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The Vanuatu Tourism Office’s 2021 Activities

Since the Covid-19 pandemic closed Vanuatu’s borders in 2020, the VTO team has been working hard to support Vanuatu’s tourism businesses by building demand for domestic tourism with several activities and campaigns:

Domestic Tourism Marketing Strategy 2021-23

VTO’s Domestic Tourism Marketing Strategy 2021-23 was released in June and provides the strategic direction for VTO’s marketing activities in support of domestic tourism. The objective is to provide short-term revenue streams for the tourism industry while borders are closed, and to encourage domestic tourists to visit tourism businesses and see more of Vanuatu. The Strategy also complements VTO’s 2030 Vanuatu Tourism Market Development Plan, which provides the strategic direction for VTO’s international marketing activities, and further links to the high-value low-impact approach of the Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Strategy.

Tourism Marketing ‘Storians’

VTO’s Tourism Marketing Storians (‘Storian’ means ‘informal meeting’ in Bislama) began in July 2020 and continue to provide direct, hands-on support to tourism operators. VTO’s marketing and communications team has visited nearly every tourism business on nearly every island in Vanuatu. In some locations, VTO has visited several times. More than 400 businesses from all six Vanuatu provinces have taken advantage of our workshops, and have received assistance with their marketing, including help with creating packages and offers tailored to the domestic market.

Brand and Digital Workshops

Over the past year, VTO has also conducted Brand and Digital Workshops with tourism businesses all over Vanuatu. VTO’s Brand and Digital Workshops help to get businesses digital marketing ready, and also provide greater understanding of Vanuatu’s destination brand, Answer the Call of Vanuatu. This work is always crucial for market readiness, but with borders closed, tourism businesses that are able to reach local consumers with their digital marketing are much more likely to be able to sustain their businesses through to the eventual reopening of international borders. 

Free Fun Bus Service

VTO’s ‘Free Fun Bus’ service is a hop-on, hop-off service that makes stops at different local tourism hot spots around Efate Island and Espiritu Santo Island every Saturdays and Sundays. VTO first launched this service in October 2020, and it has been fully booked ever since. The goal of this service is to get as many people as possible into the habit of getting out of urban centres to go and enjoy the experiences that rural tourism businesses have to offer.

‘Sapotem Lokol Turisim’ Marketing Campaign 2021 activities

VTO’s ‘Sapotem Lokol Turisim’ (‘Support Domestic Tourism’) marketing campaign is designed to grow Vanuatu’s domestic tourist market by changing habits and conceptions around domestic tourism. Diversification away from a sole reliance on international tourism visitation Vanuatu’s tourism market is also a major objective of this marketing effort. The campaign has enabled thousands of Vanuatu’s people to discover their own country with fresh eyes, and has driven bookings to tourism businesses that previously had little or no domestic patronage. Here are some highlights of the campaign so far this year:

  • Valentine’s Day Campaign: organized in partnership with Air Vanuatu, domestic travellers were able to book a special deal on flights when they also booked accommodation or a tour. Local social media influencers were enlisted to create content that encourages consumers to see themselves as tourists in their own country.
  • Easter Long Weekend Campaign VTO, in partnership with Air Vanuatu, targeted group travellers – church groups, sports teams, friend and family groups – to get them to go camping with local, family-owned tourism businesses during the Easter long weekend. VTO heavily promoted Easter offers from tourism businesses on social media, in newspapers, on radio, and with EDMs. As a result, every business that participated was fully booked out.
  • Pentecost land diving festival (Nagol) This is a key event on Vanuatu’s annual tourism calendar, where as part of a traditional ritual, men leap from tall timber towers with nothing but a strong vine attached to their ankles. VTO supported domestic tourist visitation to this event via social media advertising, digital marketing and newspaper feature articles about the accommodation and tours available. Local airlines reported that their flight packages to the Nagol were fully booked for the full duration of the event.
  • Mi Tumoro Vanuatu Travel Expo Based on the one-day domestic consumer Travel Expos VTO normally runs during our annual in-country international travel trade event Tok Tok Vanuatu, in 2021, the Mi Tumoro Vanuatu Travel Expos provided a dedicated space for tourism businesses to promote and sell directly to domestic travel consumers. These events took place in Port Vila and Luganville, and were well attended. Participating businesses reported selling large numbers of room nights and tours. At the Expo, VTO also hosted a cooking competition between chefs from tourism businesses to promote local cuisine and produce, and to highlight local agritourism produce. The cooking competition is a part of the diversification through agritourism under the Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Plan, and was filmed for television by Vanuatu’s national broadcaster.

Upcoming events

Maskelyne Canoe Race Festival

Held in the stunning Maskelyne islands just south of mainland Malekula, the Maskelyne Canoe Race festival is an amazing fusion of culture, sport, and community spirit. The festival takes place every year from the 26-28 of July and features traditional outrigger canoe and sailing canoe races, dancing, feasting, and other activities. VTO is sponsoring the event to promote domestic tourism to outer island festivals.

Tanna Yasur Run

The Tanna Yasur run will be an elite run event and a major promotional event for the Yasur Volcano, one of Vanuatu’s key tourism attractions. This event aims to bring direct benefits to the communities of east Tanna Island, with runners and their families, and spectators expected to spend money at accommodation, restaurants, transportation and other businesses in the area.

The event will occur on October 2nd and it will feature sponsored runners from each of Vanuatu’s six provinces. As well as creating an event to boost domestic visitation to Tanna Island, VTO envisages that the event will become an important annual international elite sporting event for the Pacific Islands region that will attract participants from all over the world, once international tourism is able to safely resume.

Covid-19 Pandemic-related Recovery Activities

Tam Tam Travel Bubble

VTO is a member of the Vanuatu Government’s Tam Tam Bubble Taskforce, which is co-ordinated by the Vanuatu Prime Minister’s Office. The safe opening of borders is a government priority in support of Vanuatu’s social and economic recovery. VTO is working with the Department of Health, AVL, Customs and Immigration agencies, and others to progress planning for the future opening of safe travel pathways with selected countries.

Covid-19 Communications

The communication of Covid safety heath messages and protocols is critical. We’re developing strategies and tools to support communications with the community, the tourism industry and international visitors. VTO is working with the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to develop domestic and external communications strategies to facilitate greater understanding of Vanuatu’s Covid preparations and precautions. We will be publishing more information about our work soon.

Story and Photo Credit: Vanuatu Tourism Office

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