Special funding from the Royal Caribbean Cruises is going to fund the building of a new gate and four extra pollards on the Main Wharf in Port Vila to cater for one of their giant cruise liners to enter Port Vila Harbour — the Voyager of the Seas at the end of the year.
Chairman of the Tourism Ambassador Programme and Director of the Department of Tourism, George Borugu made the confirmation in an interview with the Daily Post yesterday.
Asked how the agreement has been reached, Borugu said the breakthrough has come as a result of negotiations between Royal Caribbean Cruises
Caribbean Cruises and the Prime Minister’s office, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Youth and Sports and Tourism Authorities last November.
He said one of the challenges facing both disembarking passengers and taxi and bus drivers is that the gate is far too small and was not designed to cater for 2,200 passengers who want to get off the ship and hurry into town without having to wait to go through the gate.
The new gate will be built along with four extra pollards and be operational by June of this year, ahead of the arrival of Voyager of the Seas, which carries 3,500 passengers and is expected to berthe at the Main Wharf in November.
The Wharf and Airport are the two international gateways to the country through which all the country’s visitors arrive. “Our focus is the first impression of the visitor when he or she arrives at the wharf or at the airport. It is very important as it is going to determine whether he or she will be enticed to visit again or not based on his and her first impression on arrival”, Borugu said.
“In other words, if you are the passenger and your first impression is not good at the gate then your entire holiday is ruined and you will not want to return”.
The Chairman congratulates all the drivers for the arrangement in which they wait for their passengers at the airport.
Borugu outlined three challenges facing the Government and Tourism Authorities to help the taxi and bus drivers provide a transportation service for the visitors at the wharf.
• The current gate has to be replaced to allow sufficient space for drivers to pick up their customers;
• While passengers who arrive on pre-booked tours pass through the other gate, Police presence is important to help passengers reach the drivers in an orderly manner;
• Simply put, the blue tarpaulins for the mamas along the sea front are not organised. The Department of Tourism once organised for persons to board the cruise liner and look down on the wharf and the scene they faced was chaos and reflected a total lack of planning.
Borugu said, “Now we are confident that with this much needed funding from Royal Caribbean Cruises to fund a new gate, changes will finally come about for our taxis and buses to provide a much needed professional customer service at the wharf”.