What does a tour company do when there are no tourists?
For the team at Vanuatu Ecotours, the lull in tourism due to COVID-19 has been an opportunity to work with local community partners to keep Vanuatu beautiful and clean, ready for the return of tourists later in 2020.
The work being undertaken by Vanuatu Ecotours is in line with a global campaign being delivered by the Vanuatu Tourism Office (VTO) called ‘We’ll Keep it Beautiful for You’.
Vanuatu Ecotours has so far undertaken four community clean-up projects, with more in the pipeline.
The first project was painting of Eratap French school.
“We regularly visit Eratap on our bushwalking and mountain bike tours,” explains senior tour guide, Ronny Tamasui. “Vanuatu Ecotours was proud to buy paint to the value of 60,000 VT and then to work with the community to paint the school. This is good for the school, good for the community and our guests will enjoy visiting the school once international borders re-open.”
The next project was a clean-up of the Rentapao River, the base for Vanuatu Ecotours’ famous river kayak tours.
“Our guests love the forest and peacefulness of kayaking down the river,” continued Mr Tamasui. “However, we often find rubbish floating in the river, and that is disappointing for the guests. We regularly pick up rubbish on our tours but this quiet time gave us a chance to do a proper clean-up of the river.”
Last week another project was undertaken, this time with the Nguna Pele Marine and Land Conservation Network.
“The Vanuatu Ecotours philosophy is to showcase the beauty of Vanuatu’s natural environment and to support communities who are actively working to look after their environment,” said Vanuatu Ecotours Managing Director, Rob Macalister.
“The Nguna Pele Marine and Land Conservation Network is a natural partner for us and we were very pleased to work with the Network to do a major clean-up around the main village of Taloa, and along the track all the way to the volcano. More projects are planned with the Network including a reef clean-up in the coming weeks.
“We are very grateful to the Vanuatu Government for providing an employment subsidy for our guides.
“This has enabled us to keep the guides in employment. Rather than sit at home, we have had them all back at work and undertaking these community beautification projects, as well as maintenance of our assets and development of some new tour activities.
“Vanuatu’s greatest tourism assets are our friendly and welcoming communities, and the beauty of our natural environment. We are proud to be doing our bit to keep Vanuatu looking beautiful for when international borders re-open.”
The VTO ‘We’ll Keep it Beautiful for You ‘campaign promises potential visitors overseas that the Ni-Vanuatu people will keep Vanuatu beautiful for them until the time when the restrictions are lifted and tourists can return.
VTO has said that the new campaign will help sustain recent strong growth in Vanuatu tourism once the current situation passes, by keeping Vanuatu’s warm spirit alive and ensuring the destination is front-of-mind when consumers are able to travel again.
The latest Vanuatu Ecotours project was undertaken as a partnership with Blue Bay Resort at Bukura, and Port Vila International School.
“We know there have been some serious outbreaks of crown of thorn starfish around Pango, causing damage to the coral reef there,” said Mr Macalister.
“We decided we would work with our partners to survey the reef around Blue Bay, where we run our sea kayak tours, to assess the extent of crown of thorns starfish there.
“With 34 willing students from Port Vila International School, we divided the reef into four sections and surveyed each section in turn. We found two sections where crown of thorns require control. Eradication will take place with the support of the Department of Fisheries next week.
“We hope all this work pays off, so that when tourists return they will find Vanuatu even more beautiful than they remembered it.”
Established in 2006 and rated #1 ‘Thing to Do’ on TripAdvisor for many years, Vanuatu Ecotours offers real-life authentic experiences, off the beaten track adventures and tailor-made services.
Vanuatu Ecotours offers a range of fun half and full day adventures on Efate as well as a range of outer island packages. It is Vanuatu’s outer islands tourism expert and preferred fixer for visiting TV and film crews.
Vanuatu Ecotours is proud to support its community partners and is committed to sustainable tourism.