Many Pacific Island countries face constraints in their efforts to achieve broad-based economic development because of their small size, remoteness, traditional cultures and—outside of Melanesia—lack of natural resources. Tourism can, in many instances, transform these same “constraints” into advantages for attracting visitors. All countries in the region are seeking to capitalize on the worldwide boom in the visitor industry, yet many lack a trained, professional workforce to make this dream a reality.
Starting in 2018, the East-West Center’s Pacific Islands Tourism Professional Fellows Program brings two groups of tourism-industry professionals from the Pacific Islands to Honolulu each year. Participants take part in intensive six-week programs that are designed to build significant new skills and facilitate enduring professional bonds between industry leaders in the United States and the Pacific Islands.
Program participants arrive with ideas for an applied project or business problem that bears directly on tourism growth in their home country. They are assigned to relevant jobs within Hawaiʻi’s tourism industry. These placements offer participants fresh insights, new analytical perspectives, and practical approaches for building nascent island tourism sectors and improving their own professional development.
Supplemental educational, leadership development, and cultural-enrichment activities ensure that participants acquire substantive skills and a deeper appreciation of American society. At the end of the program in Honolulu, American mentors take part in a two-week follow-up visit to the participants’ home countries to continue work on the selected projects.
In 2020, the Center will welcome another 32 participants into the program, adding to this growing alumni cohort who are working together to build a vibrant tourism sector in their countries. This is a program of the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by the East-West Center.