IFTM’s Global Centre for Tourism Education and Training held in early June a training programme for officials from island countries in Asia and the Pacific Ocean. The course, 3 webinars on the theme “Capacity Building for Sustainable Tourism in Island Countries”, was organised in collaboration with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
The online training programme took place on 1, 3 and 4 June. Topics covered included destination management, festivals and events, and sustainable tourism product development.
A total of 25 people took part. They were drawn from 5 UNWTO member states: Fiji, the Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Sri Lanka. In addition, 3 participants from the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area joined the programme.
The webinars also attracted online views from observers in other countries and regions, namely Cabo Verde, Cambodia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Romania, Spain, Turkey, Vietnam and Macao.
During the training programme, Mr. Harry Hwang, Director of the UNWTO Regional Department of Asia and the Pacific, and Prof. John Ap, Director of the IFTM Global Centre for Tourism Education and Training, highlighted the critical importance of sustainability for island countries, as these nations are particularly exposed to challenges linked to global warming, and possess limited resources regarding destination management.
The training programme included presentations by IFTM scholars Dr. Ubaldino Couto and Dr. Hazel Xu Yueying. Dr. Couto highlighted the importance of having a ‘festivalisation’ strategy for tourism promotion purposes, while Dr. Xu discussed the potential contribution of festivals and special events in enhancing the experience of tourists to a destination.
Also taking part in the programme as one of its facilitators was Prof. Alastair Morrison, a leading international author and scholar in the field of tourism. He talked about the importance of distinguishing ‘vision’ from ‘mission’ in terms of tourism management. The first is focused on the future, while the second is focused on the ‘now’ of operations, he said.
Ms. Betty Fok Wai Lan, Head of Destination Marketing at the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), joined one of the webinar sessions. She presented some of the tourism market recovery measures being implemented by MGTO to attract Mainland Chinese consumers to Macao, including the hosting of promotional ‘Macao Week’ events in various cities on the Mainland.
Ms. Virginia Fernandez-Trapa, on behalf of UNWTO, provided information about the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, which “aims to drive the tourism sector towards a circular economy for plastics – and workstreams on food loss and waste reduction, biodiversity protection and climate action.”
Useful knowledge for post-COVID-19 tourism
Mr. Robert Ah Sam, Manager of Planning and Development at Samoa Tourism Authority, was one of the participants in the training programme offered by the IFTM Global Centre. “The programme was very useful in enhancing [participant] capacity and knowledge in relation to destination marketing and product development,” he says.
Topics that caught the attention of the Samoan official included the focus on sanitisation measures for COVID-19 prevention, and the use of festivals and events as attractions for destinations. “What I have learnt from this programme will be very useful as we prepare our destination for the reopening of borders and the ‘new normal’ for tourism post COVID-19,” he says.
Mr. Douglas Keari, Senior Digital Marketing Officer at Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority, agrees the programme presented fresh options destination managers can explore for tourism marketing and promotion purposes in post-pandemic trading conditions. “COVID-19 has greatly affected us,” he says. “We see the need for more innovative products which are healthy, environmentally-friendly and sustainable, and ultimately appeal to well-informed” customers conscious of such issues.
For Ms. Fathimath Saaira, Project Officer – Stakeholder Relations at the Ministry of Tourism of the Maldives, these are “unprecedented times” for tourism destinations. “This programme has given us [a new] perspective… which is very useful for us in addressing our market sectors,” she says.
IFTM’s Global Centre for Tourism Education and Training was set up in 2016 following a memorandum of understanding signed between the Macao SAR Government and UNWTO. The agreement covered topics including the enhancement of human capital for the tourism industry, and the promotion of sustainable tourism in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Centre is part of IFTM’s efforts to strengthen Macao’s position as an international hub for tourism education and training. It provides training and education courses in cooperation with UNWTO and other parties to help tourism officials and professionals enhance their knowledge and skills. Since 2016, the Centre has hosted a total of 34 programmes, attended in aggregate by more than 430 participants from a total of 34 countries and regions.