Kiribati Tourism is Unique, Vulnerable and Sustainable

International Volunteers Day | eTurboNews | eTN
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The Tourism Authority of Kiribati (TAK) extends its gratitude to the dedicated remote volunteers from Australia Volunteers International (AVI) and New Zealand’s Volunteer Services Abroad (VSA) for their invaluable contributions.


Tourism in Kiribati is relatively limited compared to some other Pacific island destinations due to its remote location and lack of infrastructure. However, for travelers seeking a unique and off-the-beaten-path experience, Kiribati offers natural beauty, a rich cultural heritage, and opportunities for outdoor activities. Here are some aspects of tourism in Kiribati:

  1. Natural Attractions: Kiribati’s natural beauty includes pristine beaches, clear waters, and vibrant coral reefs. The country offers excellent opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, diving, and fishing. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), one of the world’s largest marine protected areas, is a significant draw for eco-tourists and conservation enthusiasts.
  2. Traditional Culture: Visitors to Kiribati can experience the local culture and traditions of the Gilbertese people. Traditional dance performances, music, and arts are an integral part of the culture, and tourists may have the chance to witness these during their stay.
  3. Outer Islands: While South Tarawa, the capital, is the most developed area in Kiribati, some of the outer islands offer a more authentic and less crowded experience. These islands are known for their tranquility and natural beauty, making them attractive to tourists seeking a peaceful escape.
  4. Fishing and Water Sports: Fishing, both for sustenance and sport, is a significant activity in Kiribati. Travelers can engage in fishing excursions, and some resorts offer water sports such as kayaking and paddleboarding.
  5. Birdwatching: Kiribati is home to various bird species, and birdwatchers can explore the diverse avian life on some of the islands, particularly in the Phoenix Islands.
  6. Climate Change Education: Some travelers visit Kiribati with a focus on understanding and addressing climate change. The country’s vulnerability to rising sea levels and its active involvement in international climate change discussions make it a unique destination for those interested in environmental issues.
  7. Infrastructure: Kiribati’s tourism infrastructure is relatively basic compared to more established tourist destinations. Accommodations range from guesthouses to small hotels and eco-resorts. Travelers should be prepared for simple amenities and limited luxury options.
  8. Accessibility: Getting to Kiribati can be a challenge, as it is a remote destination. International flights primarily arrive at Bonriki International Airport in South Tarawa. There are occasional flights to some of the outer islands as well

Kiribati, officially known as the Republic of Kiribati, is a Pacific island nation located in the central Pacific Ocean. It consists of 33 atolls and reef islands, with a total land area of approximately 811 square kilometers (313 square miles). Kiribati is situated near the equator and is spread out over a vast area of the Pacific, making it one of the world’s largest exclusive economic zones in terms of maritime territory.

Here are some key facts and information about Kiribati:

  1. Geography: Kiribati is divided into three island groups: the Gilbert Islands, the Phoenix Islands, and the Line Islands. The capital city, South Tarawa, is located in the Gilbert Islands. The country’s low-lying atolls are highly vulnerable to rising sea levels, making it one of the most at-risk nations in the world due to climate change.
  2. Population: As of my knowledge cutoff date in January 2022, Kiribati had a population of around 119,000 people. The population is primarily of Micronesian descent, with English and Gilbertese (or Kiribati) as the official languages.
  3. History: Kiribati was previously a British colony known as the Gilbert Islands, which gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1979. It later adopted the name Kiribati, which is the Gilbertese pronunciation of “Gilberts.”
  4. Economy: Kiribati’s economy relies heavily on fishing, subsistence agriculture, and remittances from Kiribati citizens working abroad. The country faces economic challenges due to its remote location, limited resources, and susceptibility to climate change.
  5. Climate Change: Kiribati is known for being one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change, including sea-level rise and extreme weather events. The government has been actively involved in international efforts to address climate change and advocate for the rights of vulnerable island nations.
  6. Culture: Kiribati has a rich cultural heritage, with traditional practices, dance, and music playing an important role in the lives of its people. Traditional dancing and singing are commonly performed at various events and ceremonies.
  7. Government: Kiribati is a republic with a presidential system of government. It has a unicameral legislature, the Maneaba ni Maungatabu, and a President who serves as both the head of state and government.

Over the years, TAK has been fortunate to collaborate with AVI and VSA, whose remote volunteers have played a pivotal role in advancing TAK’s mission of promoting sustainable tourism development in Kiribati. The collaboration has enabled the successful implementation of key initiatives aimed at enhancing tourism in Kiribati.

In 2021, TAK partnered with AVI to develop the organization’s Digital Marketing Strategy, a milestone that significantly boosted TAK’s online presence and outreach.

Looking towards the future, in 2023, TAK is excited to be working alongside VSA to develop the ‘Mauri Way’, a Tourism & Hospitality Customer Service Program.

This program aims to elevate the hospitality standards in Kiribati, ensuring a positive and memorable experience for visitors. The collaboration reflects the dedication of international volunteers to sharing their expertise and knowledge to uplift the local tourism industry.

During the International Volunteer Day celebration hosted by the New Zealand High Commission and VSA, TAK’s CEO, Petero Manufolau, expressed gratitude for the volunteers’ exceptional support.

He stated, “TAK is grateful for the support of volunteers who generously give up their time to impart their knowledge and skills, contributing significantly to strengthening capacity within our organization.” Mr. Manufolau emphasized that “against limited budgetary constraints, crucial work by TAK could not have been accomplished without the invaluable support from international volunteers.”

TAK recognizes the efforts of all volunteers who have played a crucial role in fostering sustainable tourism development in Kiribati. Their dedication and expertise, create a positive effect on the local communities and economy. TAK encourages stakeholders to join in acknowledging and appreciating the global community of volunteers whose commitment contributes to positive change around the world

About the author

Avatar of Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen T Steinmetz

Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1977).
He founded eTurboNews in 1999 as the first online newsletter for the global travel tourism industry.

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