Activity 1: Creating e-footprints for SME accommodation providers
In a world of fast paced, easily accessible information on smart phones and tablets via high speed internet and wifi, little thought is given to bridging the digital divide.
For many South Pacific island states, the internet is still considered a luxury even though current internet speeds are still reminiscent of the old, slow dial up connections with intermittent connectivity.
But for many small and micro-enterprise (SME) accommodation owners in the region, internet speed is the least of their concerns.
Research conducted by the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) noted a lack of digital online presence for many of these SME accommodation operators.
Via funding from the European Union, the SPTO was able to conduct e-marketing support workshops for 15 Pacific islands SME accommodation operators in the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tuvalu and Vanuatu to create their first online digital footprints to increase bookings and visibility of their properties.
Timei Kaitaua, owner of Lagoon View Bungalows, a two beach bungalow property on Kiritimati Island in Kirbati, said the results of launching his own website online was instantaneous. "Next month I will have two married couples from Italy to stay in my bungalows and August, September and October, I also already have bookings. All from the website you helped me put up on the internet. Many, many thanks indeed for the work you have done on our accommodation. This is great and thank you once again “.
This project was designed to enhance the viability and sustainability of accommodation SMEs in the Pacific ACPs by improving their e-marketing capabilities.
Sabrina Muller Kabua, Manager of Long Island Hotel on Majuro in the Republic of Marshall Islands said the e-tools were easy to utilize and very effective. “In the past six months, over 200 bookings have been done via this online booking tool. It has been quite effective and convenient to use. We are very happy with what is being provided to us under this SPTO SME e-marketing project”
Workshop participants were introduced to the best in breed e-commerce and e-marketing tools as well as social media marketing to apply to their newly developed e-commerce websites.
Jacob Teem, owner of Ikari House on Kiribati opted to upgrade his website to include the booking widget to enhance his existing website. “Just straight after we have our website launched, the bookings and enquiries started coming in. We are looking at upgrading our booking system to include the booking widget. This is good for our business and we are grateful to SPTO and EU for this assistance”.
Alicia Hipa, Owner of Teresa's Guest House on Niue shared the same sentiments saying, “The website http://www.teresasguesthouse.com/ looks great. I am really happy with it. Thanks heaps to you and your team for the great effort”.
SPTO Chief Executive Ilisoni Vuidreketi said, “We want to improve the understanding of the international distribution options for the accommodation industry which in turn will increase the sales volumes for these accommodations”.
“Our overall aim is to ensure the sustainability of these SME accommodations which in turn will sustain the economy”, Mr. Vuidreketi added.
The SPTO with consultants WHL conducted eleven workshops with 163 industry participants representing 124 properties across the region.
WHL has also developed an online platform to track bookings and enquiries made through the e-Marketing Solutions such as the Booking Widget and email enquiries.
At the end of 2014, 165 live websites were running with over 7,816 enquiries and an increase of 2,345 bookings since April 2012.
For further information contact:
South Pacific Tourism Organisation
2. Bridging the Digital Divide for SME Tour and Activity operators in Savusavu
A recent E-marketing support workshop conducted in the idyllic town of Savusavu in Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second largest island, has opened up a world of opportunities for a few Small and Micro-Enterprise (SME) activity and tour operators mostly operating out of their villages in the far reaches of the provinces of Bua and Cakaudrove.
The workshop was conducted by the South Pacific Tourism Organisation’s (SPTO) in collaboration with the Fijian Ministry of Tourism under the auspices of the Pacific Regional Tourism and Capacity Building Programme (PRTCBP) funded through the European Union.
Participants were identified as SME tour and activity operators who had little to no e-footprint via websites or e-marketing.
The aim of the workshop is to create websites with proper booking widgets for these SME’s, to assist them with their online marketing and to ultimately increase tourist bookings to their tours and activities.
Peni Ore of the Namena Marine Conservation Park, Kubulau in the Bua Province, says whilst their tour has been operating for a number of years, they have not been able to tap into the high influx of tourists that visit their province.
“The workshop has been very enlightening for us. We’ve discussed these kinds of options for our tour but we didn’t have the means and were sometimes discouraged. What we as the Kubulau Business Development committee, which was established by our Chiefs to help our communities, have been discussing is being offered to us, in terms of online marketing. I think the opportunity is now.”
“I have been involved in this community project for four years, this assistance is huge”, he continued.
Sakiusa Cama, of Vuadomo Village Tours and Activities in Cakaudrove says a website will increase visitors to their waterfall and village tours and will eventually contribute to their scholarship fund for their children.
