Vanuatu promoting itself to the Chinese tourist market
Chinese tourism officials said to be impressed with what Vanuatu has to offer.
The marketing manager of a prominent Vanuatu holiday resort says Chinese tourism operators have assured him that once direct flights from China are available large numbers from that country will fly in.
Prominent tourism industry officials from Beijing and Shanghai toured key parts of Vanuatu last week and Iririki Island resort's Bernie Millman says they were very impressed. He told Don Wiseman that the visit, organised by the Vanuatu Tourism Bureau, was the first such visit by influential Chinese tour operators.
BERNIE MILLMAN: They were very, very impressed by what they saw here in Efate and around the tourist centres of Port Vila.
DON WISEMAN: Sand and palm trees, though, it's not what you normally associate with Chinese tourists.
BM: I was probably one of the people that said the same thing a while ago, but I have met a lot of Chinese here over the last couple of years, particularly the investors. And to tell you the truth they are absolutely gobsmacked by the beauty of this country, although people like James Packer back in Australia are maintaining that the Chinese tourism market centres on man-made tourist attractions. I'm not 100% convinced any more after seeing the Chinese come to Vanuatu. They are absolutely taken by our beauty here, by our natural beauty, and particularly by the friendliness of the people.
DW: I guess all the world knows that the Chinese tourism market is growing at a very rapid rate and you want at least some of those people coming got Vanuatu. But getting them there is problematic, isn't it, because they've got to fly either out of Brisbane or out of Suva, maybe out of Auckland. So it's almost impossible.
BM: That's one of our major problems, Don. Hopefully we're addressing that with the push towards either updating our existing Bauerfield International Airport to accommodate flights direct from Hong Kong and mainland China and Europe. We're definitely going to upgrade so we can get the new airliners - not the 747s, but the new airliners - direct from those areas. And eventually, hopefully, have our new own international airport here. Because at the end of the day they want to come directly to here. They don't want to have to stop over in Fiji or in Australia, in New Zealand. They want to spend as much time as they can here in Vanuatu. It's a bit painful having to stop and transit in other places. 90% of our tourists at the moment come from Australia and New Zealand and other Pacific islands. We really have the potential to change that percentage and to increase our tourism numbers to the extreme. We have to get this airport up and running.
DW: I know in the northern Pacific, where they have very successful tourism into places like Guam and the Northern Marianas. There's a lot of reliance on charter flights from North Asia. Is that a possibility?
BM: Yes, it is a possibility, but I think for the economic viability of tourism we definitely need direct commercial flights. The charter flights, there's a lot of organising. And the impression I got from these tourism operators was we will get large plane loads of tourism out of mainland China as soon as we've got the capability of a direct flight. There'd be no doubt that we've got the capability of being a major player in the outbound Chinese tourism market in the near future, as long as we can get this direct flight availability.
The Chinese tour operators are also visiting other parts of the Pacific, including the Cook Islands and Samoa.
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