“More local content on plates and more local Agrifood products on offer for visitors, tourists and the hotel industry means more income and employment opportunities for our farmers, suppliers, private sector and overall interest in the agricultural sector.”
These were the words from Dr Ken Cokanasiga, Acting Deputy Director, Land Resources Division, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) during his opening statement at the Opening of the first ever Pacific Community AgriTourism Week.
After two days of intense Social Reporting Training in preparation for the event, the week finally started with over 100 people attending. Most participants of this AgriTourism Week come from across the Pacific, and also guest participants from the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean are gathered at one of Fiji’s prime Resort Island, Sofitel Resort and Spa, Denarau Island, Nadi.
Before walking into the Conference Room for the opening ceremony, one cannot stop to admire the glistening of the sun rays upon the calm waters as you look out through the opening in the main foyer. Such a beautiful day to be amongst the many tourists getting ready to dive into their carefree duties of relaxation soaking up the sea, sun and sand. And in all its irony, here we were, all moving into the cold, air-conditioned room to begin a week-long discussions on how we could stimulate more interest for local food content to this booming industry.
Agriculture and Tourism Link
How can we attract hotels to desire more of our local produce? How can we ensure that our local growers and farmers will be able to support this fast booming industry? These are some of the questions that will ignite discussions throughout the week.
The week will not entirely be a ‘sit in a cold a/c’ room scenario but one that will bring a lot of case Studies, practical presentations and demonstrations of what is currently taking place in the region and also our friends from the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean are here to share their success of valorising local produce.
Renato Mele, Head of Operations, Delegation of the European Union for the Pacific expressed his pleasure of being here for the Conference as this year marked the European Year of Development. Each month of this year is being assigned a theme, and the theme for the month of June is “Sustainable Green Growth, Decent Jobs and Businesses”. Having this innovative event that creates the link between the two crucial sectors for the Pacific Region in whole – Agriculture and Tourism will contribute to sustaining economic growth which will lead to poverty reduction.
Though the Pacific region continues to face challenges for Economic Growth under constraints including its size, geographic dispersion, cost of doing business, cost of transport, and fossil fuels to name a few, the Pacific Community AgriTourism Week will be a stepping stone to assist in overcoming some of these challenges.
Highlights and call to action
One of the exciting outcomes from this week will be the development of a “communique” that will set out a “call to action” for individual Pacific nations and as a region to address challenges and to tap in to the vast opportunity of linking Agribusiness with the Tourism Industry or “The Marriage” between the two.
Learning and information tools compiled will be shared at the regional and national levels through SPC’s Pacific Agriculture and Forestry Policy Network – (PAFPNet), the South Pacific Tourism Organisation’s (SPTO) networks, as well as other partner mediums.
Another highlight is the Culinary Training, whereby 26 chefs from Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Fiji will be trained by celebrity chefs such as Colin Chung, Rob Oliver and Fiji’s Shailesh Naidu to create and innovate more local menus available for visitors.
These activities and initiatives together showcase a wonderful learning experience for the week, which will be made public to all stakeholders. You can follow the discussions by following #PacAgriTo. Just after an hour of the Opening Session, there were already over 700,000+ Impressions of online engagement of the topic. And when the Social Reporting Team of the Pacific Community AgriTourism Week met Mr. Mele from the EU, the online tracker of the event was shown to him. His reaction was like: “Impressive. This is the kind of thing we are looking for!”
Blogpost by Carole Cholai, Social Reporter for the Pacific Community AgriTourism Week 2015.