“We are very happy with this assistance because we want more visitors to visit our waterfall and village tours. We currently have a scholarship fund to assist our children and we are confident that the money that we will receive from an increase in visitors because we will finally be online, will greatly assist our cause.”
SPTO Chief Executive Ilisoni Vuidreketi had earlier stated at the opening of the workshop that this training is a milestone for the Fijian tourism industry.
“We are pleased to be working in collaboration with the Fijian Ministry of Tourism to assist the smaller operators with online marketing and support. We are targeting smaller operators because these businesses are more closely tied to the communities and the benefits will go directly to the communities.”
Wilson Fabiano the coordinator of the Red Stone Dance Group from Vatudamu in Savusavu, says his dance group was created to encourage youths to make better use of their skills through dancing.
Wilson was alerted to the assistance offered by SPTO through a former participant of an E-Support workshop conducted for accommodation owners in 2013.
“We are really thankful for Margaret and Luigi (owners of La Dolce Vita Villas) to reach you guys to come out here and take pictures of our dancing to create our website”, Wilson stated.
“What we have been looking for we are now receiving with your help so that more people can know about our dance group and book us for their functions. We now know that we have broken through the wall and we are very grateful”.
The SPTO with consultants World Hotel Link conducted a one-day workshop before conducting field visits to gather content.
The field visits also gave the SPTO a chance to discuss the pros and cons of online marketing with the villagers to assist them to fully understand the assistance that is being provided to them.
3. NEWLY ACQUIRED SKILLS BOOSTS TONGAN CATERING BUSINESS
FIJI: For Tongan chef and caterer Heimoana Ali, her culinary world has broadened with new and exciting opportunities and avenues for growth thanks to newly acquired skills she attained whilst attending the Pacific Culinary Training workshop in Nadi, Fiji in early July.
Moana, as she is more commonly known, joined 20 regional chefs at a week-long training workshop aimed at encouraging the use of local foods in cuisine, promoting creativity in food preparation and working with local communities to facilitate the supply of fresh and high-quality produce.
The workshop was a joint collaboration between two European Union supported regional programmes - the Pacific Regional Tourism Capacity Building Programme (PRTCBP), implemented by the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), and the Pacific Agriculture Policy Programme of Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). Additional partners include, the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management-USP, College of Business, Hospitality and Tourism Studies - Fiji National University (FNU).
Since returning to the Tongan capital, Nukualofa, where Moana runs a catering business, she has been quick to use recipes and techniques she learned whilst at the workshop.
“I am working on reviewing my menu to adjust many things to improve for the better. I have also started to share the skills and experiences I got from the training”, Moana enthusiastically remarked.
“I have also done caterings for the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister as well as government ministers and the biggest highlight was the soursop pie. However, I modified the recipe by using my own pie base and I have since been very busy with many pie orders. Good thing is, it is in season now”, she added.
Moana learned the soursop pie recipe from celebrity New Zealand chef, Colin Chung, whom with countryman chef, Robert Oliver and Fijian chef, Shailesh Naidu, imparted their skills and knowledge to the 20 chefs during the workshop.
“I have also been invited by the Ministry of Agriculture to go to the outer islands to facilitate a two-day chefs' competition in each of the islands. The winners will display their dishes at the agricultural show in August. This competition will emphasize the use of healthy local produce and food”, she continued.
Moana is spearheading the competition using cooking ingredients and stock from her own catering business to kick-start the competition.
“I feel honored to be asked to run this competition and it is something that I have wanted to do for a while. This way I am able to impart more knowledge on innovative ways to cook locals foods as well as encourage our local chefs to use more local foods in their menus”, she added.
“I am also catering for the first time for the King and Queen of Tonga during the Royal Agriculture Show and I really want to cook
the best of Tongan local foods using our own local ingredients and I am honored to be given this opportunity”, she said.
“I have also reached out to the network of chefs that trained with me in Fiji to help me with some of their innovative ideas”, she added.
SPTO Chief Executive Ilisoni Vuidreketi has praised Moana’s efforts saying, “it is encouraging to see these kinds of results from the training that was conducted recently and is indicative of how innovative local food menus are in high demand not only from tourists but local people.”
"The European Union is pleased with Ms. Heimoana Ali's achievements and the role that the two EU-supported initiatives, PRTCBP and PAPP played in drawing out her success. We look forward to similar impacts from these initiatives" said Gediminas Varanavicius, Charge d'Affaires of the EU Delegation for the Pacific.
The Pacific Culinary Training workshop attended by Moana was SPTO’s contribution to the Pacific Community Agritourism Week that was held at the Sofitel Resort Fiji in Nadi recently.
For more information please contact:
South Pacific Tourism Organization