23 Mar 2015

Vanuatu looks to encourage tourism in wake of cyclone

3:11 pm on 23 March 2015

Air Vanuatu says its domestic flights have all returned to normal today.

An Air Vanuatu plane taking off

An Air Vanuatu plane taking off Photo: RNZI

The airline's international flights resumed on Tuesday last week, three days after Cyclone Pam struck the archipelago, devastating buildings and infrastructure.

A spokesperson for Air Vanuatu Tiffany Carroll says airports on the outer islands are now up and running.

"There has been some terminal damage but it's all repairable and in most cases it has been repaired ... on Tanna, Santo ... all of the outer islands. We've got 83 islands in Vanuatu. We don't have airports on all of them but we're operating to all of our airports now."

Ms Carroll says holiday-makers are being encouraged to go to the northern island of Santo which is open and ready for business but they're being asked to avoid Port Vila for the time-being.

She says tourism operators expect it to be business as usual in the capital by June the 1st.

Cruise ship visits on hold

The cruise operator Carnival Australia says it is waiting for a clear picture of damage to infrastructure before resuming its cruises to cyclone-struck Vanuatu.

About two thirds of Vanuatu's 350,000 visitors a year arrive by cruise ship which stop off at the capital Port Vila and several of the islands in the archipelago.

240414. Photo RNZ. Vanuatu, Port Vila, cafe, tourism

Cruise ship visits on hold for infrastructure repairs Photo: RNZ

A spokesperson for Carnival Australia David Jones says several island communities have built small businesses around the cruise ships.

"A lot of these ports are tender ports where we bring our passengers ashore by the boats on the ships themselves so the extent of damage may be limited from that point of view. The signs could well be optimistic that we'll be back before too long but we will not be back until the authorities in Vanuatu say everything is right to go."

Mr Jones says passengers on two Carnival cruise ships which will deliver aid to Port Vila this week will not be able to disembark.

He says the company's is sending four shiploads of aid to Vanuatu in the next few weeks consisting of water, corrugated iron, chainsaws and industrial strength mulchers to get rid of rotting vegetation.

PM assures businesses

The Prime Minister of Vanuatu has moved to assure the private sector of the cyclone-ravaged country that the government will look after it as well.

Joe Natuman told business owners they will get help to stay open and keep people employed.

He says the Vanuatu economy is small and vital at this time and requires government support.

Vanuatu Prime Minister Joe Natuman

Vanuatu Prime Minister Joe Natuman Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Mr Natuman says all duty and Value Added Tax on building materials will be waived for up to a month, and all vehicle registration fees and VAT payments currently payable will be deferred until June.

He has also directed the Minister of Finance to source a sum of money to be provided as a 'war chest' to the crucial tourism industry to minimise the impact of Cyclone Pam.