197 tourist liners coming, vital to upgrade wharves
Destination Manager Carnival Australia which operates P&O Cruises to Vanuatu, Michael Mihajlov has said a total of 197 tourist liners are visiting this year alone and that number is going to increase to 217 next year.
But he said critical to any new destination is getting Port Vila Wharf and the Luganville Wharf where they are one hundred percent capable of handling the very large ships that are coming because the first one starting this year is Carnival Spirit in October with a capacity of 2,600 passengers.
He said approximately one dozen more new locations are identified but Carnival Australia which operate P&O Cruises need some engagement from the Government of Vanuatu to request assistance to complete this work.
He said the donors; NZaid, AusAID, ADB, World Bank and EU are all actively engaged in Vanuatu. “I just think that we get more coordinated and get a cohesive approach to tackling some of these main barriers and what we can then do is work on the ground to really deliver the destinations with good tourism product, good independent activities and good engagement for the whole community to benefit from the cruise tourism”, Mihajlov said.
Asked if they have started engaging with the Government on the project he replied, “Yes we have and tried to engage and we continue to try to engage on a more cooperative level. We are not at the place we’d like to be, we would like to see a further and deeper engagement with the Government of Vanuatu because we think that any benefit to us is a benefit to the Government and people of Vanuatu and that’s why we’d like to see a little bit of more engagement between us and the Government so that we can get this project off the ground”.
He said no ships are getting smaller, they are only getting bigger so there’s some wharf upgrade required at Luganville. “Luganville is pivotal to our operation that would be crucial to getting to wider destinations and the advantage of Luganville and Port Vila is that they have a berth where you can bring a ship alongside and that means our operating costs and maintenance is reduced from running tenders to these remote destinations and you can actually do maintenance, take water and all those essential operational elements that you can’t do when you are at anchor”, he said. >>To Page 3
Michael Mihajlov is a regular traveller to Vanuatu and spoke at the Tourism Symposium at Coconut Palms Resort on ‘Cruise Tourism in Vanuatu’ yesterday. The Symposium was organised by Monash University.
The Tourism Symposium discussed how to work more collaboratively on how to break down some of the barriers to grow the industry in the country.
Mihajlov said, “As Destination Manager of Carnival Australia, my key responsibility in delivering the destination so I need to maintain all the stakeholder relationships that are critical to delivering those destinations.
“And also another part of my job is looking for new destinations so there’s huge destination in an archipelago like Vanuatu”.
On the possibility of increasing the number of destinations for the fleet of tourist liners operated by Carnival Australia, Mihajlov said, “Oh absolutely, out of 83 islands I think we have identified half a dozen locations that have potential, we’ve just got some challenges with hydrography and underwater mapping because it’s not current so when we talk about bringing in very large ships carrying 3,000 people including crew, we can’t take any chances. We need to know what’s under water”.
But he says such a project is not difficult to carry out because New Zealand Aid and AusAID have been working to do a regional risk assessment of where the key shipping ramps are and they actually have funding put aside for this project. “Vanuatu is geographically blessed with these beautiful islands, beautiful geography, you are very close to Australia and New Zealand which is crucial to cruise ship operations because you burn less fuel to get here and particularly what’s special here is the people. The culture, the welcoming attitude of the people, the friendly and happiest place in the world. All of these things are what deliver a robust, solid experience in a destination and that’s what we’re after – that’s the golden goose if you like in tourism”, he said.
In addition he said to the local tour operators, “I think you have to really find your unique point of difference and really focus on that to deliver something special. I think that we have some fantastic operators here in Vila and Luganville and I think it can only get better. There’s a lot of untapped resources out there, there’s a lot of people with great ideas, they can talk to us directly we are here regularly. We’ve got open communication policy and also to our agents on the ground here who are South Seas Shipping and Adventures in Paradise.