. Therefore, the VSTP has been developed to encompass economic environmental and social and cultural objectives from the NSDP.

In accordance with the UNWTO conceptualisation of sustainable tourism, VSTP focuses on the principles of sustainability (minimising negative environmental, economic and socio-cultural impacts), and incorporates responsible tourism to demonstrate a focus on ethics and human rights, therefore not just minimising negative impacts but mitigating these impacts. Responsible tourism is where operators, governments, local people and tourists share the responsibility for making Vanuatu more resilient and tourism more sustainable.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, which hit the tourism sector the hardest by halting all tourist activities for months since March 2020, the Vanuatu Tourism Office (VTO) has supplemented the VSTP with the slogan We’ll Keep it Beautiful for You.’ The VTO’s new campaign promises people overseas that the Ni-Vanuatu locals will keep Vanuatu beautiful for them until the restrictions are lifted and the time is right for them to return. As part of the campaign, the VTO will share a range of #VanuatuMoments featuring locals helping to keep Vanuatu beautiful, on its Facebook and Instagram channels. A series of social tiles have also been created for travel agents and the travel industry based in Vanuatu to share on their social channels, with the campaign message and promise “we’ll keep it beautiful for you.”

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