Catching Up with Andrew Nihopara, PATA Face of the Future 2009

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PATA is now accepting submissions for PATA Face of the Future 2019 until February 28, 2019.  Read the details here >>

Taking the opportunity to celebrate a milestone ten year anniversary, PATA checked in with Mr. Andrew Nihopara, PATA Face of the Future 2009. Regarding the prestigious PATA Face of the Future award, Mr. Nihopara stated, “It was truly an honour and I still treasure it as one of the key achievements in my career so far. I have always been proud to have won the award in 2009 on behalf of the Pacific tourism industry.”

Mr. Nihopara was the Marketing Manager of the South Pacific Tourism Organisation in Fiji when he was first selected as PATA Face of the Future 2009. Since 2016, he has taken up the position of Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in the Solomon Islands. This role is the equivalent to being the CEO of the ministry, including its administration, and policy advising, as well as implementing tourism development for the government of the Solomon Islands.

PATA: “Mr. Nihopara, greetings from PATA! Your role as Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism in the Solomon Islands is impressive! What does a regular day or week look like for you?”

AN: “My work week normally involves advising the minister responsible for culture and tourism on important tourism development matters. I hold meetings with international organisations and development partners regarding important aspects for collaboration in the tourism, culture, and national heritage sectors. I also regularly hold meetings with the tourism private sector and other government ministries with the agenda to consolidate support and cooperation in tourism development programs and cultural development initiatives.”

PATA: “What are some of your most memorable experiences as PATA Face of the Future?”

AN: “I do not believe that any other Pacific Islanders had won the PATA Face of the Future before me so it was a proud moment to represent my region (but if there is somebody, I congratulate them). Besides this, the most memorable experience was receiving the award in Macau SAR in 2009 and afterwards being recognised for that achievement through various national publications in the Solomon Islands and Pacific region.”

Nihopara (left) taking the Commonwealth official oath of allegiance to serve as the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism from the Governor General of the Commonwealth Sovereign State of the Solomon Islands

PATA: “How has being PATA Face of the Future helped you along your career path?”

AN: “The PATA Face of the Future award has greatly helped in the recognition I was accorded, both in the public and private sectors in the Solomon Islands (my native country) and across the tourism sector in the Pacific region. Knowing that I had won the prestigious award as a result of the recognition for my contribution towards tourism marketing and development in the pacific region, this gave me confidence in my work.

Apart from the formal position that I now hold within government, the recognition from this award has helped me to secure many national and regional consultancy projects over the past 8 years.”

PATA: “Is your current life anything like how you had imagined during your time as PATA Face of the Future?”

AN: “I wasn’t expecting to make it this far in my career when I started in the tourism sector, but after winning the award, I gained a renewed confidence to continue the career in the tourism sector. Over time, it widened my scope of interest to cover areas such as community development, environmental conservation and sustainable development.  The award definitely gave me a lot of confidence to excel and be an achiever in the industry.”

PATA: “How do you feel that tourism will evolve in the future?”

AN: “Tourism is by far one of the fastest growing industry in the world and it will continue to increase as technology advances and new destinations continue to be innovative in terms of product development and attractions. In the Pacific region, tourism is quickly becoming a mainstay for economic advancement and growth. For example, the Solomon Islands, my native country cannot afford not to be on this bandwagon.

My current job is very exciting, as it is directly involved in driving the tourism sector to become one of the key economic growth drivers for the country. Hence, my dream now is to guide the tourism sector to evolve into one of the key economic sectors for the future growth of this new and exciting Pacific destination.”

PATA: “In your opinion, which skills have become increasingly important for tourism professionals to have?”

AN: “All the traditional skills required by any tourism professional or industry practitioner will always remain vital but I think that constantly gaining more knowledge about your competitors and collaborators is a skill that must be harnessed and continuously developed. Many destinations are becoming highly generic nowadays, so it is vital to have tourism product development and innovations, in order to strive for the competitive edge.

Having said that though, professional knowledge and skills of aspects related to the digital transformation is fast becoming important, as many aspects of marketing and sales have already been shifted in that direction.”

Andrew Nihopara (second from right) at the South Pacific Tourism Organisation Council of Ministers of Tourism meeting in the Cooks Islands in 2016

PATA: “What is one thing that you wish you could change about the tourism industry?”

AN: “Tourism is one of the sectors that are pronged to constantly grow and evolve, and hence some countries are struggling to manage their carrying capacities with the influx of tourist into their most sensitive sites and areas of interest. The demand of people travelling overseas now is so diverse and as travel attracts more people of different working classes, the gaps between high-end, middle-end and low-end travellers will continue to widen.

While this is not a bad thing for tourism businesses, many destinations that are developing themselves may find themselves lagging behind in any of these three income groups. However, what is important to remain in the tourism sector is the authenticity of the experiences that visitors pay for. Hence, real-life exotic tourism experiences must be strongly promoted and not to be overshadowed by the so-called themed park experiences, which are somewhat artificial.”

PATA: “What advice can you give to younger professionals in their careers?”

AN: “For young aspiring professionals in the tourism sector, my advice to them would be to continue with their career paths in the tourism sector. This is an overachieving industry that involves and embraces many sub-sectors that promote sustainability and has the potential to make direct and indirect contributions to all the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In this regard, young professionals must not only look at tourism as an isolated sector but to do so within the context of other productive sectors, as well as that within the contexts of world peace, addressing climate change, managing waste, safety and security of all citizens and economic empowerment of marginalised groups in society.”

PATA: “As you reflect upon your time as PATA Face of the Future, do you have any other thoughts that you would like to share?”

AN: “It has been an utmost honour to have won the PATA Face of the Future and given my professional development thus far, I just hope to be an inspiration to others in work and achievements.”

PATA: “Thank you for your very positive response, Mr. Nihopara. We have enjoyed catching up with you!”

Andrew Nihopara (left) with PATA CEO Dr. Mario Hardy on a helicopter in Honiara, Solomon Islands in February 2017

To highlight PATA’s commitment to human capital development, the Association annually presents a special Face of the Future award and prize to an exceptional ‘rising star’ in the industry. All recipients of this prestigious award have exhibited initiative and leadership in the advancement of tourism as well as demonstrating commitment to the sustainable development of the Asia Pacific travel industry in line with PATA’s mission.

PATA is now accepting submissions for PATA Face of the Future 2019 until February 28, 2019.

Read the details here >>