With our borders are temporarily closed to international visitors, the Vanuatu Tourism Office (VTO) has been running a marketing campaign on social media, print media, radio and billboards to encourage local people to take advantage of the many amazing tourism experiences that are available in our country. We call this campaign #SapotemLokolTurisim.

Domestic tourism is any travel by residents of a country, within that country. Many people are domestic tourists: people who travel to another island as part of their job in Government or the private sector, people who travel to another island (or even part of the same island) to visit their friends and family, and people who just want to go spel for the weekend some place quiet. Domestic tourism is an important part of Vanuatu’s tourism industry because everyone in the country is a potential domestic tourist.

Since May, VTO has promoted offers from over 200 local tourism businesses to domestic tourists. The campaign has been highly visible, reaching 100% of Vanuatu’s social media audience, and an even wider radio and newspaper audience. Most importantly, the campaign has been helping our tourism businesses to reach domestic tourism consumers and to generate revenue.

While we prepare for the time when international visitors can safely return to our shores, the VTO is also investing in growing the domestic tourism market. Business feedback on the domestic campaign shows that it is helping to introduce people to tourism businesses that they hadn’t been aware of before. We want to help even more people to get out and discover our country, and helping local tourism businesses by spending their money with them.

To help VTO improve our domestic tourism marketing, in August 2020, we conducted a survey to create a profile of Vanuatu travel consumers. The survey asked Ni-Vanuatu, naturalised citizens and expatriates about their preferences for local tourism products and services, about their willingness to spend locally in tourism businesses, and their purchasing preferences.

The response to this survey was tremendous. 726 people took part, and 83% were Ni-Vanuatu or dual citizens of Vanuatu and another country. The majority of respondents were female full-time workers.

Here’s what the survey found:

• The two main parts of the domestic market are (as expected) the larger man ples segment and the much smaller expatriate/naturalised citizen segment.

• A number of smaller segments or niches such as business travellers, and people visiting friends and relatives also exist. These niche markets have slightly different needs than the overall domestic market so need to slightly different marketing messages.

• Vanuatu’s domestic tourism market contains people with preferences similar to the main international categories we’ve noticed in our previous overseas market research. These segments are ‘adventure seekers’, who are looking for exciting things to do, and ‘experience collectors’, who want to take part in less demanding activities with friends and family.

• The existence of these categories indicates that the strategies and campaigns VTO uses internationally could be repurposed or replicated to grow demand in these domestic segments.

• Domestic travel consumers are most interested in seeing offers for airfares, outer island package deals, island bungalows, package deals, tour activities and restaurants, but are less interested in offers for bars/nightclubs, car rentals or hotel accommodation.

• Ni-Vanuatu respondents showed more interest in car rentals, package deals, island bungalows, tour activities and bars/nightclubs than the expatriate segment.

• Expatriates and man ples have different price sensitivities for different products and services. However, there is no substantial difference between the man ples and expatriate/naturalised segments in terms of willingness to pay for island bungalow stays and hotel/resort stays.

• ALL survey respondents showed a high level of willingness to spend money on tours and activities, which may be an indication that there is more demand for tourism activities than supply.

• The key takeaway message conveyed by the majority of survey respondents is that they want to support locally-owned tourism businesses. For example, one survey respondent wrote: “I’m very keen to support small operators on the smaller islands, maybe those that get lost in normal marketing.”

VTO is using the information gathered in the survey right now to more tightly focus our marketing messages and strategies for domestic consumers. You can expect to see the results on your TV screens, mobile phone, on radio and more very soon.

In the meantime, everyone can help sustain our tourism industry through this difficult time by going out and supporting local tourism businesses. There’s never been a better time to #SapotemLokolTurisism !

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