Ecotourism Business Training in the Kubulau District
The Kubulau District in Fiji has an abundance of natural beauty and resources on land, as well as under water. Until now, though, almost all tourism in the area has focused solely on its outstanding coral reefs. The creation of land-based ecotourism businesses in Kubulau has the potential to leverage the area's attraction as a marine tourism destination to bring further revenue and community benefits to the district's villages.
To that end, CORAL, in partnership with the Fiji Ministry of Tourism and with support from the Wildlife Conservation Society, requested and sponsored a training in community-based ecotourism business design for residents of the Kubulau District. The training was conducted by the University of the South Pacific's Regional Centre for Continuing & Community Education (USP-RCCCE), and was hosted by the Kilaka Village community.
|Village groups work together during the training|
Three representatives from each of the ten villages in the Kubulau District were chosen to participate in the training, so now each village has a core team that can promote and support the development of ecotourism businesses there. Participants in the training learned the foundations of tour guiding, the hospitality business, and business design, and they now have the skills to conduct feasibility studies, write business proposals, and develop budgets. Mock tours during the training allowed participants to practice itinerary planning, safety protocols, and public speaking, as well as develop their confidence as leaders.
|A mock village tour|
Each village group developed a specific business concept to complement the marine and terrestrial conservation efforts in the area and highlight the unique qualities that set each village apart. The concepts were designed to suit the particular natural resources, culture, and infrastructure of each village, and the range of ideas included a bird watching excursion, the establishment of a forest eco-lodge, and the creation of a village tour with Fijian folklore dances and stories. Participants gave the training glowing reviews, and are excited to bring their knowledge and business plans back to their villages.
Rick MacPherson and Brian Huse present
The graduation ceremony for the training course was a particularly special event, as it coincided with CORAL's 15th Anniversary Dive Trip to Fiji. Participants on the dive trip, who included CORAL board members and long-time supporters, as well as CORAL's Executive Director, Brian Huse, and Conservation Programs Director, Rick MacPherson, visited the Chiefly village of Kiobo for the graduation ceremony and the first-ever village visit to Kiobo.The graduates led groups around the village, putting into practice their newly-learned tour guiding and coordination skills. This exercise served as the final practical assessment for their course, after which they received their certificates directly from Rick and Brian. The entire CORAL Fiji team was in attendance for the ceremony.
The dive trip's village visit also included a Thanksgiving feast, a village tour, and music and dancing—an excellent opportunity for the graduates and other community members to demonstrate the potential for tourist business development in the village. Tui Kubulau, chief of the Kubulau District, was additionally pleased that the training generated a strong element of cultural rejuvenation. In preparation for welcoming the dive trip visitors, elder men taught the younger generation how to build a traditional Fijian meeting house, or bure, and women and girls practiced local song and dance. The great success of this visit bodes very well for the future of tourism enterprises in Kubulau!
|Graduates of the training wait with other community members on the beach in Kiobo Village to welcome members of the dive trip, arriving by boat. Fledging community tourism efforts in the Kubulau will be further aided by the recent installation of three near-shore mooring buoys, which allow tourist vessels to access the villages more easily. Dive tourists will now be able to meet and directly support the traditional owners of the reefs they value so highly.|
Kilaka Village, working groups, and graduation by Moala Tokata'a
Mock tour by Viliame Koyamaibole
Kiobo welcome courtesy Heidi Williams