Vanuatu’s 16th annual Tok Tok travel industry event welcomed 50 buyers from seven countries and 53 local sellers from all the country’s provinces at the Warwick Le Lagon in Vila last week.

Vanuatu Prime Minister, the Honourable Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas officially opened the event by highlighting the uniqueness of the island nation as a destination and the importance of the Ni-Vanuatu community to the tourism offering.

“The quality of the people of Vanuatu is our number one tourism asset.”

Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, Vanuatu Prime Minister

“The surveys we have done show that the meeting and engagement with local people is what visitor memories are made of…it’s not what visitors are expecting, but it’s what they take home.”

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The measures that the Vanuatu government have taken to assist the environment was also highlighted with the recent ruling on 1 July 2018 to ban the use of all single-use plastic straws. The first country in the Pacific to make the move is also looking at further measures that can be taken to protect the environment.

Vanuatu Tourism Office (VTO) Chief Executive Officer, Adela Issachar Aru challenged Tok Tok attendees to work together to look for new opportunities for Vanuatu.

“Vanuatu could be the next destination for short breaks, for two-island holidays, for active and outdoor holidays, for romance and for weddings.”

Adela Issachar Aru, Vanuatu Tourism Office Chief Executive Officer

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The key, she believes, is to start packaging the offering differently so that Vanuatu is in the market. The VTO also encourages agents to highlight the extensive experiences available to visitors and the unique opportunities that each island offers.

“From the volcano on Tanna to the natural wonders of Santo, each island offers something different,” Ms Aru told KARRYON.

“You can experience an adventure activity in the morning and relax in the afternoon because everything is so easily accessible and within reach.”

With steady growth in visitor numbers since Cyclone Pam, VTO has been working closely with Air Vanuatu and Airports Vanuatu Limited to look towards new markets and nurturing existing markets in Australia and New Zealand.

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“We want to break out of the positioning that we are a fly and flop destination because we are so much more than that,” VTO’s Megan Thompson said. “When you get here you realise that really quickly.”

Melbourne has been identified as having the largest potential for growth in their existing markets, with direct flights to and from the city being a priority to bridge the gap. Growing the number of Asian visitors was also identified as part of this new strategic direction, along with longer-term goals of seasonal flights in and out of Christchurch, Canberra and Newcastle.

The construction of the new runway is paramount to achieve these goals, however, with Airports Vanuatu Limited CEO Jason Rakau telling the Tok Tok contingent that this is the airport’s main focus before they move onto the business of developing more routes into and out of Vanuatu.

He confirmed that Air New Zealand would also return when the runway project is complete, with plans to codeshare with Air Vanuatu.

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Whilst Air Vanuatu has been a major sponsor of Tok Tok for 16 consecutive years, it was the first for new CEO Derek Nice, who shared his pride at meeting so many visitors from around the world across the islands during his time in the country.

“They’ve all been seeking adventure and something very, very different that they can’t experience anywhere else in the world. They have all found that here.,” he said.

Visitors from Australia and New Zealand are invited to experience the unique island offering with the Vanuatu on Sale promotion. Discounted airfares will go on sale on 5 September for travel between February and March 2019.

Return economy airfares from Australia and New Zealand will be available for under $500 with a variety of resorts, hotels and tour operators taking part in the promotion by offering discounted rates during the period.

 

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