Explore our Pacific-focused tourism research

The Griffith Institute for Tourism (GIFT) leads Griffith University’s research into sustainable, regenerative and conscious tourism futures for the Pacific. By sustainable, we mean tourism that seeks to balance economic, social and environmental needs, by regenerative, we mean tourism that restores ecological and societal harms, and by conscious, we mean tourism that encourages a deeper understanding of people and place.

Our research projects are transdisciplinary, providing innovative solutions to help tourism businesses, destinations and communities achieve their sustainable development objectives. GIFT’s research in the Pacific works through a culturally grounded and strengths-based lens, partnering with local stakeholders to maintain local autonomy and agency. With a focus on adaptive capacity, resilient destinations and the need for tourism to provide net benefits for people and places, GIFT researchers are tackling some of the biggest tourism challenges in the region.

Research projects

Engaging corporate actors for inclusive WASH-at-work

Professor Chris Fleming, Dr Johanna Loehr and Dr Sera Vada

Inclusive access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is important for the tourism sector to maintain a strong reputation with tourists and social licence to operate from local communities. It is also highly relevant to the sector's COVID-19 recovery. The objective of this Water 4 Women funded project is to understand current gender equitable and socially inclusive (GESI) WASH-at-Work and broader water stewardship issues in the tourism sectors of Indonesia and Fiji. It explores the potential for and develop a value proposition that considers country and sector specific approaches. It will enable the tourism sectors in Fiji and Indonesia to most effectively implement GESI WASH-at-Work programs that contribute to sustainable development of the sector and in host communities. To meet the objective, the research team is co-designing research tools to assess GESI WASH-at-Work across a range of hotels (small, medium, and large) and different types of tourism (eco-tourism, beachside resorts, or business tourism).

Time for a rethink: Sustainable, transformative and conscious tourism in the Pacific

Dr Ross Westoby, Dr Johanna Loehr, Professor Christopher Fleming

COVID-19 has devastated tourism across the Pacific. Dependence on tourists and international tourism revenue for many Pacific island nations is placing a significant strain on the economic and social fabric of these countries. This has prompted many to question the merit of Pacific island nations being so dependent on international tourists, and more broadly, the ability of the sector to deliver genuine and lasting sustainable development. This research puts forward the notion that COVID-19 represents an opportunity for the Pacific to reset its tourism agenda, moving away from mass-market ‘fly-and-flop’ and cruise tourism to a new model that balances financial returns with broader social and environmental objectives, thus improving outcomes for people and places. In a post-COVID world, the possible answer is that tourism needs a more regional focus, where in a world of excess mobility, people choose to localise their travel aspirations and experience regions in more depth through tourism that is meaningful and authentic.

Research Report

Resilient and net-benefit tourism in the Pacific

Dr Johanna Loehr and Professor Susanne Becken

This research focuses on increasing the net benefits tourism creates for the wider system in which it occurs as well as holistically reducing climate change risk to destinations across the Pacific. In so doing, it considers the wider systems that influence climate risk to destinations, including elements of tourism both for the host communities and the natural environment. A unique angle of this research has been investigating ecosystem-based adaptation as an intervention for tourism. Further initiatives include engaging hotels for inclusive water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services in workplaces and host communities in Fiji and Indonesia (Water for Women funded project). This initiative aims to leverage tourism to improve WASH practices in communities, but also help tourism stakeholders improve WASH in response to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: Loehr, J., Becken, S., Nalau, J. & Mackey, B. (2020). Exploring the multiple benefits of Ecosystem-based Adaptation in tourism for climate risks and destination well-being. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research.


Impact of disasters (including COVID-19) on livelihoods generated through tourism in Fiji and Vanuatu

Dr Ross Westoby, Professor Christopher Fleming, Dr Johanna Loehr

This research is acutely narrative, exploring the individual experiences of, and responses to, COVID-19 and other previous disasters of people who generate their livelihoods through tourism. One project explores the gendered experiences and impacts of COVID-19 on women-dominated handicraft vendors in Vanuatu. Marginal women’s voices are bought to the fore as one vendor shared, “most mothers have special talents, but most people overlook us. So, when the government wants to respond to our needs, people think it is not important and they forget about us” (personal communication, 2020). The other project, based in Fiji, explores the responses of Fijian tourism industry workers including resort chefs, pilots, flight attendants and others who have lost their jobs in the tourism sector but through this have found strength and resilience through entrepreneurial and creative endeavours within the urban landscape of Fiji.

Rediscovering Route Tourism amidst a Global Pandemic: Perspective from the island of Mo’orea, French Polynesia

Associate Professor Karine Dupre

Route tourism often relies on available and perennial attractions, while ‘available attractions [are regarded] as sites lacking physical dimensions’ (Gavalas et al, 2017). Moreover, these attractions might lack authentic dimensions, as they might not entirely reflect the given value and daily use of the local population. In small tourism islands, these aspects might be exacerbated by picturesque marketing and the divide between the indigenous and non-indigenous population. COVID-19 has significantly altered existing routes, allowing new travel practices to emerge that contribute to the development of local and domestic tourism. Based on a collaboration between GIFT and Maison des Sciences de l’Homme du Pacifique (Université de la Polynésie Française - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique), this project will evidence the ways small tourism islands can adapt and renew themselves under the ‘new norm’. The case study is Mo’orea, the ‘sister’ island of Tahiti in French Polynesia, renowned as a privileged destination for short-term excursions and for attracting a wide range of travellers whose expectations translate in distinct tourist routes. This project aims to map these routes, their values and uses from local, global and domestic tourists’ perspectives.

Learn more

Pacific Hub

The Pacific Hub was launched by the Griffith Asia Institute in 2020. The project lead is Dr Tess Newton Cain. The Pacific Hub provides research, commentary, analysis, and advice pertaining to politics, diplomacy, and development in the Pacific islands region. We work to highlight and amplify Pacific voices and perspectives on the issues that are critical for the communities and countries of the region.

Want to know more?

Contact the Griffith Institute for Tourism