Fostering healthy tourism in the Pacific

Nadi, Fiji, 26 March 2018: Tourism and health sector representatives from seven of the Pacific’s most-visited islands have initiated efforts to promote tobacco-free tourism that protects ecosystems as well as the health and cultures of Pacific islanders.

Representatives gathered for a workshop on tobacco-free tourism from 20 to 21 March. The World Health Organization (WHO) led the workshop as part of its far-reaching work to foster healthy settings to combat the noncommunicable disease epidemic across the Pacific.

“On the surface it may seem that balancing economic development through efforts such as strengthening tourism requires health to take a backseat, but in actuality promoting health such as tobacco-free initiatives can and has helped to strengthen tourism objectives. For example, tobacco-free efforts result in cleaner, more enjoyable environments, as well as help to preserve precious heritage sites and pristine natural settings,” Dr Wendy Snowdon noted in her opening address encouraging cross-sectoral collaboration.

In addition to legendary hospitality, Pacific islands are home to some of the world’s most vibrant cultures and picturesque settings. Already, about 3 million tourists a year visit the Pacific. The tourism industry, which has continued to grow quickly, is expected to contribute an estimated US$ 4.9 billion to Pacific economies by 2019, according to the South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

For the growing tourism workforce and others, tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke are dangerous to health. In addition, tobacco products and their waste severely damage the environment. For example, cigarette filters, are made from non-biodegradable material. Discarded cigarette butts around the world contribute to an estimated 680 million kilograms of waste annually. The thousands of toxic chemicals in cigarette butts can poison our aquatic food sources.

Promoting health, including through tobacco-free initiatives, can help to strengthen tourism objectives. Tobacco-free initiatives put into effect across the health and tourism sectors will help protect the health of visitors, the workforce and the environment.

Workshop participants identified specific actions by which tourism and health sectors will collaborate to strengthen tobacco-free tourism in the Pacific. Actions included plans to share information about the benefits of implementing tobacco free initiatives through tourism networks, advocating for tobacco-free major events hosted by Pacific islands, and implementing joint initiatives to mobilize resources to support tobacco-free tourism.

For more information please contact Dr Ada Moadsiri, moadsiria@wpro.who.int

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