Wish you were here: Pacific islands travel destinations inch towards reopening

A tourist takes pictures of a Moorish Idol spawning aggregation in Palau. These aggregations are only known from a limited number of locations around the world. The marine life of Palau is a huge draw for tourists. PHOTO: Richard Brooks/Lightning Strike Media Productions

Just a few months ago, whether travellers to the Pacific would need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 was still a matter of debate. But that discussion has moved as quickly as the Delta variant, and it now seems fait accompli in at least some Pacific islands travel destinations.

Although the World Health Organisation continues to advise that proof of COVID-19 vaccination should not be required as a condition of entry to or exit from a country, it recognises that individual countries may want to take a more precautionary approach.

Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) CEO, Chris Cocker, says it is treading carefully on this issue, and that it’s a hard one to address regionally.

“There are people who are not well, they cannot be vaccinated because of a medical issue. The other thing is a lot of our young people have not been vaccinated. So you can’t send a family [on holiday], a mother and father, and leave their children.”

Fiji, Samoa and the Cook Islands say they will insist that eligible adults be vaccinated before arriving. Other Micronesian destinations (see page 12) are offering vaccines as part of holiday packages, seeing them as a point of difference in a super-competitive market.

What have we learnt from the early adopters; Guam, Cook Islands and the Northern Marianas? How ready to fly is Fiji Airways? And how are tourist preferences changing? What lessons does the Maldives have for the Pacific?

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