Vanuatu’s sense of identity a great achievement for tourism since 1980

Vanuatu’s sense of identity now at the heart of tourism marketing, is one of the greatest achievement for the country’s tourism industry since independence in 1980.

Jacob George, the Chairman of the Vanuatu Tourism Board said this during the Tourism 40 Photo Exhibition that took place last week celebrating 40 years of the industry’s contribution to Vanuatu’s independence.

“One of our tourism industry’s greatest achievements since independence is the way that our sense of national identity is now at the heart of our marketing of Vanuatu as a tourism destination,” he said.

Vanuatu’s Tourism Minister, James Bule, says “As we navigate the difficult current global situation, it is critical that we take a look back at how tourism has helped us to become an independent country, so that we can trade on these past successes in tourism as we prepare to welcome visitors to our shores again in the near future.”

Reflecting Vanuatu’s popularity as tourist destination, the Tourism 40 exhibition, took place at the Espace Alliance Française in Port Vila, looking back at the last 40 years of the tourism industry, and how it has evolved from the colonial era to today.

The Vanuatu Tourism Office says Vanuatu had just over 18,000 visitors per year in the 1980s, to 120,000 in 2019 – but the story of tourism in the country is about so much more than just tourist numbers; it’s the story of how we view ourselves which has also changed.

The Vanuatu Tourism Chief Executive Officer, Adela Issachar Aru says “From humble beginnings in Vanuatu’s early days, to an increasing emphasis on the values that make Vanuatu unique – our people, our kastom, our sustainable way of life”.

“Instead of competing directly as a ‘flop-and-drop’ beach destination along with every other country in the region, our marketing now focuses on the kinds of authentic experiences that only Vanuatu can offer adventurous travellers,” Ms Aru said.

“This kind of tourism is better for our visitors, better for our global reputation, and more sustainable for our society and our environment. But most importantly, it is a much truer reflection of where we are today as an independent nation.

“I hope that everyone who have come to see the exhibition is reminded of how we have grown as a people in the last forty years, and how the warm welcome we offer our visitors is as much a part of our national identity as our custom and culture”.

“We are a fiercely proud people, with so much to celebrate. There’s no better way to show how proud we are of our achievements than by sharing them with our visitors. We must all work together to ensure we can open our borders again as soon as it is safe to do so,” Ms Aru said.

She says “tourism makes a direct contribution of approximately 30% of Vanuatu’s GDP, and in 2019, it contributed Vt 19.5 billion to Vanuatu’s economy. But more importantly, our tourism industry is one of the largest sources of livelihoods for our people.”

The Tourism Office says Vanuatu’s borders might be closed to tourists from overseas at present, but this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t celebrate the benefits that tourism has provided to Vanuatu during the past 40 years of independence.

They say Vanuatu’s tourism sector is suffering at the moment, but it is important to remember that the current downturn in tourism visitation is only temporary.

Ms Aru says “While we don’t know exactly when it will be safe again to welcome visitors again to our country, Vanuatu Tourism Office representatives in our main tourist markets tell us that people in Australia, New Zealand and other countries can’t wait to be able to visit Vanuatu again.”

“Indeed, VTO’s social media channels are getting more visitors since the pandemic began than we’ve ever seen before,” the Chief Executive Officer said.

The Tourism 40 exhibition is presented by the Vanuatu Tourism Office in conjunction with the Department of Tourism, and is part of the Vanuatu Government’s official ‘Yumi 40’ celebrations.

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