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What’s the true cost of tourism on these small Pacific island nations?

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TOURISM is often seen as a panacea for development in the Pacific, a region deemed to have a competitive advantage with its warm climate, clean turquoise waters, beautiful landscapes and friendly locals.

These benefits are contrasted with some of the natural disadvantages of Pacific countries – their small size, both in population and geography; their insularity and remoteness; and their environmental vulnerability.

In our recent Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies article, we take a look at tourism in the Pacific, drawing on seven key emergent themes. These themes include: geopolitical influence; the impact of tourism; economic leakages and linkages; Chinese tourism; skills and training; air transportation; and tourism resilience.

The geopolitical drivers of tourism are critical for the Pacific. Although Australia and New Zealand have traditionally represented the bulk of international visitors to Pacific destinations, there is an increasing shift towards the Chinese outbound tourism market, particularly in marketing and promotion if not yet actual arrivals.

SEE ALSO: Will quake-torn Indonesia’s bet on tourism pay off?

Pacific countries are keen to get a share of this exponentially growing market, as international tourism is one prong in China’s soft power arsenal where stronger ties can be forged with the Pacific.

However, whether tourism actually contributes to the sustainable development of Pacific countries, and how it impacts the economic, environmental and socio-cultural dimensions, are questions that remain largely unanswered.

A tourist buys some fresh produce from a Cook Islander woman at Punanga Nui Market, a popular market in the South........

© Asian Correspondent