The Vanuatu Tourism Office says the first phase of its national campaign to stimulate domestic tourism in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic has been successful, with revenue from local tourism business sales increasing by 18 per cent between July and September this year.
Vanuatu Tourism Office Manager of Marketing Communications and Digital Assets, Nick Howlett, says, “This is not enough to recover the money these businesses have lost during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic but it is a start.”
He says tourism businesses in Luganville, for example, have told the Vanuatu Tourism that domestic tourism activity is improving.
Mr Howlett says Vanuatu Tourism’s marketing campaign will have flow-on benefits for other non-tourism local businesses and could stimulate the economy beyond the COVID pandemic period.
“All the preparations and marketing we have done to promote Vanuatu as a tourism destination will support businesses around Vanuatu into the future,” Mr Howlett said.
“Domestic tourism involves everyone in Vanuatu travelling to different parts of the country for holidays and when visiting families, and it includes government workers and business people travelling around the islands of Vanuatu,” Mr Howlett says.
He says domestic tourism is important to the viability of local businesses as there are usually large numbers of domestic travellers in Vanuatu, though their numbers are not as high as the pre-COVID international traveller numbers.
Mr Howlett says while COVID-19 does mean there is less money in many people’s pockets, people who have a paid job or have a business that is not impacted, do have money to travel domestically.
He says a recent domestic tourism survey showed that local Ni-Vanuatu and naturalized citizens are spending around the same amount of money on domestic tourism as expatriates are.
The Vanuatu Tourism Office says many locals are not aware of what is available in the Vanuatu tourism market and how much things cost, which it says leads people to believe they don’t have enough money to travel around Vanuatu.
“So, in the second phase of our domestic tourism campaign, we will focus on introducing people to the idea of going out and spending some of their money on tourism services run by locals,” Mr Howlett says.
“We are encouraging people to spend money on services that are not too expensive in a way that supports our local businesses owners.”
He says Vanuatu Tourism has received positive feedback about the way its campaign has “exposed some of the hidden attractions and locally owned tourist accommodation to many people around Vanuatu for the first time”.
“This is very important; it shows that many people are not fully aware of the different experiences that are available and possible,” he said.
“It’s part of our job as marketers to ensure that people know the different tourist experiences that are available.”
To support the national campaign, the Vanuatu Tourism Office will be operating free bus services to popular tourism spots and accommodation sites on Santo and Efate until the end of the year.
Mr Howlett says the bus services will open people’s eyes to the tourist experiences on offer and make it more affordable for people to get out and explore local tourist spots..
The office launched its national domestic tourism campaign via Facebook in July and the campaign’s first phase ran until September.