Sourcing locally for a more sustainable tourism economy in the Pacific


  • Local sourcing can help to avoid revenue leakages from the tourism economy

  • A new toolkit also promotes local sourcing as a way of reducing food waste in the tourism and hospitality industry

  • Networks between chefs and farmers, suppliers and hotels are critical to enabling more food to be sourced local

  • Enhanced linkages between tourism and agriculture present important opportunities for small island states


Local sourcing has been high on the agenda among Pacific Island states, which are among the most tourism-dependent nations in the world. The South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) has identified local food and cuisine, and stronger linkages between agriculture and tourism, as important opportunities for growing the tourism sector and enhancing sustainable tourism in the region. The fact that up to 60% of the food imported for Vanuatu's tourism sector can be produced locally was highlighted during a recently held workshop as an example of the scale of the issue. Drastic figures such as these, presented during the "New Opportunities in the Agritourism Sector” workshop organised by the Government of Vanuatu, PIPSO, SPTO, IFAD and CTA during the first Pacific Week of Agriculture in Vanuatu, led to Pacific Ministers of Agriculture and Tourism adopting Recommendations to improve linkages between agriculture and tourism at the regional level.

Heavy reliance on imported foods means that a significant proportion of revenue from the tourism sector leaves the region, to the loss and detriment of the wider economy, including sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing which could greatly benefit. Apart from revenue spillages, an important and topical challenge that local sourcing can also help to address is food waste, as highlighted by a creative and groundbreaking campaign led by PATA. The global volume of food lost or wasted exceeds 1.3 billion tonnes per year, equivalent to one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation.


Tackling food waste through local sourcing


The Pacific Asia Travel Association, of which SPTO is a member, has launched an innovative platform to help reduce food waste in the tourism and hospitality sector. Bearing the punchy acronym 'BUFFET', for Building an Understanding for Food Excess in Tourism, the platform is part of a campaign by the organisation to eat away at the 1kg of daily waste that each hotel visitor is thought to generate.

This joint initiative by PATA with project partner Scholars of Sustenance Thailand (Thai-SOS) and knowledge partner Futouris, brings together industry best practices and recommendations to address food waste, with a focus on identifying common challenges faced in the hospitality sector, and solutions which can be adopted at different levels of the supply chain.

A helpful toolkit has been developed which is simple and engaging, whilst including some very practical resources and insight as to where changes can be made and how they can be managed for the greatest impact. A clear example of this relates to the issue of reducing waste generated, aptly titled 'Too much food waste’. Among the solutions proposed in the toolkit for hotels and restaurants is to source more food locally and seasonally, as “food has less distance to travel and so should be less likely to spoil". It also presents some important incentives for local sourcing in terms of the opportunity to strengthen engagement with customers, for marketing purposes and potential costs savings, especially if the hospitality establishment is able to grow the ingredients onsite (e.g. rooftop gardens, hydroponics etc.)

 The BUFFET website provides a helpful option of solutions for common challenges to reducing food waste



The network advantage: building foundations for local sourcing


Another component of the local dimension is the establishment of local networks to address food waste, particularly between hotels, local suppliers and producers. The message behind the BUFFET toolkit is strongly augmented by the Futouris Manual “Sustainable Food”, a practical guide for food and beverage managers in the hospitality and cruise industries. The manual notes that whereas "many hotels are aware of the importance of local food", they occasionally find it difficult to buy local food "due to a lack of logistics, infrastructure and communication. In addition, some providers and local producers are simply too small." Nowhere is this issue more symptomatic of the relationship between the hospitality industry and local producers than in small island states, including those in the Pacific, which are characterised by limited land mass, remoteness, infrastructure challenges and poor connectivity. Futouris goes on to add, "the development of local networks is of vital importance. Strong networks with local suppliers and producers help to overcome certain obstacles on the way towards a more sustainable food policy. The building of such networks is a critical and long-term process."

The Sustainable Food Manual makes recommendations to assist hotels and restaurants to find local suppliers

Developing sourcing networks is rightly a measured process, requiring investments in time, resources and trust. Recognising this fact, a growing body of actors are now engaging across sectors and with key stakeholders - including farmers, producers, chefs, hotels and the relevant government agencies and ministries - in order to facilitate, advocate and incentivise linkages between tourism and agriculture, local ingredients and the chefs and institutions serving it to consumers. Chefs4Dev has been involved for that last few years in this domain, with support and contributions from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO), the Pacific Community (SPC), the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), the International Fund for agricultural Development (IFAD), Women in Business Development Inc. (WIBDI Samoa), and farmer’s organisations, agribusinesses and chefs. The network advantage is one that has also flourished in the Caribbean, which has seen the creation of a Culinary Alliance that will work to promote professional excellence in the culinary field, and Caribbean cuisine as a tourism attraction.


Contact the PATA Sustainability & Social Responsibility Team for more information:


More Info and Resources:

The BUFFET (Building an Understanding For Food Excess in Tourism) Initiative

Pacific Week of Agriculture Agritourism Recommendations to Pacific Ministers of Agriculture

Agritourism Recommendations to Pacific Ministers of Tourism 

Download the publication “Transforming food systems in the Pacific

Read the CTA publication “Strengthening local food production and trade in the Caribbean”

Recap the Brussels Briefing on “Agribusiness development in SIDS: the potential of tourism-related markets”

Discover more about the role of Chefs using cuisine to link agriculture with tourism, on Chefs for Development website

Video Interview: Charlotte Chan Mow Brunt

Charlotte Chan Mow, Chef at The Orator Hotel in Samoa, shares her experience and recommendations on how hotels and chefs can increase their sourcing at the local level.