International passengers will soon be able to travel to Vanuatu as the nation is set to reopen after 2 years of closure to tourism.
1. Vanuatu welcomes tourists back
International tourists will be allowed in the Pacific Island of Vanuatu as of 1 July after two 2 years of uninterrupted closure. Those wishing to jump into the paradisiac island will now be able to do it with minimum restrictions with the country only requiring a certified negative rapid antigen test taken 24 hours before arrival — regardless of the vaccination status of the travellers.
Ever since it closed its borders to visitors on March 2020, Vanuatu has only allowed a limited number of residents to move in and out as well as a strict number of visa holders. Home to around 300,000 people, around 40 percent of the island’s GDP comes from the tourist industry, largely relying on income from cruise ships stopping and touring the country’s rich culture and areas of extraordinary natural beauty.
2. Lack of airline deals
While the good news of reopening are prompting the island to start getting ready for the summer season, there are concerns about the lack of airline deals. Currently, travel to Vanuatu is only possible through Air Vanuatu, the country’s struggling national carrier, which only has two aircraft for its international operations. There are concerns that if anything were to happen to the heavily indebted national airline, Vanuatu would quickly shut down once again.
At the end of April, Air Vanuatu turned on its online booking system with Air Vanuatu chief commercial officer Greg Wilson saying bookings for travel “are starting to look healthy”.
We have a very strong demand for New Zealand, the majority of which are seasonal workers wanting to come home, but we are seeing very good numbers starting to come in.Greg Wilson, Air Vanuatu chief commercial officer
Virgin Australia announced it would start direct services from Brisbane to Port Vila from March 2023, with up to five flights a week.
“Vanuatu stands ready to welcome Australians back to our shores from July 1 and the Virgin Australia scheduled flights from Brisbane to Port Vila provide even more choice for Australians answering the call of Vanuatu,” said Issachar Aru, who added that talks are also underway with Qantas and Air Cal.
3. Lack of skilled labour
Another challenge identified by both the tourism industry and the Vanuatu government towards the successful border reopening is the shortage of labour or skilled workforce in the tourism and hospitality sector. To address the shortage, a labour coalition has been formed between the Ministry of Tourism Trade Commerce and Ni Vanuatu Business and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.