Pacific Rim woos tourists

New Zealand and Australia (left) … top tourist destinations

THE Pacific Ocean earns its name because of the tranquillity of its calm blue water, swaying palm trees and warm weather.

And that is precisly what most people imagine when thinking of visiting the Pacific Rim, those countries that lie around the edge and within this great expanse of ocean. These countries include Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica, the western coastal countries and states of South, Central and North America, Canada as well as Japan, China and eastern Asian countries. Inside the Pacific itself are a number of island chains including Micronesia, Solomon Islands and Polynesia.
Most of the ‘western’ countries around the Rim such as America, Australia and New Zealand have well-developed tourism strategies and opportunities, though several drawbacks such as the threat of terrorism, rising oil prices and involvement in wars, have created dips rather than growth. However, according to the latest World Tourism Organisation (WTO) figures, America and Australia are constantly leading in destination popularity in the region. The WTO also forecasts China as being the most popular tourist destination in the world by 2020, attracting some 130 million foreign visitors by then. Many of the island nations within the Pacific still carry the legacy of colonial power, but are reclaiming their own heritage and cultural history. However, being so much smaller and less resourced than the bigger countries around the Rim, the islands are not geared enough to take full advantage of the advances in the tourism industry and face the challenge of developing their tourism products.
However, a recent South Pacific Tourism Development conference held in June this year revealed that visitors to the islands are rising. At the same conference, strong concerns were raised regarding the need for sustainable tourism strategies to avoid serious exploitation of delicate and vulnerable natural and cultural resources.
Within the Pacific Rim, tourism has become one of the major income earners and employers of local workers. Fiji attracts more tourists than any other Pacific Island nation, surpassing its former economic staple, sugar, as its prime source of foreign income. French Polynesia has been running second as the region’s most popular tourist destination. As with trade goods, tourists come to the Pacific Islands from former colonial powers and nearby larger countries.
The Pacific Rim is set to become an increasingly important tourism destination. It remains to be seen whether these countries can face the new challenges that tourism brings with it in the first half of the 21st century.

By Phoenix Arrien