The first international visitors who set foot in Vanuatu Friday after more than two years were given a warm welcome by excited tourism officers at the Port Vila Airport.
String band songs greeted them as they arrived. They were given ‘salusalus’ and local gifts before leaving the arrival area. Families and friends embraced after being reunited following long separations since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first travellers from New Caledonia touched down Friday morning, with the next two flights from Australia – one after 3pm and the other later in the night.
Aviation, industry and tourism workers were wearing shirts saying “Welkam back to Vanuatu!” Tourism workers became emotional, welcoming and witnessing the reunion scenes and receiving their first quests after more than two years.
Vanuatu Tourism Office CEO, Adela Aru, said an estimated one-third of the 400 plus passengers arriving yesterday are visitors, repeated visitors and new ones.
Some accommodation is already booked out until later this year, she said.
She said rebuilding tourism requires partnership, trust, combined efforts and resources from the industry, the government and people.
The VTO CEO said they need to market Vanuatu overseas effectively now that other Pacific countries are also reopening borders, and the aviation industry should open new routes that can new markets for tourism as well as exports.
Vanuatu Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, made his border reopening declaration upon arrival from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Africa. He came on the Sydney flight Friday.
PM Loughman made the declaration in the presence of various ministers, diplomatic cops, aviation and tourism officers and other senior government officials.
The PM thanked the devotedness of everyone throughout the pandemic, government and private sector, chiefs and frontline workers for keeping everyone and the country safe.
, and the Lord for guidance.
He acknowledged the assistance from all development partners.
According to the PM, 50% of tourism businesses in Port Vila, Efate and Santo are ready to operate, after being certificated as clean, caring and checked tourism businesses.
He called on the development partners, government and private sector to partner in rebuilding tourism.