Tourism has been identified as a key economic opportunity for South Pacific nations, both in country and also internationally with entities such as the World Bank focussing upon the need for these smaller nations to develop sustainable tourism that draws upon their rich natural and cultural heritage. However, numerous studies have identified that the tourism industry in the South Pacific is still underdeveloped, particularly in relation to cultural heritage, which is defined as “all tourist trips that include cultural activities, such as visiting monuments, sites and museums, as well as experiences and interaction with local communities, such as attending festivals, local cultural events and visiting markets. It involves travelling to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present.” (SPTO 2014).
Although globally cultural heritage tourism is worth 40% of the total tourism market, tourism operators tend to market the Pacific as a tropical beach destination, with a lack of understanding of the diversity and richness of Pacific cultural heritage. Tourism plans in both Samoa and Papua New Guinea (PNG Tourism Master Plan 2007-2017 and Samoa Tourism Sector Plan 2014-2019), and the wider Pacific (South Pacific Niche Market Report – Cultural Heritage Tourism) acknowledge the importance of cultural heritage, and include directions for the further development of cultural heritage opportunities, although these largely remain unrealised. These plans also tend to focus primarily upon contemporary practices, with visitors engaging with performances, art/cultural objects and indigenous tourism ventures.
There is little engagement with the heritage of the past, the stories/places that provide the history to the people of today. Museums are generally either lacking or underfunded/underdeveloped. Archaeological sites that have potential for tourism visitation are not utilized, have poor interpretative value for tourists or lack oversight for the sustainable development of these resources. We believe that this is a major oversight as it is the unique history of each Pacific nation that highlights the richness and diversity of today’s cultures. At the same time, narratives of Pacific colonisation can be used to create networks between Pacific nations, drawing upon a shared story of exploration and migration.
This project will explore ways in which cultural heritage can be used to provide new avenues for sustainable tourism development, thus generating income for local communities. We note that tourism is one of the 12 investment priorities as part of the New Zealand Aid Programme Strategic Plan 2015-2019, particularly in Samoa where increasing economic benefits from tourism are highlighted as a current aid activity. Apart from economic benefits, the project will also explore how cultural heritage tourism in particular can be used as a tool for education, cultural awareness and the preservation of cultural practices, including providing important context and narratives for local identity. This focus is consistent with the South Pacific Tourism Organisation’s Pacific Regional Tourism Strategy 2015-2019, which notes the desire to positively use tourism as a stimulation for cultural retention and regeneration.
For this project we have selected two case studies: Samoa and Madang, Papua New Guinea. Both of these case studies have significant potential for the development of cultural heritage tourism. So far we have completed three visits to our two project areas. Our first trip to Samoa was an initial scoping trip to establish a research partnership with the Centre for Samoan Studies (CSS) at the National University of Samoa. This was followed by a second trip to interview local village communities with CSS about their views on cultural heritage tourism – asking questions about what the positives/negatives of developing these types of activities may be, and what they would need to make a success out of such a project. Our third trip was to Madang to conduct a workshop on cultural heritage tourism that included national and local stakeholders such as the National Museum and Art Gallery of Papua New Guinea, Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority, Tourism and Anthropology staff from Divine Word University, National Research Institute, Madang Visitors and Cultural Bureau, and Melanesian Tourist Services.
In 2018, the research team will return to both Madang and Samoa where we will work with our research partners to continue interviews with local communities, tourism providers, government departments, and cultural/tourism authorities. Our final goal is to provide a report that outlines the opportunities and constraints for the use of cultural heritage in sustainable tourism development for local communities within their own individual Pacific contexts.
PNG Tourism Master Plan 2007-2017