Ecotourism ‘ripple effect’ swells for Fiji

Ecotourism ‘ripple effect’ swells for Fiji

Ecotourism ‘ripple effect’ swells for FijiThe islands of Fiji are still unique and rare gems in an ever-developing world. It is in this idyllic setting that the Island Spirit was born; revolutionizing the way tourism affects the island and its inhabitants. More and more people want to return something to their holiday destination so the formation of valuable relationships with local communities to find out what they need and how we can all benefit from working alongside each other is integral.
With the encroaching aid cuts, sustainable tourism in Fiji is an increasingly hot topic, and Island Spirit are at the forefront of the campaign to maximize the sustainability of all tourism in Fiji and to conserve the natural environment and help Fijian’s find alternative eco-friendly ways to live and work.For Fiji, the conservation efforts are of greatest importance as not only does the industry of eco-tourism have the capacity to bring in significant revenue for the people of the island who need viable alternatives to vocationssuch as shark finning, it also helps entrench a different way of thinking into the next generation, of islanders and international visitors, that is crucial for the survival of our planet.
There are a number of pertinent issues facing pacific islanders, many of which can be fought through eco-tourism initiatives and through such travel companies raising awareness and becoming educators on such issues. In Taveuni, Island Spirit’s Kirsty Barnby has developed a number of initiatives to ensure that both visitors and inhabitants have a positive effect on the natural environment. Island Spirit provides a number of community activities including an arts and crafts project with local women, which enables local people to create and sell goods across the globe. Other initiatives include coral gardening to protect the pristine marine life, use of mobile technology to improve access to education and healthcare, and energy solutions to tackle the islands kerosene reliance through the provision of solar lighting.
Utilizing technology
There are many examples of mobile technology led projects in developing countries from HIV testing in Zambia, effective irrigation projects in India, citizen feedback gathering in Uganda, and fund transfers geared towards small businesses in Kenya. The possibilities are endless. But as with every development mechanism, cohesion is needed between all actors in the area and results will be context dependent per country.
Mobile technology has already been piloted in Fiji this year in a project lead by New Zealand based organization, Land Research, to look into Fiji’s biodiversity and how the islands are weathering climate change. This was done with minimal access to internet, and power demonstrating that mobile technologies can be adaptable outside of their normal sphere of use and can be a useful tools in multiple areas of development. Island Spirit is working to better utilize such technology for the benefit of Fijian communities.
Energy Solutions
According to Sunny Money and Solar Aid, the percentage of household income spent on energy in a developing nation is significantly higher than here in the UK for example. In Kenya, around 15 per cent of the household budget is spent on light; in the UK this is a mere one per cent. This figure alone, demonstrates the need for more sustainable energy projects in fragile states to find more efficient ways of providing power to the people, which in turn has the capability to help boost the knowledge economy of that community through improved access to technology.
Ecotourism ‘ripple effect’ swells for FijiD-Lights were donated to Waibulu Village by Belmont High School, Australia during their June 2013 Eco Tour with Island Spirit. Children went to collect the lanterns one by one as they were handed out in the village community hall. Island Spirit is disseminating D-Lights, to help Taveuni become kerosene free. D-Lights distribute solar products to communities in the developing world to empower local populations with an aim to reach 100 million people by 2020 in over 40 countries.
The eco-tourism industry has boomed in Fiji, with over 200 companies now undertaking related initiatives. Whilst this is great news, more needs to be done to ensure that there is cohesion between different actors so that the biggest issues such as kerosene use, shark finning, and community development are placed at the forefront of everyone’s minds. The ripple effect is in full motion, but at present is still a drop in the ocean compared to the magnificent things that could be achieved through increased awareness and collaboration of all interested parties.
Tourism now has to provide so much more to include both community initiatives and conservation objectives. People are generating direct economic benefits from wildlife management projects that change individual livelihoods through jobs and income. These projects benefit the larger community so there is a direct incentive to both keep the environment healthy and uplift the community and on the Island of Taveuni, such benefits are more than tangible.
Kirsty Barnby MD
Kirsty Barnby, originally from the UK, lives in Fiji for most of the year where she is building this small company, making local friends and finding trusted colleagues. She believes wholeheartedly that it is possible to run a business which benefits local communities, as well as guests and employees - and that is what she has set out to do.
"Call it what you want, a virtuous circle eco tourism strategy, a bottom up approach to sustainable business or simply real eco tourism, it doesn't matter, what does matter is how it is done and that is what I dedicated myself to doing well."
Kirsty has extensive knowledge in the charity communications arena both in Fiji and the UK. She volunteered with Partners in Community Development, Fiji (PCDF) for nine months in 2009. Her time with PCDF was spent developing the Annual Report, newsletter, PR, comms training and website.
This gave her a valuable understanding of development issues within Fiji and what environmental and community challenges lie at the grassroots level. From there a mixture of continuous work and opportunities lead her to start her own business.
Kirsty started Island Spirit based on a few simple principles: mutual benefit for both the Fijian people and visitors in the form of conservation, economics, education, life experience and enjoyment.
About Island Spirit
Island Spirit is a small limited company and Kirsty is the sole shareholder. Island Spirit returns 10% of each trip cost to the island communities (which is distributed in coordination with its partners) as well as for its self-preservation, expansion and future plans. It has paid and unpaid staff including management. Although we have many indirect competitors, there are few who offer short-term, eco holidays combining adventure, volunteering and cultural immersion - while giving back to the islands they visit.
Island Spirit conserves the local environment and provides a steady income for local tourism businesses while inspiring people to make a positive difference throughout their lives by introducing them to the rich Fijian culture. They work alongside Fijian communities to share skills and carry out sustainable environmental and community based projects with sensitivity to local values and tradition.
Island Spirit aim to provide a unique blend of activities based around the needs of the communities and local environment. It’s all about culture, adventure and preserving the environment, a really in depth experience and great way to discover Fiji.
It has been statistically proven that tourists are becoming more ecologically aware, they are making more informed decisions and are tending to want to ‘give back’ to their host country more than ever. Based on these facts Island Spirit offer a service to provide an eco holiday with a difference.


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