A group of 16 key product managers, team leaders and marketing managers from Australian wholesalers and Online Travel Agents (OTA) experienced the beauty of Vanuatu first-hand last week, as the destination shows it is open for business after the destruction caused by Cyclone Pam earlier this year.
Alaine Dunn, Fusion Holidays; Claudia Van Uffelen, Ignite Travel; Kristie Hill, Omniche Holidays; Stephen Pirie, Unleashed Travel; Vanessa Heath, Virgin Australian Holidays; Frederick McLean, The Havannah; Bevis Yu, GTA; Glynn Pugh, Flight Centre; Nina Henderson, Hoot Holidays; Sarah Beeken, Millennium Travel; Daniel Vella, Creative Holidays; Victoria McLean, The Havannah; Sovanna Sunn, Island Escapes; Andy Collins, Booking.com; Michelle Hrip Tchakmadjian, helloworld; Michael Zhang, Webjet; Anne Morris, VTO Australia
Taking place from 10 to 16 August, 2015, the itineraries were designed to showcase a large range of properties and activities available in Vanuatu by including the islands of Efate, Espiritu Santo and Tanna.
While half the group visited the blue holes and white sandy beaches of Espiritu Santo, the other half set their sights on the culture and volcano on Tanna on pre-famils. The group united for the second half of the trip to see Port Vila together.
Vanuatu Tourism Office’s (VTO) Australian representative Anne Morris said the trip was designed to ease the minds of those who sell Vanuatu to the Australian market.
“The main aim of the trip was to instil confidence that Vanuatu has recovered from Cyclone Pam and that the group can continue to package, promote and sell with conviction and a renewed passion for the destination,” Ms Morris said.
Nina Henderson, Destination Manager for Hoot Holidays said she was impressed with how Vanuatu has bounced back.
“I experienced both the islands of Efate and Tanna and their quick recovery shows the true resilience of the nation. I was amazed on Tanna how little seemed to have changed since my visit two years ago.
“All over the country, hoteliers have chosen to see Cyclone Pam as a positive and have used the recovery time to rebuild or upgrade their properties,” Nina said.
Therese Glover, Pinpoint Travel Group Product Specialist was a little more cautious with her expectations of Vanuatu.
Sarah Beeken, Millennium Travel; Claudia VanUffelen, Ignite Travel; Daniel Vella, Travel Corporation; Nina Henderson, Hoot Holidays; Michael Zhang, Webjet; Alicia Hambly, Pinpoint; Sovanna Sunn, Island Escapes
“I honestly expected to see more damage but I was pleasantly surprised to see how well Vanuatu has recovered after Pam. Things were far better than expected. I only saw a small amount of damage as all of the resorts we viewed had cleaned everything up.”
Therese said her clients had needed a bit of reassurance when considering Vanuatu but seeing it firsthand has given her the confidence to promote the destination.
“Some clients have still been a little hesitant, but we will run promotions in the near future and I will definitely advise people to holiday there…it is a wonderful country to visit!”
When asked if Vanuatu is ready for tourists to return, Therese said, “I think Vanuatu has been ready for tourists to return for a couple of months now and with all the current specials, you can get a lot of bang for your buck plus help these beautiful people.”
Sarah Beeken from Vanuatu Escapes said, “It is definitely business as usual for Vanuatu and you would never know a cyclone had wreaked so much damage just five months ago.
“It is amazing to see how quickly Vanuatu has bounced back – the hotels and resorts are looking fabulous, the landscape is green, and the town is bustling. The resilience of the Vanuatu people is truly overwhelming!”
Preceding the Australian group, wholesalers from New Zealand and New Caledonia also visited Vanuatu in an effort to build confidence in its key markets.