27 Feb 2017

Tanna seen as boon for struggling Vanuatu tourism

4:47 pm on 27 February 2017
Nominees for Best Foreign Language Film  Tanna arrive on the red carpet for the 89th Oscars.

Nominees for Best Foreign Language Film Tanna arrive on the red carpet for the 89th Oscars. Photo: AFP

The South Pacific Tourism Organisation is urging tourism operators in Vanuatu to take advantage of international publicity around the film Tanna.

The film shot on the southern Vanuatu island of the same name was up for a best foreign film award at the Academy Awards taking place today in Los Angeles.

While Tanna did not take the top prize, which went to The Salesman by Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, the nomination is being seen as very significant for Vanuatu.

The SPTO's CEO Chris Cocker said operators could leverage off the publicity by creating special packages even if Tanna did not pick up the Oscar.

"I think it's a big deal for us. As we all know pictures speak louder than words and film is a big asset for us in terms of promoting the region," said Mr Crocker.

Mr Crocker said movies like Blue Lagoon shot in Fiji, and Return to Paradise in Samoa have put the island countries on the map.

He said it was not only good promotion for Tanna, which is famous for its volcano, but also for its culture and the whole of the country.

A man and a woman in tradional Ni-Vanuatu clothing sit on a rock in a river

Tanna's cast was made up of members of the Yakel tribe Photo: Supplied

Mr Crocker said the success of Tanna was a stepping stone for Vanuatu in attracting more movie producers.

"Fiji has been quite successful in attracting Bollywood movies," he said.

Chris Cocker said the nomination came at a great time for Vanuatu's tourism industry which struggled following Cyclone Pam nearly two years ago and has seen a boycott of the airport by some airlines due to safety concerns.

Bauerfield is set to be overhauled with an injection of $US59 million in funds from the World Bank.

"The tourism industry needs something to provide inspiration and to bring back more tourists," he said.

"You need to leverage on this opportunity and develop packages. It's a combined, concerted effort among the tourism industry starting from transfers to the airline itself, to the accommodation operators."

A desert of volcanic ash at the base of the constantly erupting Mr Yasur, on the Vanuatu island of Tanna.

Bubbling Mt Yasur is a tourist attraction on Tanna. Now the film of the same name could mean more interest in the island. Photo: RNZI / Jamie Tahana

Tanna has attracted tourists to its volcano Mt Yasur but the film could also be a boost for cultural tourism according to the SPTO.

The SPTO is planning to increase awareness about Vanuatu off the back of the film through digital marketing and its website and is also ready to conduct familiarisation tours for agents.

Tanna's cast is made up entirely of the Yakel tribe who had never seen, let alone acted in, a feature film.

The love story centres around a young couple caught up in a tribal war and traditional customs.

Several of its stars are at the Academy Awards ceremony in traditional dress.

Mr Crocker said the people of Vanuatu would be on the alert if the film's success resulted in mass tourism.

"We haven't got to that stage but Vanuatu pushes and promotes cultural tourism. It's one of the places in the Pacific where you can actually go a village and see how people have lived in the past."