Former Tafea Tourism Council Chairlady and Tanna Evergreen owner, Merian Numake, said a lawyer acting for the Vanuatu Tourism Office (VTO) has threatened to exclude her business off the VTO activities if she testifies in court.
The issue has surfaced after former VTO General Manager, Linda Kalpoi, filed a case in court seeking legal action for her alleged unlawful termination. Mrs Numake is the main witness in Kalpoi’s case.
In what is seen as retaliation, VTO has taken the step through its lawyer to inform Mrs Numake about the exclusion of her business in all VTO activities; an action described by Mrs Numake as unprofessional and childish.
Mrs Numake said that she received the letter from the legal counsel, Mr Willie Daniel, acting on behalf of VTO.
In the letter Mr Daniel said his client says that Tanna Evergreen Resort and Tours would be excluded in Toktok Vanuatu, tradeshows, campaign activities and familiarization visits sponsored by VTO.
He said his client had imposed disciplinary measures against her resort due to her support and involvement in the case of Mrs Kalpoi against VTO.
Daniel said that since Mrs Kalpoi’s case remains pending settlements in Supreme Court, Tanna Evergreen Resort and Tours will remain disciplined until the case is cleared.
He said that VTO is the main regulatory body in charge of all tourism activities in Vanuatu and Numake’s involvement as a witness against his client is seen as working against the interest of tourism in Vanuatu.
“Until further instructions are received from the Board of Directors of our client to uplift the sanction, this disciplinary action is to take immediate effect from the date of this letter and to remain as such,” he said.
Mrs Kalpoi filed a lawsuit against VTO claiming she was unlawfully terminated in her position in October 2016 in which Mrs Numake was still an active board member, that made her a key witness in the case that was listed for trial later this year.
Mrs Numake held the position of the Chairlady of TTC at the same time was serving as the longest female VTO Board Member for over seven years.
She said that she was terminated shortly in her position as Chairlady of TTC and also as a VTO Board Member after the former GM was terminated.
She labeled VTO’s instruction to stop her resort from engaging in any VTO tourism promotion as outrageous, unprofessional and childish.
She labelled the letter as “blackmail, corruption and disrespect” for local business entrepreneurs especially for one of the most successful ni-Vanuatu owned tourism businesses on Tanna and Vanuatu.
“Tanna Evergreen has nothing to do with the former General Manager VTO’s case,” she said.
“What has the new VTO management done in the past 30 years for tourism to threaten and stop a legal business operator and a pioneer for Tourism Development in Vanuatu?
“If the VTO Board and management cannot deal with challenges and manage their own kitchen then I call for the Board and the current GM to vacate the office as it is a total disgrace to the tourism industry and the Republic of Vanuatu.”
She said that such an act might lead to more than 60 workers including two expatriates to lose their jobs.
She said Tanna Evergreen is the biggest contributor to the Tourism industry on Tanna now with 30 rooms available.
She said that in the past, her resort worked closely with VTO by providing free accommodation, transportation, discounted meals as well as supporting VTO’s marketing initiatives and other services upon request.
Mrs Numake said that the resort is investing more than VT1 million per year to support Tanna and Vanuatu destination marketing and such an action is an absolute betrayal.
Numake said her resort has been listed for ‘Toktok’ to showcase its first Four Star rated villas on Tanna at the end of this month – a dream that they have been waiting for so long.
She said that the resort was more than ready to receive foreign inspectors and they will not collaborate with any nonsense from VTO to jeopardize its investments despite the low poor turnout of the visitors visiting Tanna currently.
Mrs Numake and her husband Samuel Numake have engaged a lawyer and are now calling on VTO for an apology and kindly ask them to revoke their instruction.