Media release, Friday 21st March 2014: The Vanuatu Tourism Office warmly received the Hon. Willie Jimmy Tapangararua and his government delegation on Monday this week for an office visit. The Honorable Minister was pleasantly surprised by his own welcome board which was placed at the reception. On arrival, the delegation was greeted by the Board Chairman and General Manager of VTO, Mr Philip Malas & Mrs Linda Kalpoi, as well as the Ministry’s Director General, Mr Marokon Alilee. The Government delegation had an opportunity to get an insight of some of the key issues the tourism industry and VTO are facing, as well as visiting each staff individuals at their work station where staff briefed the Minister about their job role. The Visitor Information Centre was the final section visited, before the delegation returned to the Board Room for an end of tour remarks by Mrs Kalpoi and the Honorable Minister. Mrs. Kalpoi stated that the VTO has a clear legislative mandate through the VTO Act to “encourage and assist the sustainable development of the tourism industry in Vanuatu by undertaking coordinated tourism marketing in overseas and domestic markets”. Hence the Mission “The VTO shall Market Vanuatu as a Desired Holiday Destination in Overseas markets and Demonstrate Leadership in the Development of Sustainable Tourism, for the Benefit of the People of Vanuatu, The Tourism Industry and It’s Visitors”.
The General Manager went on to outline the importance of Tourism to the country as one of the most important drivers of Vanuatu’s economy, accounting for 25% GDP, the major foreign exchange earner with a total of 110,109 visitors by air and 242,646 by cruise ship giving Vanuatu in 2013 a total of 352,755 visitors compared to 321,354 in 2012, an increase by 9.77%. Estimated visitor expenditure for 2013 is at 15 billion vatu.
Mrs. Kalpoi concluded that there is still untapped markets and huge potential for Vanuatu to grow its tourism arrivals but is dependent on how Tourism is looked upon by the Government and the people of Vanuatu. Underlying constrains faced by the VTO is insufficient funding and inconsistency resulting in inconsistent marketing activities in the market place leading to loss of market share. Product standards and service delivery, Poor infrastructure, and High cost of transportation are some key issues that restrain further development of tourism to the outer islands. The VTO staff and overseas representatives are passionate about Vanuatu as, for us it is the best tourist destination in the Pacific, therefore we put our heart and soul into the destination and maximizing our limited budget and resources to ensure continued growth to the destination for the benefit of the people of Vanuatu right to the grassroots.
The Hon. Minister of Tourism Willie Jimmy Tapangararua stated that the Government sees Tourism as a priority industry and totally agrees with the General Manager’s comments and his Ministry and cabinet will
work with the Chairman and General Manager of the VTO to strengthen the relationship with the Government and the industry as partnership in developing the Tourism industry for the benefit of the people of Vanuatu. For this reason the Prime Minister and him as Minister of Tourism has agreed and directed his DG to prepare DCO and COM papers with the view of merging VTO and the Department of Tourism under one administration to reduce cost and empowers the institution to effectively manage both the product development and marketing of the country as a premium tourism destination.
The Hon. Minister also stated that he is not new to Tourism as he has been a key player as former Minister of Finance, Trade and Tourism in past governments to developing tourism and has had the privilege to join the VTO in some of the key international activities in promoting Vanuatu.
Photo caption: Honorable Minister Willie Jimmy Tapangararua (far right), his delegation, the Chairman of VTO Board Mr Philip Malas (3rd from left), and next to him is DG Mr Marakon Alilee (2nd from left), and the General Manager of VTO Mrs Linda Kalpoi assemble together for a group photo.