It was in Fiji in mid 1990s that Dr. Ayala first defined the potential and strategy of intertwining tourism, conservation, and research (TCR) at a national scale. At the invitation of the UNESCO Office for the Pacific States, she expanded the TCR opportunity for Fiji to a blueprint for the South Pacific economy, in the context of “Vaka Moana—Ocean Roads of the Pacific” (a cultural program of UNESCO, which seeks to assist the Pacific peoples to further develop their heritage and to promote economic development consistent with the conservation and careful use of the region’s resources).
Hana Ayala, “Vaka Moana: A Roadmap for the South Pacific Economy.” In: A Hooper, editor, Culture and Sustainable Development in the Pacific (Asia Pacific Press, 2000, pp. 190-206) – http://press.anu.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/ch159.pdf
Subsequently, her Action Plan for National Development and International Prestige of the Republic of Fiji: Blueprint for a TCR Leadership® Economy of Fiji was endorsed by Fiji’s Cabinet on 13 February 2001 and on 7 May 2002.
The strategy in Fiji and across the Pacific Island Region is to develop an “infrastructure” of projects and mechanisms that will make it economically viable and socially beneficial for the Pacific Island Nations to permanently protect their extraordinary geological formations, archaeological legacies, and land and marine ecosystems as databanks of knowledge that will be systematically unlocked through world-class science exploration and discovery and used to expand and enhance the region’s education and economic systems.
In August 2001, an expert team comprising Dr. Anthony G. Coates (then Director for Scientific Research Programs of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC), Dr. Michael Lang (Director of Scientific Diving Program & Marine Science Coordinator, Smithsonian Institution), Dr. Ira Rubinoff (Director of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute), and Dr. Kenneth Johnson (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County) visited Fiji under the auspices the Action Plan. These experts have recognized Fiji as a splendid candidate for a center of marine diversity that would undertake the world’s first total biodiversity inventory of the coral reef ecosystem. The Center would take advantage of the country’s geographical location in the region of highest coral reef diversity, and of its innumerable examples of all stages in the development of oceanic coral reefs.