Tourists urged to still plan Vanuatu holidays
The Vanuatu government makes plans for aggressive tourism marketing and tells visitors travelling to Vanuatu is the best way to help it rebuild economy.
The Vanuatu government has appealed to holiday-makers not to forget about Vanuatu because of Cyclone Pam.
The south of the country including tourist meccas like the island of Tanna and the capital Port Vila were badly hit by the Category Five storm but other areas are open for business.
Sally Round reports.
Tourism accounts for about 20 percent of Vanuatu's domestic income and attention is turning to making sure its tourism brand doesn't suffer long-term damage. The Vanuatu government is planning to source funds for what it calls an intense and aggressive tourism marketing campaign. A government spokesman Kiery Manasseh says tourism is vital to Vanuatu's economy.
KIERY MANASSEH: If you want to have Vanuatu rebuilt, the best way to do that is to visit the country once the country's ready to receive tourists. The best way to help the country is to visit and spend some tourist dollars in our industry here.
Australians and New Zealanders make up the bulk of visitors to the country and outbound operators say travelers are conscious of not adding to the stress of a country trying to recover. New Zealand's Flight Centre says more than two thirds of its clients who were due to travel to Vanuatu in coming weeks are re-booking to other destinations in the Pacific. But a spokesperson Sue Matson says 30 percent of the 100 travelers who had booked with her firm are waiting to see how the recovery effort goes before finalising their plans to visit Vanuatu.
SUE MATSON: It's been very very popular and totally growing and I don't see that changing in future. I think this is just a couple of months' set back until these hotels and resorts get themselves sorted. For the July school holidays I would suggest its fifty fifty. By then some of them will be saying, yeah they'll be fine, I know that resort it'll be fine and some are just waiting and seeing.
Ms Matson says Fiji and the Cook Islands are most likely to benefit from travellers' change of plans. The authorities in Vanautu stress the island of Santo in the north is open for business with operators there suffering minimal or no damage. A spokesperson for Air Vanuatu Tiffany Carroll says visitors are being asked to avoid the capital Port Vila for the time-being.
TIFFANY CARROLL: Well we're encouraging our passengers with existing bookings to consider Santo as a holiday destination instead of Port Vila and Tanna. Santo is a magical island and we've got international flights there weekly. It was basically unscathed from the cyclone, all the resorts are fully operational, they've got power, they've got everything there and it's business as usual.
Tiffany Carrol says Port VIla is expected to be business as usual for tourists by the 1st of June. Cruise tourism makes up two thirds of the tourism business in Vanuatu and the cruise operator Carnival Australia says it is waiting for a clear picture of damage to infrastructure before resuming its cruises to the island chain. A spokesperson for the company David Jones says several island communities have built small businesses around the cruise ship industry.
DAVID JONES: A lot of these ports are tender ports where we bring our passengers ashore by the boats on the ships themselves so the extent of damage may be limited from that point of view. The signs could well be optimistic that we'll be back before too long but we will not be back until the authorities in Vanuatu say everything is right to go.
Mr Jones says the company is keen to help rebuild and is sending four shiploads of aid to Vanuatu in the next few weeks consisting of water, corrugated iron, chainsaws and industrial strength mulchers to get rid of rotting vegetation. Meanwhile Air Vanuatu says its domestic flights have all returned to normal.
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