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Economy

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The economy of the Pitcairn Islands is best described as a nano-economy. This is not difficult to understand, given the tiny size of the population and the even smaller working population, the limited areas for economic exploitation, and the difficulties presented by infrequent access to this tiny island in the middle of the South Pacific.

Over the years, Pitcairn accumulated substantial reserves from philatelic and coin sales, and later the sale of .pn domain names. However, faced with declining revenue from these activities, the Government of Pitcairn Island responded by seeking alternative sources of income through private enterprise as well as securing support from the UK government. Since 2004, Pitcairn has relied substantially on budgetary aid from the UK, and in parallel seeking to develop alternative sources of private sector revenue.
The major private revenue generator for Pitcairn is undoubtedly tourism, followed by the sale of Pitcairn’s unique, prize-winning and disease-free honey. Smaller income streams come from the sale of home-made artesan products and Pitcairn merchandise to the tourist industry, catering services, mechanical and house maintenance services, and the sale of fish, fruit and other fresh produce to visiting vessels.

Tourism

Pitcairn Island features on the “bucket list” of many people – whether attracted by history, culture or environment, or simply the wish to go somewhere completely off the beaten track. Pitcairn will never disappoint. Its rugged beauty, unique Bounty and Polynesian heritage, outstanding fauna, flora and sea-life, welcoming people, and fascinating history all make a visit to Pitcairn an unforgettable experience. Pitcairn’s seldom visited and uninhabited outer islands – Henderson, Ducie and Oeno – offer sailors and charter passengers the chance to view nature unspoilt. The four islands offer some of the best dark skies in the world.

Tourism provides Pitcairn with real opportunities for greater economic sustainability, for both the government and private sectors. Pitcairn’s local population is increasingly alive to the opportunities provided by tourism, whether through provision of “homestay” accommodation or the sale of beautiful locally-made carvings, jewellery and souvenirs, Pitcairn merchandise such as t shirts and caps, stamps, coins and postcards, and honey products. Gross sales to tourists are worth an estimated US$6,000 to US$10,000 per family, per annum. Home stay services also bring in substantial income to the many households which participate – a total of almost US$40,000 in the 2015-16 season.


Application for designation as a Dark Sky Sanctuary in 2018/19 will, if successful, open up fascinating new tourism opportunities.

As tourism infrastructure improves and tourist numbers increase, revenue to the government should also rise, leading to less dependence on UK budgetary aid. Alongside this, the realisation of private sector opportunities will lead to falling dependence on government employment.

Pitcairn Islands Tourism Web Site

Planning a holiday to “Legendary Pitcairn Island” find out all the information you need.

Government and EDF sources of income

The population of Pitcairn relies on two main sources of government employment: work for the various departments of the Pitcairn Islands Government (GPI) and on projects funded by the European Union under its European Development Fund (EDF) streams. GPI employment ranges from skilled trades such as electrical and engineering services, healthcare and education services, to unskilled work such as construction, cleaning and maintenance, and administrative and managerial work. All GPI and EDF-funded jobs attract the same pay rate.

Funding from the European Union has provided the means to carry out a number of important structural improvements on Pitcairn. EDF 9 funds were used for the construction of an alternative harbour at Tedside, on the western side of the island, which was completed in 2017.

EDF 10 funds have been allocated to further develop the tourism infrastructure, focusing on ship-to-shore passenger transport, the upgrade of the town square buildings and facilities, refurbishment of the General Store, and improving the island’s road system.

EDF 11 funding is designated to further support the tourism sector, building on the improvements made possible under EDF 9 and EDF 10, with the aim of creating a robust and sustainable tourism industry which capitalises fully on Pitcairn’s rich history, flora, fauna and marine life.

There is no unemployment on Pitcairn. Everyone who wishes to is able to work in either GPI or EDF-funded jobs, or both. In addition, pensions are paid to all adults over the age of 65, on either a working or non-working pensioner basis. Child benefit is paid to parents for each of their children. A sickness/injury/disability benefit was introduced in 2018 to ensure an adequate income for all Pitcairn residents.

Exports

There are many cottage industries on Pitcairn that export goods internationally. Products range from hand-crafted jewellery, wooden and bone carvings, handmade soaps and cosmetics, coffee, dried fruit, traditional Polynesian Tapa cloth, Pitcairn-branded clothing, stamps and first day covers, postcards, books, and of course, Pitcairn’s award winning pure tropical honey. A recent addition to the range of exports is Pitcairn coffee. This industry is in its infancy, but Pitcairn’s climate and topography make it an ideal location for growing high-quality beans for the demanding global market.
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Pitcairn Honey and Honey Products

Pitcairn’s honey is justifiably famed among connoisseurs – not only for its purity and unique flavour, but also because Pitcairn Island is one of only a handful of honey-producing areas in the world which is completely free of apian disease. The Pitcairn Producers’ Cooperative, PIPCO, represents Pitcairn’s honey producers, while individual families also market their honey under their own labels. The rich and intense fruitiness of Pitcairn Island Honey flows from the nectar of the mango, lata, passion fruit, guava and roseapple flowers found in abundance on Pitcairn. There is no honey in the world to compare with Pitcairn’s.

Bee-keepers are also active in producing other honey-related products, such as soap, cosmetic creams and propolis. A scientific study has found Pitcairn’s propolis to contain a number of antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic properties – further work will be needed to ascertain the exact benefits, but it is possible that this new research will be the key to the development of further economic opportunties for Pitcairn. Full details of honey producers can be found on the official Pitcairn website: www.pitcairn.gov.pn


Updated: August 2018