The tourism industry of Vanuatu must acknowledge the rights of the owners of kastom and not ignore the issues of ownership and fairness, Dr. Joseph Cheer, a man who is familiar with tourism in the country says.

Cheer, an Associate Director of Australia and International Tourism Unit (AITRU) at Monash University in Victoria and has written extensively on tourism in Vanuatu, says that questions need to be asked about what to do to ensure that tourism operators respect the rights and wishes of kastom owners.

“Perhaps policies and guidelines for the use of kastom in tourism need to be established. And the owners of kastom (that is the entire community) should be the beneficiaries,” he suggests.

Dr. Cheer who also holds a PhD in Anthropology and lectures at the National Center for Australian Studies adds that the Vanuatu tourism sector should pay more attention to how its activities are perceived and how the proceeds of tourism are building community wealth.

“Because if tourism is to be everybody’s business it is not enough for individuals to dominate and stockpile tourism revenues for their own purposes, otherwise this will lead to conflict, community disruption and long-term problems.”

Day tours to view kastom in the outer islands, is inappropriate, he adds. One clear example is the staging of the nagol at Lonoror Airport where tourists arrive by plane for the show and leave again after it has finished, without their visit benefiting the wider community, which had led to the cutting down of the nagol tower a week and a half ago.

More effort needs to be made to have tourists stay over in the outer islands in locally owned bungalows and experience the culture close up; not from an airplane, helicopter or tour group, he said.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: Cell # 678 5460922

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