Tourism is a vital generator of economic growth and local employment across the Blue Pacific, with 2019 seeing the industry generate more than USD$6.29 billion in receipts and 69,440 jobs, representing nearly 20 per cent of the region’s total gross domestic product.
In 2020, as the region began to face the severe impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) Australia strengthened its Digital Tourism Program, adapting it to deliver tangible support to tourism operators through a series of online webinars, payment gateway offerings and website-build support services.
Since 2012, PTI Australia has run and implemented the Digital Tourism Program in an ongoing manner, having previously identified a call from local tourism operators for assistance upskilling their knowledge of digital marketing. Initially established to assist operators to increase their sales and improve their profitability, the program has since covered topics such as ‘Understanding the buying cycle’, ‘Leveraging your website to drive more direct sales’, ‘Instant booking capability’, ‘Online third-party distribution’, and ‘Social media marketing’, among others.
Most recently, 2022 has seen PTI Australia run several ‘Digital Health Check’ workshops for operators in Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa and the Cook Islands, with plans to deliver more, as well as an ‘Online Payment Solutions’ webinar and ‘Understanding and Accessing Finance’ workshop held for operators across the region.
Through the program, PTI Australia been able to support the build of booking-and-payment-enabled websites for local tourism operators based in the Pacific Islands, alongside the provision of seed funding, payment-gateway solutions, and tailored digital marketing assistance to further drive sales.
One such operator is Katy Watts, owner of Villa Tinikatolu in Fiji. Previously a highly experienced chef, Katy and her family renovated the estate during the COVID-19 crisis, and since then, have transformed it into an exclusive private villa with bespoke private chef facilities. Katy says joining PTI Australia’s Digital Tourism Program in January this year equipped her with the technology and digital know-how required to kickstart her business.
“Villa Tinikatolu is a treasured family holiday home and recently, we have started to build a business off the back of this, offering the property for accommodation. The Digital Tourism program provided us a fully integrated management system to take bookings and offer specials, while also merging with other OTAs like Expedia and Airbnb to grow our business. This functionality and capacity to take credit card payments has allowed our business to grow immensely. It has also opened my eyes to other possibilities, such as the ability to offer our guests more local cultural experiences, with a particular focus on developing a Fijian food experience!”
Onorina Fugawai, PTI Australia’s Tourism and Investment Project Officer, says the COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for the Pacific tourism sector to build back better and believes the Digital Tourism Program is able to support tourism operators in doing so.
“PTI Australia’s Digital Tourism program has been developed by our team alongside our expert partners, and is informed by on-the-ground feedback from tourism operators who wanted to deepen their skills in specific areas.
“As the Pacific beings to reopen, our Digital Tourism Program aims to prepare and equip operators with the digital skills they require, while also providing the opportunity for newcomers to the industry to learn what they need to know. These are practical skills that are simple to apply immediately, allowing operators to strengthen their digital presence and effectively engage tourists quickly. I am immensely proud of the impact the program has had thus far, and look forward to working with more of our Pacific tourism operators as we collectively navigate this road to recovery.”
For more information regarding the PTI Australia Digital Tourism Program please contact Onorina Fugawai, PTI Australia’s Tourism and Investment Project Officer, PTI Australia at: firstname.lastname@example.org