Vanuatu Tourism Office’s marketing and communications team have been busy since July visiting tourism operators across the country to hear their concerns about doing business during the COVID downturn.

VTO has also been presenting workshops to help tourism businesses get ‘digital marketing ready’ and when it is safe to reopen our borders again. These workshops have been equipping businesses with marketing tools that allow domestic tourists to find them online—with the added benefit the when the current temporary border closure ends, international tourists will also be able to find and contact our tourism businesses more easily too.

To date, VTO has visited the LInua and Loh in the Torres Group, Mota Lava, Rah and Vanua Lava in the Banks, Espiritu Santo, Malekula, North Efate, Pele and Nguna, Tanna and Aneityum. Visits to other islands are being planned for later this year.

At each location, VTO has sharing information about its current marketing activities, including the domestic consumer marketing campaign ‘Sapotem Lokol Turisim’. VTO has also been using this opportunity to update business operators on its ongoing international marketing campaigns to maintain consumer awareness and intention to book holidays once we can safely reopen for business.

VTO is also offering all tourism businesses hands-on assistance with their digital marketing. This includes setting up businesses with Google accounts so that they can be easily found in Google search and in Google Maps. VTO has helped hundreds of businesses create their own Facebook pages so that domestic and international tourists can locate them and more easily make contact with them when they want to book.

At the same time, VTO has been been working with business owners to create offers for each business for the ‘Sapotem Lokol Turisim’ domestic tourism marketing campaign. This campaign has been highly visible, reaching 100% of Vanuatu’s Facebook users over 18, plus a large number via ad placements in other media such as the Daily Post, Life and Style, Buzz FM and VBTC’s radio stations. On Facebook alone, Vanuatu’s Facebook users have viewed ads from the campaign 5.4 million times just in the past two months. And the campaign is producing real results: after the first phase of the campaign, businesses surveyed said they had seen an extra 18% of sales revenue, while in North Efate and offshore islands, some businesses are reporting that they have been fully booked for the first time since the COVID pandemic started thanks to the promotions that VTO has created as part of the campaign.

VTO has met with the owners of more than 250 tourism businesses, large and small at the island workshops. The team has visited the businesses to familiarise themselves with their operations and to update VTO’s library of images and videos. VTO has also taken this opportunity to commission local photographers and video makers to shoot new image and video content of a number of popular tourist attractions around the country.

In parallel with its site visits and workshops, VTO has also been upgrading the bookings system that stores all VTO’s tourism business profile information, making sure that they have the most up-to-date information on for each business. The team has also been busy editing this information to enhance the marketability of each business. This process is ongoing, and will be completed by end of November.

Vanuatu must keep marketing itself internationally in preparation of the eventual reopening of the border, as Vanuatu faces increased competition from other holiday destinations in the region (and beyond). The marketing work that VTO does internationally has been scaled back since the COVID pandemic began, but maintaining Vanuatu’s presence in overseas markets is essential to ensure Vanuatu’s economy can quickly recover from the downturn caused by the border closure.

Tourism is the only sector of Vanuatu’s economy that is capable of enabling a rapid short term recovery once borders reopen. Vanuatu has a strong presence in our main source markets for tourists—Australia, New Caledonia and New Zealand—and already has a lot of tourism businesses and infrastructure set up and ready to go. Marketing must continue so that Vanuatu can ensure its economic recovery.

Concurrent with the island workshops, VTO has also launched a weekly Turisim Marketing Storian program at the VTO head office in Port Vila, opening their doors to all tourism businesses around Efate to help them with their digital marketing, all day every Friday, including:

• Creating a free Gmail email address for your business;

• Getting your business listed on Google Maps;

• Creating or updating your business’s Facebook account;

• Creating or updating your business’s Instagram account;

• Updating the information on VTO’s website about your business;

• Creating domestic tourism offers that VTO can share.

Any tourism accredited business can take part by visiting VTO’s office on any Friday between 9 and 4pm.

From November onwards, the VTO marketing team will be visiting Luganville monthly to follow up on all marketing issues that operators are experiencing. Those visits will include site visits and photography and one-to-one marketing storian from the Santo Travel Call Centre. The exact schedule of those visits will be available soon. A similar program is also in development for Tanna.

VTO thanks all of those tourism business operators who have attended their workshops, and their partners in provincial government, Department of Tourism, and Skills Partnership who have helped with Turisim Marketing Storian.

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