Port Vila TourismPort Vila Tourism
The improvement of tourism experiences by increasing the qualitiy of available goods and service, which includes the development of common infrastructures, will help Vanuatu to increase the efficiency of tourism. In order to start the rehabilitation of two of Vanuatu's main tourism centres, we went to Port Vila and talked to some of the most important actors, among them governments, travel and transportation companies and companies.
Securing on-site assistance for this endeavour was crucial to its succes. That' s why our development opportunities were presented to our stakeholder base and their input was fed into the definitive drafts as soon as we were provided with insight from the area. The building is now complete, with the tapered Vanuatu beach promenade and harbour areas full of facilities for visitors and natives, with better ocean accessibility.
Vanuatu, which is dependent on tourism, has not been able to preserve its most important airport strip.
Port Vila's Bauerfield Int. Airport: Why did the repair take so long? Vinuatu is the ninth most tourism-dependent state in the atlantic. Tourism represents between 40% and 65% of GNP (measures differ according to year and source) and provides one third of all jobs in the state.
Thus the alert that Air New Zealand (and shortly thereafter) Qantas and Virgin Australia decided to terminate flights/tickets to Vanuatu in January was comprehensible. This was due to the bad state of Vanuatu's most important airport take-off and landing area. Whilst Air Vanuatu, Fiji Airways, Solomon Airline, Air Niugini and Air Calin still have connections to Vanuatu, the shortage of seating, the reputation impairment and above all the losses of publicity from Australia and New Zealand will undoubtedly have an effect on the arrival of tourists.
This follows the destruction of cyclone Pam in March 2015, which drove away more than 70% of the 277,000 population in Vanuatu with production losses and damage to assets worth around 61% of Vanuatu's GNP. Financing recovery has always been a huge challenge for the state, regardless of whether the country's economies were doing well.
This will be all the greater without a vibrant tourism industry. Vinuatu has already experienced a drop in tourist traffic in 2015 as a consequence of the Pam clone and the adverse impact of the catastrophe (not many travellers are travelling to places recently struck by a cyclone). In 2015, passenger arrival figures were almost 19,000 and those of passenger ships almost 23,000.
We have made some very crude estimations of what this decrease in tourism means for Vanuatu's entire business, based on a 2007 basic survey of tourism spending in the state. It is estimated that the decrease in tourist traffic in 2015 (with an annual six-fold increase in expenditures compared to ocean-going vessels on average) will require approximately $40 million in revenues (adjusted for inflation).
That is about two third of Australia's total assistance to Vanuatu, or about 4% of Vanuatu's GNP in 2015. Whilst such decreases in tourism arrival after catastrophes are nothing new, they are luckily rather transitory. In 2015, the Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority pointed out that it would conduct an aggressively targeted advertising effort to bring back visitors to the island and redress the Cyclone Pam damages to the Vanuatu name.
However, this rally was now undermined by the adverse visibility associated with the cancellations of flights to Vanuatu by three Australia and New Zealandlines. It will also be harmful for these businesses to stop promoting Vanuatu as a tourist resort. Why has Vanuatu, a land that is so dependent on tourism, not been able to preserve its most important airport and landing strip?
The Bauerfield is the most important foreign airfield in the state. It has been in need of repairs and refurbishment for years. Vanuatu Limited Aiports, which is in charge of managing the aerodrome, was not able to finance larger works with the (inadequate) charges it collected - partly due to the administration of several other (loss-making) Vanuatu Aiports.
Consequently, in the course of large-scale redevelopment work, Vanuatu Limited was dependent on public funding (or donated money agreed by the government). Vanuatu International has been rebuilt or rehabilitated in many wrong ways, and each new administration seems to have its own view of what should be done. A $350 million contract (excluding start-up expenses by the government) was signed in 2013 with Singapore resident Vanuatu Trade Development to modernize and operate Vanuatu International Trade Development for 50 years.
An amendment of the administration saw the request pumped (probably prudent), with the new administration approving a US$59. 5 million credit contract with the World Bank. Several in Vanuatu argue that the state of the runways is an alibi for the airline companies to stop their work. It was argued that the choice was indeed made for business reasons, but the lines were no longer viable given the drop in the number of flights to Pam.
However, it is clear that the Vanuatu International Airports needed to be given a lot of serious consideration; a concern that the Vanuatu administration has overlooked. The indecision in the work at the airports is based on a lack of stability. Last October, the Vanuatu Supreme Court took the unparalleled and notable step of condemning more than a fourth of the country's legislative authority for corruption and dismissing it from the post.
As a result, a new parliamentary and coalition administration led by Charlot Salwai was formed. Mr Salwai will be the 11th Prime Minister of Vanuatu since the country's 1980 and 5th in less than six years, defeating Australia as the most tumultuous democratic state in Oceania. Vanuatu Airport's Vanuatu line with "a flourishing business and a steady policy environment" stands in sharp opposition to the leadership's doors.
A well-respected minister for infrastructures and public utilities has been nominated by the new coalition state. He has quickly taken measures to renovate the take-off and landing strip. That will not prevent Vanuatu's tourism sector from experiencing the short-term impact of declining numbers of passengers. Hopefully all three Australia and New Zealand carriers that have terminated their flight will serve Vanuatu again in the long run.
While this is by no means certain, Virgin Australia has sent a good signal that it will resume services to Port Vila on May 2. Hopefully, the unhappy event will be a wake-up call for Vanuatu's politicians.