In 2019, the Vanuatu Department of Tourism (DoT) launched the first sector policy for tourism in Vanuatu, the Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Policy.

To gain support in the implementation of the Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Policy (2019-2030) the DoT held the first ever Sustainable Islands Tourism Conference in November 2019.

A key outcome of the Conference was a ‘Statement of Intent’ drafted by the Directors of Tourism from Vanuatu, Palau, and the Cook Islands, for collaboration in sustainable tourism. Presented and signed in front of the conference attendees, an alliance was formed to drive leadership in equitable, ethical, responsible, and sustainable tourism policy and practice. A year on, the next significant step in Vanuatu’s sustainable tourism journey was the launching of the Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Strategy (2021-2025) by the Minister for Trade, Commerce and Ni Vanuatu Business, James Bule during the DoT 2021 Business Plan and Annual Work Program Validation meeting in Emua Village, North Efate on the 27th of January 2021. The Director of Tourism, Mr. Jerry Spooner stated, “the Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Strategy (2021-2025) puts forward 4 themes: Well-being; Resilience; Diversification; and Sustainability to guide a better coordinated approach in the ongoing management and development of sustainable tourism”.

Director General of the Ministry of Tourism, Mr. Roy Mickey Joy in his opening remarks acknowledged the continuous support of development partners for the tourism sector particularly the Government of New Zealand. He stressed the need to consider the COVID-19 situation very seriously and to plan for the worst. He thanked the DoT team for their great efforts particularly in showing evidence of better planning and allocation of support towards developing our Provinces for the next 5 years. “This is what the current Government wants - that is to see our Provinces and rural communities being involved in the planning, and that the tourism benefits will reach them” stated DG Roy Mickey Joy.

Mr Spooner suggested that “Through the implementation of our Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Strategy (2021-2025), the DoT is working to create an enabling environment for our tourism industry to ensure we are ready for worst case scenarios in the future and have the capacity to respond and adapt to all situations. We would be naïve to think that our tourism industry can return back to what it was prior to COVID19. Now more than ever, as we see the increasing impacts and challenges brought from external threats such as the COVID-19 and climate change, we as a nation must do everything possible to ensure our tourism industry in the future supports meaningful participation and wellbeing of our people; maintains viable access to our lands, secures our sovereignty, and is equipped to respond and adapt to all potential impacts”. As part of the sustainable tourism journey the DoT has also developed the Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Human Resources Plan, the Tourism Business Support Program and the ongoing implementation of the Vanuatu Tourism Crises Response and Recovery Plan to provide support in the recovery process for tourism while also supporting the tourism industry to transition to sustainability.

During the launching of the Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Strategy (2021-2025) the chief of Emua Village, Mr. Albert Manlaesinu stated his appreciation for holding the 3-day meeting in their community building as it enabled them to complete the community building in time for the handing over to the Council of Chiefs in June. The Secretary General for PENAMA, Mr. Judah Garoleo expressed his gratitude to Emua Village for hosting all the participants and praised Mr. Albert Manlaesinu on the generous and warm hospitality of the Emua community. Mr. Spooner stated that “This model of holding events and meetings for the DoT within villages is an example of the DoT’s focus to ensure tourism contributes to the community. It is our communities that can offer a meaningful experience, not only to our tourists, but also our tourism staff and we must ensure that we support them to do this”.

Acting Principal of Outer Islands Mr. Amos Ronnie thanked the Provincial Tourism Managers and Secretary Generals for their meaningful involvement in developing the Provincial Sustainable Tourism Plans (2021-2025) and stated “The Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Strategy (2021-2025) provides the guiding framework and direction for the development of our Provincial Sustainable Tourism Plans (2021-2025) which allows for the tourism sector policy to be decentralised, ensuring that every province has ownership of a living document to support us towards achieving our Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Policy (2019-2030) and National Sustainable Development Plan (2016-2030) targets”. Mr. Spooner concluded with “We are grateful for the funding support from the New Zealand Government to support us in this journey to ensure that our Vanuatu Sustainable Tourism Policy; Strategy; and Provincial Sustainable Tourism Plans have been developed from wide and in-depth consultation throughout the Provinces representing a truly decentralised approach. We look forward to bringing all the Provinces along on our sustainable tourism journey”.

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