When COVID-19 was first announced, businesses that had all their eggs in one hopeful basket were optimistic of a quick turn-around from this nightmare that closed borders, slowed the economy, destroyed businesses, left numerous unemployed, and as the pandemic continued to linger, it riddled the country with a sickness of false hope.
We may not have a single active case right now, but the virus has infected the mindsets of tourism-oriented businesses, of which some are still waiting in vain.
Such businesses who have been overly dependent solely on tourism are now forced to learn how to walk out of this self-made crevice which is slowly suffocating their revenue stream.
Those who continue to wait for a stimulus package know by now that the government support is simply a band aid.
One could argue that the government support could keep the Banks at bay and staff employed with full wages, but that would mean simply substituting the tit of international tourism for that of the government’s.
However, in a strange-positive way, the pandemic has provided a gift to Vanuatu, by stopping tourism, businesses are now thrown to the deep-end, and the option to sink or swim is up to us.
To say ‘Stop International Tourism’ would just about amount to blasphemy in the pre-COVID days, and a statement such as that would be received with ‘It would mean committing economical suicide for the country’. Although, international tourism has stopped and the world hasn’t stopped spinning, which means there are other alternatives, and it’s about time we look at them.
Diversification – government departments have been singing this tune for a while now and for the past two-years of interviewing businesses that have attempted to wait out this global pandemic, let’s just say their doors have now closed and they are still waiting.
Therefore, the answer truly must be to diversify.
Looking for ways to receive more VATUs than foreign dollars by branching out into other types of services or selling different products.
Could this be Vanuatu’s independence challenge? A make-or-break moment for the country?
And if we can make it out of this unprecedented pandemic with our businesses successfully diversified with help from the public and private sectors, and the informal sectors changing gears and altering products that lean more towards the local consumer, wouldn’t that be something we could be proud of at 41?
Now that would be something worth celebrating.
Newsroom (Opinion Piece)