The head of the South Pacific Tourism Organisation says better including local communities and indigenous people is the key to offering unique travel experiences.

Traditional dancers attend the traditional costume ceremony at the Jean-Marie Tjibaou cultural center with the French president in Noumea, New Caledonia, on May 5, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ludovic MARIN

Christopher Cocker said culture was at the centre of what was on offer in the Pacific and a recent global meeting had emphasised the need for indigenous people to have more of a voice in the way tourism was planned and developed.

He said tourists to the region also needed to be encouraged to branch out when they travelled to the region to gain a more authentic experience of the diverse cultures they were visiting.

“A Fiji experience or a Cook Island experience is not just lying around in the poolside etc and enjoying cocktails and the sun, sand and sea and watching a one-off show, cultural show, but to go out to the communities, go out to the villages and learn more of what’s happening there as well as mix and mingle with the indigenous people,” Mr Cocker said.

He said Pacific countries needed to treasure the fact that indigenous people represent the majority of Pacific populations and they should take steps to nurture their culture to share with visitors. rnz news