The Graduation Ceremony for the Tourism Transport Ambassadors took place at the Port Vila Convention Centre on the 22nd of March, 2018.
228 taxi and bus drivers graduated on the day and their families were present to witness the event.
Guest Speakers at the occasion include: the Acting Principal of the Vanuatu Institute of Technology (VIT), Mr. Takalo J. Graham; the Director of Tertiary Education, Mr. Jean Marie Virelala; the Department of Tourism (DoT) Senior Transport Ambassador Officer, Mrs. Nadia Kanegai; the CEO of the Public Land Transport Association (PLTA), Mr. Reginald Tabi; the Team Leader of the Vanuatu Strategic Tourism Action Plan Implementation Unit (VSTAP/IU) Mr. Geoff Hyde; and the NZ High Commission representative, Mr. Ricky Lee.
Mr. Virelala mentioned that it was an achievement worth celebrating and that the Tourism and Transport Services program will be developed to Certificate 2 level. He also added that one of the main challenges faced by our local transport drivers is literacy and language barriers with tourists. This will be addressed in the next Certificate 2 level training program.
DoT Senior Taxi Ambassador Officer, Mrs. Kanegai gave a brief history on the Taxi Ambassador Program which commenced in 2014 as a pilot program. Its name was changed to Tourism Transport Ambassador to cater for a wider range of Tourism transportations. She also advised that it is the first training of its kind to be VQA accredited as there was a need to raise the customer service standards in the tourism industry.
She mentioned there were two more training sessions to be completed, one in Santo and another in Port Vila to cater for the drivers that were involved in the initial Ambassadors pilot program.
The CEO of PLTA, Mr. Tabi, mentioned that the graduation showed Government’s commitment to tourism which is the main source of income for the country. He also mentioned that all the graduates will be entitled to a Tourism driver’s permit which will give them access to the airport and wharf where they will be able to pick up and transport tourist passengers. He advised the Ambassadors graduating to keep what they have learnt and wished them all the best as tourism transport drivers and to develop their tourism transport business.
The VSTAP Team Leader, Mr. Hyde, addressing the Ambassadors, said they looked “splendid” in their new uniforms. He mentioned that VSTAP was involved in over 15 projects, one of which was the Ambassadors Program, which involved the Transport Ambassadors in partnership with DoT, VIT, VQA and PLTA, and the City Ambassadors being managed by VTO. He reminded everyone, in particular the Ambassadors, that forming partnership networks is important for achieving sustainability, stating that a project can’t be implemented properly without forming local partnerships. These partnerships should be based on the ‘3 C’s’ - using Communication, Coordination and Cooperation as the basis for achieving the project objectives.
He also thanked NZAid for the support they received not only in terms of funding but also through the hands-on involvement of Ricky at the NZHC.
NZ High Commission Representative, Mr. Lee, congratulated all the program partners and especially the drivers who were graduating. He commended them for although they had to work 8 hours every day servicing tourists and locals, they still managed to attend all their classes for the 6 weeks of the VIT course. He also thanked the families of all the drivers who gave them support in achieving their certificates.
One of the Driver representatives thanked the facilitators for training them and all involved in making the training possible, so that they could receive their certificates.
He added that the drivers were happy and that he hopes that the program will continue on for other drivers to take part in the future. The Ambassadors who graduated received a VQA accredited VIT Certificate and were also provided with uniforms, personal IDs, Vehicle ID’s and magnetic logos to display on their vehicles.