Professor Pal Ahluwalia, USP Vice-Chancellor & President and Mr. Christopher Cocker, Chief Executive Officer, SPTO (middle) with staff of both institutions following the MOU signing.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between The University of the South Pacific (USP) and the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) will ensure that tourism remains a genuine tool for sustainable, social and economic development for the people of the Pacific.
The signing was done by Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor and President and Mr. Christopher Cocker, Chief Executive Officer, SPTO at USP’s Laucala Campus on 21 June 2019.
Professor Ahluwalia extended a warm welcome to Mr Cocker and his team and mentioned that both institutions have some great opportunities to work together.
Professor Ahluwalia said that being both CROP partners, the MOU formalises the natural synergies between USP, the premier provider of higher education graduates in the region, and SPTO, the regional destination marketing organisation in the region.
Both institutions he said, are key contributors to the development of Pacific Island nations.
He noted it is pleasing that the University covers Tourism via the Bachelor of Commerce degree programme and also through the College of Tourism & Hospitality under the Pacific Technical and Further Education (Pacific TAFE).
SPTO and USP had a similar partnership signed in 2013, engaging in activities and research pertaining to the growth of the region’s tourism industry.
Professor Ahluwalia lauded the initiative and said he was pleased that the partnership is being revived.
“For us, empowering our students to participate in the workforce is really important and we want to ensure that the right skills are coming out to meet the job market so there are lots of ways that we can cooperate,” he said.
“I am glad that we are reactivating this and we both have the potential to do much more,” he added.
Mr Cocker reciprocated the kind gesture, saying the relationship is nothing new.
“We have had an MOU before but we needed to come back and see the relevance of some of its components. Being associated with USP is very valuable as the top priority needs of the industry is education and training,” he said.
Mr Cocker highlighted that one of the weaknesses that has been highlighted is the lack of skills of our people in serving the tourism industry and it is reflected on our level of service.
He noted that while there is no capacity for human resources training at SPTO, USP prepares people, who are the key assets of the Pacific.
“Therefore, in our new Strategic Plan, we are looking into HR development and innovative partnerships with institutions and agencies that can implement this,” he explained.
Furthermore, Mr Cocker said the partnership is about preparing generations for the future which is very crucial.
“There is a career in tourism whether or not it is working for government and even more on the entrepreneurial side – a lot of our people migrate but the opportunities are still there to be developed,” he said.
He added that he appreciated the opportunity to work with USP.
Professor Stephen Pratt, Head of the School of Tourism & Hospitality (STHM) acknowledged the longstanding relationship with SPTO and for establishing this partnership.
He emphasised the importance of disseminating accurate research and data, saying that USP, through STHM, will assist in capacity building with SPTO and produce good quality graduates.
Through this MOU, SPTO and USP will develop an increasingly close partnership by working together on matters of common interest, thus furthering their joint interest in ensuring tourism is a genuine tool for sustainable, social and economic development for the peoples in the Pacific region.
SPTO will also strengthen their existing relationships through the sharing and disseminating research and statistics, giving guest lectures and hosting an internship, where opportunity allows.
In addition, STHM will provide to SPTO all research published by them that are relevant to tourism and hospitality in the Pacific and assist SPTO by providing information, research and advice on tourism generally.
USP’s Pacific TAFE and CTH will provide skills based training partnership in specialised areas of communication & event planning training for SPTO staff, as well as provide a venue for SPTO networking.
Both organisations have expressed a keen interest in working together in the area of sustainable tourism development through innovative partnerships in ensuring transformative economic growth.
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