Tourism operator – Strong domestic tourism trade a myth

Despite the Vanuatu Tourism Office’s current national domestic tourism marketing campaign, one local tourism operator has voiced doubts that domestic tourism will ever produce strong revenue streams for local businesses.

Dave Cross, Beachfront Resorts Limited General Manager, who is based on the northern island of Santo, says he believes a strong domestic tourism industry is “a myth for Santo”.

“How many people do you know in your circle of friends who have gone on holiday to Santo? I would suggest there’s probably none,” he said.

Mr Cross says, “Australia which has 25 million people, has a massive country to move around in and a population with the funds to do it.”

“Here, it costs you VT36,000 if you come from Vila by plane to Santo, and that’s just the start.

“I honestly believe this domestic tourism campaign is unrealistic. I believe there is probably more political background to it than there is anything else.”

Mr Cross says he believes a growth in domestic tourism was “never was going to happen and will never happen” in Santo.

“Since March, we’ve had two people in for four days who you could classify as domestic tourists from Port Vila who were having a holiday,” he said.

He admits reports from other tourism resorts may be more optimistic but he says, six of the resorts in Santo are currently closed due to the drop in tourist numbers caused by global COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The Vanuatu Tourism Office says its domestic tourism marketing campaign which began in July is stimulating awareness of what Vanuatu has to offer local tourists and to increasing local tourism business revenue.

The office says it is promoting all local tourism business offers to potential travellers free of charge.

Mr Cross says it would be great to see hundreds of people coming from Vila for holidays but that is not happening.
“People don’t have the money for it,” he said.

He says many expatriates have left Port Vila due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that they are the ones who have more money to spend on travel than anyone else.

“As far as the future is concerned, I don’t believe we are going to see any major changes to tourism and things getting back to normal, until probably the middle of next year,” Mr Cross said.

“So, we have to rethink how we manage our businesses. We have to look at our staff, our services and our costs and we have to become more efficient.

“That really is all we can do.”

Mr Cross says he does not expect or believe that the Government should be providing emergency relief to his business other than support to keep staff employed.

“However, the Government needs to look carefully at the impacts of introducing new costs for business – such as the proposed new business license,” he told VBTC.

“The Government needs to look at that and maybe put that off for three to five years to give businesses a chance to recover.”

Mr Cross says it will take many local businesses four to five years to fully recover their business stability, financial assets and staffing after the impacts of COVID-19.

He says most tourism operators just have to “tighten their belts and have a good management plan”.

“By doing that we can all get through this and we’ll come out at the other end stronger and with a more efficient tourism industry,” he said.

He says businesses need to ask for help from agencies such as the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce, if they are having problems keeping their businesses afloat.

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