Measuring the wellbeing of tourism-reliant communities in the South Pacific during the COVID-19 pandemic

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Institute of Development Studies, Massey University
In the absence of tourists due to COVID-19, Pacific Island nations are thought to have been dealt a “severe blow” that has undermined their wellbeing (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD, 2020). However, our research in 2020 suggested that despite the hardships, many Pacific peoples living in places normally reliant on income from international tourists had adapted effectively in the face of tough challenges, and some were actually thriving (see Scheyvens et al., 2020). This led us to devise a specific study to measure wellbeing of Pacific peoples, which we report on in this working paper. Phase 1 of this 2021-22 study has assessed wellbeing prior to the return of tourists in Fiji, Samoa, the Cook Islands and Vanuatu (see Figure 1), and in Phase 2 it will measure wellbeing again six months after international tourists have returned to each destination. The knowledge gathered thus far allows us to gauge how different aspects of wellbeing have been impacted, and how wellbeings vary between countries. When the entire dataset is collected, the researchers will be able to see whether or not wellbeing is aided by the return of international tourism.