The ‘Tourism 40’ exhibition at the Espace Cultural du Alliance Français took place throughout this week as the tourism sector in Vanuatu celebrated 40 years of tourism at the Espace Culturel du Alliance Français.
It was organized by the Vanuatu Tourism office (VTO), Department of Tourism as well the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce, Industry and Ni-Vanuatu Business.
This was an opportunity to look back on how far tourism has come in Vanuatu from pre-independence days right through to 1980 till today.
VTO Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Adela Aru, says despite Vanuatu’s closed borders due to COVID-19 the country must celebrate its achievements in tourism over the last 40 years. She says tourism contributes to 30% of Vanuatu’s GDP and directly earned VT19.5 billion for the national economy.
Mrs Aru says the greatest tourism achievement is national identity as these days the country markets itself as a tourist destination based on authentic experiences that Vanuatu has to offer.
The CEO says Vanuatu was voted happiest place on earth twice and it is still COVID-19 free. She says this is a true reflection of Ni-Vanuatu people, proud, fearless and independent. She says this is something great Vanuatu should continue to share with visitors.
Aru said when looking at images of tourism activities in Vanuatu throughout the years, one will notice the images of the people remain the same which shows that Vanuatu’s custom and culture are still intact.
She encourages everyone to keep it this way and says that is one of the main reasons why they have the sustainable tourism policy in place. She says the exhibition of 40 years of tourism coincides with the celebration of 40 years of Independence.
Mrs Aru says over the last 40 years, our tourism pioneers face a lot of challenges from accessibility to our islands with aviation to having locally made handicrafts. However, despite these challenges, she says Vanuatu has come a long way and today these things have become more accessible.
The VTO CEO says ‘Tourism 40’ is the tourism slogan and ‘Yumi 40’ is the national slogan. Mrs Aru thanks her staff at VTO, Department of Tourism staff and tourism ambassadors as well as volunteers who dedicated their time and effort to making the exhibition successful. She says though it was challenging, the teamwork paid off.
Mrs Aru also took the opportunity to acknowledge Jacklyn Kalo, the longest serving staff member of the VTO who joined VTO in 1986, two years after the VTO was established in 1984.
Mrs Kalo served under various managers and boards of directors. Mrs Aru described Mrs Kalo as a pillar to guide everyone based on what she went through.
Mrs Aru laughed and said after 34 long years Mrs Kalo is still fit. She says Mrs Kalo’s passion and dedication to the tourism sector has made her a tourism pioneer in her own right.