This week’s update focuses on access through air travel and cruise ships and how the future looks. We talk about the tourism industry survey being conducted this week, and will provide some more information on training businesses using the ‘Safe Business Operations (SBO)’ Guidelines.

Director of Tourism, Jerry Spooner would like to acknowledge that he understands and sympathizes with the many businesses and people that are struggling and dealing with hardship. It is coming up to six months that the borders have now been closed. The economic struggle for businesses to remain open and keep their staff employed is being felt by many, and sadly many businesses have closed.

While the recovery plan is being implemented with teams working to prepare and ensure that businesses and communities are ready in terms of safety, awareness and training, realistically it is still going to be several months more until the borders reopen, especially with more cases of COVID-19 in neighboring Pacific countries. “The borders will not open until we are ready but the longer this takes, the worse, the economic effect will be. It is a fine balance between the physical health of our people and their economic health and survival” says Director Spooner.

The Department of Tourism (DoT) in collaboration with the Vanuatu Tourism Office (VTO) released a survey last Friday. It is a follow up survey for all tourism business owners and managers, both small and large businesses, across all Islands. We understand that there have been a few surveys conducted in the last few months.

This one will help provide a comparison to the information received right after the border closure with the impacts now being felt five months down the line. It is crucial to show statistics to seek and support the economic survival of businesses in the upcoming months. We strongly encourage all businesses to take ten minutes to assist us with the information we need to provide solid evidence to our stakeholders. The survey will close on the 11th of September at 5pm and can be completed on

Air Vanuatu recently announced a series of cargo service flights to and from Brisbane, Auckland and Noumea from now through to December 2020. Passengers departing Port Vila can travel on these flights subject to prior clearance from the Vanuatu Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT). Until approved by local authorities, Ni-Vanuatu citizens and permanent residents are not allowed to return to Vanuatu on these flights.

No official statement regarding the status of Air Vanuatu’s new Airbus A220 aircraft has been released yet. The aircraft is planned to be released from the production line on the 21st of September in Canada. No delivery date to Vanuatu is set yet.

An initial schedule has been finalized, but given the pandemic crisis, all plans to meet the current demand and forecasted reopening of borders are being reviewed. All regulatory requirements will need to be met prior to the aircraft arriving in Vanuatu. Air Vanuatu will make further announcements in due course.

Regarding our cruise industry, P&O Australia, Carnival Australia, Princess & Royal Caribbean Group have all announced extensions of their ‘pauses of operations’. P&O Cruises and Carnival Australia have both extended their rolling pause across Australia and New Zealand to October 29, 2020 in response to the current impact of the global pandemic on the way we travel and holiday.

Princess Cruises has extended its pause in cruise operations in Australia through to December 12, 2020 due to the continued progression of COVID-19 and related decisions of various governments, health authorities, and airlines regarding travel restrictions. Royal Caribbean Group announced it will cancel all sailings departing from Australia and New Zealand on or before October 31, 2020.

As we previously outlined, one the Governments main focuses is the training of business using the ‘Vanuatu Guidelines for Safe Businesses Operations (SBO) in the context of the COVID-19’ to apply the new health and safety procedures starting from September 2020. After running a few sessions of the ‘pilot’ SBO trainings starting from the 12th of August, it was found that the training needed to be contextualized to satisfy the different business categories in Vanuatu. The SBO Guidelines outlines six different business categories which include accommodation, food & beverage, land and water-based transport, retail outlets including handicraft markets, attractions and recreation, and activities and entertainment. Consultations have been held to get feedback to incorporate to further progress the Level 1 Training course material. Businesses will need to prepare, understand, respond, and take responsibility under each of the transmission scenarios and carry out the recommended Public Health actions.

A shortlist of training providers to deliver the COVID Safe Business Operations (SBO) training is currently being compiled by DoT. These training providers will then be issued Requests for Quotation (RFQ) to deliver training in individual provinces starting with Shefa.

The Department of Tourism has a team in Erromango and Aneityium this week and while they are reviewing and updating the Tafea Provincial Plan, they are running workshops in the communities to assist the area secretaries, community leaders and operators to understand the roll out of the Tourism Recovery Plan, and how communities will need to prepare in terms of health and safety, and readiness of their businesses and staff. In Efate consultations and community awareness continues with stakeholders including the Malvatumauri President, Chairman of Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC), area secretaries and other Government Institutions.

Please send any questions on tourism recovery by email to [email protected] and we will do our best to answer your questions in next week’s update.

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