The Chief Executive Officer of the South Pacific Tourism Organisation, Chris Cocker, recently returned from attending the World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) in Helsinki, Finland, has stated he is inspired with the possibilities that a circular economy could bring to the tourism sector in the Pacific.
With the key focus on sustainable economic growth, the circular economy is regenerative by design and moves away from the traditional “take-make-dispose” model to retain as much value as possible from resources, products, parts and materials. The circular economy model creates a system that allows for long life, optional reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling.
This innovative approach is considered ideal for tourism stakeholders in the Pacific and is in line with the focus on 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and the moves by SPTO to advocate for effective waste & water management and renewable energy options, while at the same time creating jobs and growing the economy.
WCEF was the first ever global meeting of its kind and was organized by the Ministry of Environment in Finland and the United Nations Environment Programme/ 10 Year Framework Programme (10YFP) and was attended by 1500 delegates from 105 countries with 130 speakers presenting and 60 accredited media profiling the event. SPTO CEO was the only representative from the Pacific Islands attending the Forum.
The ground breaking event presented the world’s best circular economy solutions and gathered together the most recognized experts and decision makers in the field.
European countries are at the forefront of the shift towards a circular economy with a number of countries passing relevant legislation on resource recycling and reuse and setting national targets on waste reduction as well as water management.
“While the concept has been in Europe for many years it is not widely understood and embraced by many businesses as yet and it remains a challenge today to change the mindset of businesses to adopt a circular mind set,” Mr. Cocker said.
Through the WCEF, Europe is sharing the circular economy mindset with the world with the hope that the world’s countries will move towards circular economies in the near future.
Finland set in place a national circular economy roadmap last year and as a direct link hosted the WCEF this year with the Government of Finland partially sponsoring the attendance of the SPTO CEO, given SPTO’s membership of the UN World Tourism Organisation Multi- Stakeholder Advisory Committee (MAC).
“The meeting was very inspiring and it was very interesting to hear from countries about the circular economy which is a shift from business as usual and the linear economy to focus more on creating value, profit and jobs throughout the whole cycle,” Mr Cocker said.
“It has so much potential to drive private sector growth and is an approach that we should definitely embrace and implement in this region, given the right support and resources. SPTO will certainly be sharing lessons learnt with our member countries and through the new networks established at the WCEF, we will also look at implementing “best practices” from case studies that are applicable to our tourism industry.”