When the devastating Tropical Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu in 2015, it was estimated up to 90 per cent of buildings across the country were affected, with profound damage to public infrastructure including water supplies, government buildings, hospitals, schools and also hotels and resorts in Vanuatu.
For Merian Numake, the owner of Tanna Evergreen Resort (also destroyed by Cyclone Pam), the challenge was an opportunity to rebuild the resort.
“I needed to rebuild but how will I start; it took me two weeks to think and I said, let’s turn this challenge into an opportunity and I have to rebuild even stronger," she said.
With limited financial resources she was strongly motivated to rebuild strong and more cyclone resistant but needed outside help to achieve this.
Along with her husband they hired a New Zealand Consultant/Project Manager to help them redesign the new Tanna Evergreen Resort.
“After two months of redesigning the resort, I told my project manager that this all new plan targeting different niche markets including the Asian market is not ready for Tanna and we are just an adventure place but finally after much consultation I had to accept it under our new business model,” Mrs. Numake said.
"Thanks to a clever business plan we were able to set up financing with the help from commercial banks, so we managed to rebuild to where it is today.
"Before cyclone Pam we were a struggling eight room two-star resort, hard to compare now to the only four-star resort on Tanna with air-conditioned rooms and four brand-new world-class swimming pools.
“Using a unique strategy for the rooms graded with different categories from two stars, three stars, four stars and five stars, we were able to capture the entire market.
"We have managed to increase average occupancy to 71%, one of the highest in Vanuatu and certainly now becoming the most popular resort on Tanna,” said Mrs Numake.
Tanna Evergreen Resort on a typical 90-day period can receive guests from more than 30 countries, further demonstrating how they have reached out to new markets for Tanna using their own marketing resources and following their business plan.
“Starting from scratch 20 years ago with my husband to date, 100% locally owners of this 30-room world-class four-star resort is a dream coming true.
"We still have improvements to be made but we are very excited to be the most popular destination on Tanna Island," Mrs Numake said.
From 20 staff before TC Pam, now the resort employs 50 staff.
TC Pam was a good challenge and Mrs. Numake advises every local entrepreneur to never give up on their dream and always turn challenges into opportunities.
The resort's website is: www.tannaevergreenresorttours.com.