Developments in the South Pacific: A Uniform Regional Accommodation Classification Scheme

Developments in the South Pacific: A Uniform Regional Accommodation Classification Scheme

South Pacific Tourism Organisation


By Louise Twining-Ward


The South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) is an inter-governmental body for the tourism sector in the South Pacific. It provides support and technical assistance to Pacific governments to develop and market the tourism sector, and regular Market Intelligence Reports for private sector members. Current full government member countries include the Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia (Tahiti), Kiribati, New Caledonia, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. In addition to thirteen member countries, SPTO also represents over 130 of the region's leading private sector operators.


The region attracted 1.18 million visitors in 2004 with Fiji gaining almost half of these (506,613), with French Polynesia following with (210,817) visitors and Samoa making it to third position with 99,951, just ahead of New Caledonia. There are approximately 20,000 hotels rooms in the region, and Fiji, the market leader, has about 5,000 rooms, mainly in luxury resorts such as the Sheraton, Intercontinental and the Warwick. Brand names also dominate tourism in French Polynesia but in the other island countries the accommodation sector has a smaller and more home-grown and distinct Pacific feel to it.


A number of different accommodation classification systems are currently in use across the region, reflecting the diversity of the classification systems origins, local loyalties and regional differences. However, some are in need of review and updating and others are still in the development or planning phase. The potential for a regionally uniform accommodation classification system to provide a more consistent message to international visitors, as well as the potential use of such a system to provide a comparable regional benchmark of operational standards has important implications. It is against this background that national tourism organizations, have requested that the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) develop a baseline framework that will help harmonise accommodation classification and terminology amongst its member countries.


The objectives of the program are as follows:

  • Research existing ‘best practice’ in terms of accommodation classification and lessons learned internationally.
  • Investigate current situation in the region with regards to accommodation standards/accreditation scheme.
  • Seek out regional stakeholder views and experiences on accommodation classification.
  • Run a regional training workshop on accommodation classification.
  • Based the above, develop regional guidelines and a resource kit for accommodation classification as a first step towards regional harmonisation.

The project involves in-depth interviews in six Pacific Island Countries (Fiji, Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa and French Polynesia and Vanuatu) and questionnaire-based surveys of the other member countries. Representatives from national tourism organizations and hotel associations in each country will then meet to exchange experiences at a regional training workshop, to be held in Nadi, Fiji in September 2005. It is expected that the workshop will result in agreement on a set of recommendations and guidelines for the harmonization of regional classification systems.


Louise Twining-Ward, Ph.D. is a New York based tourism consultant with eight years of South Pacific experience. She was the instigator of the Samoa Sustainable Tourism Programme and is co-author of a book entitled Monitoring for a Sustainable Tourism Transition. 


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