Director says Vanuatu’s dependency on international tourism “too high”

Tourism Director Jerry Spooner. Photo: Mavuku Tokona

Is international tourism dead or in a state of dormancy? The Director of Tourism Jerry Spooner says neither, and that it is simply inactive.

Semantics aside, the facts are the borders are closed, international tourism is no more and the country’s tourism GDP has taken a dive.

Since the debut of COVID-19, Vanuatu’s tourism GDP dropped to 30% and it is expected to worsen if the border closure continues.

The Director of Tourism explained that Vanuatu’s dependency on international tourism was unnaturally high borderline unhealthy – “our dependency of tourism is too high and it is unhealthy, it means that it is very risky when situations like the COVID-19 pandemic hits and then it impacts the country GDP.”

Two international economists Kishi Sen and Tom Kenny reported in their article Pacific Insight that once the pandemic is over, tourism will return, albeit gradually.

Former professor of economic sciences from the National University of Vanuatu Marc Menu, agreed with Mr Spooner that tourism wasn’t dead, just in stasis.

“If the tourism businesses continue to be supported and be accompanied by the government, at the end of the pandemic, they will be able to resume their activities,” the former professor said.

However, an unusual positive may be extracted out of this pandemic, which forces countries that are severely dependent on tourism to stop and look at other options.

The Tourism Director explains: “Reliance on tourism is quite big, dependency on tourism, out of 195 countries where tourism is part of their economy, 20 of those countries’ dependency is so much to the sense where it is unhealthy, we are ranked number 7.

“I know plenty want to go back to business as usual, unfortunately that’s not going to be the case.”

While international tourism is on hold, Director Spooner mentioned that another viable could be marketing the country to film producers, since Vanuatu is more relaxed with social distancing and freedom of mobility.

At the moment the department is marketing experience, providing advice to businesses that are struggling and promoting diversification.

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