Photo caption: The Waisiliva Art Gallery at the Leleuvia Island Resort offers artists an opportunity to showcase and sell their work to both the tourist market and the local market.
Friday 8 August 2014, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva – When was the last time you walked into a store or hotel or restaurant in Fiji only to see imported crafts, art and decorations? Or have you ever been surprised to turn over a carving to find a ‘Made in Indonesia’ sticker? Let us take a moment to think about how our cultural producers feel when they are faced with this reality.
The cultural industries in Fiji are often assumed to be an integral part of the tourism sector. However, the dialogue between these two important sectors has historically been minimal, leaving cultural producers at a disadvantage and tourism providers with a lack of appropriate cultural products and services to offer. The National Development Workshop for the Cultural Industries in Fiji, hosted by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), sought to address this communication gap. In a session held on 5 August, the conference initiated the important dialogue between these two sectors and opened the door for improved relationships and shared responsibility in development.
The session, entitled ‘Cultural Tourism – State of Play’, presented speakers from both the public and private sectors, including the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association, Leleuvia Island Resort, Talanoa Treks and Pacific Destinationz. The presentations and dynamic discussion examined the different roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in the two industries around topics such as authenticity, respect of cultures, market research and product development.
Tourists, producers and service providers often struggle with the concept of authenticity in the tourism industry. How do tourism providers create experiences that reflect authentic culture and respect cultural producers and performers, while offering a marketable product? Part of the solution is to develop a market base that seeks out meaningful interactions with the local culture and understands the value of cultural products and services. Filipe Tuisawau, presenting on behalf of SPTO, provided statistics on Fijian tourism and global trends in the industry. In 2013, more than 655,000 tourists arrived in Fiji, representing an average annual growth rate of 2.2% since 2009. Although the majority of tourists to Fiji are not motivated by culture, the cultural heritage tourism market segment has grown globally and now represents almost 40% of all international travel. In order to support cultural tourism growth in Fiji, workshop participants noted the need to develop the cultural tourism market and mainstream culture into all market segments. They offered ideas on how to develop this market by educating sales specialists on Fiji’s culture and positioning Fiji as a cultural destination through promotion and branding.
Speakers also touched on the role of tourism product development to create experiences that meet customer demand and respect cultural traditions. The potential of community and culturally oriented tourism is supported by Colin Philip, Manager of Leleuvia Island Resort, and Matt Capper, Director of Talanoa Treks on Viti Levu. Colin’s work celebrates traditional art forms, such as burebuilding and magimagi, as well as contemporary visual art through the Waisiliva Art Gallery. Matt’s work at Talanoa Treks also illustrates the potential of community oriented tourism. Talanoa Treks caters to adventure tourists and ecotourists who consider culture a key motivating factor in planning their trips and have lower demands in terms of facilities and customer service.
Within the mainstream tourism industry, Pacific Destinationz is representing contemporary and traditional cultural producers. Emele Tuilagivou, Human Resources Manager at Pacific Destinationz, spoke about the company’s work with communities that provide cultural performances and displays for tourists, and their support of contemporary visual artists from Fiji. The discussion focused on the need for communities to have increased capacity so that they can manage their businesses sustainably and have empowered relationships with the tourism industry.
Finally, participants and presenters recognised the need to position Fiji as a cultural destination in the global market place and to move beyond the sun and sea brand. Culture needs to be positioned as a key part of the destination and a key motivating factor for tourists. But to meet this goal, there is recognition that all stakeholders have a responsibility.