1 Apr 2021

Surveys show pandemic's impact on Pacific businesses

2:58 pm on 1 April 2021

Surveys of Pacific businesses has shown the heavy impact of the pandemic.

Pacific Trade Invest Australia in its Pacific Business Monitor is endeavouring to understand the ongoing effects of Covid-19 on small and medium-sized enterprises across the Pacific.

More than 110 companies responded surveys tracking the impacts on revenue, the local economies, and mental health and wellbeing.

The main street in Savusavu town.

The main street in Savusavu town. Photo: 123rf

Access to government support, how businesses are adapting to the crisis, and the key areas of support needed to recover, were also explored.

Nearly 90 per cent reported declines in revenue - largely due to international border closures and a subsequent lack of tourism and cash flow.

Declines in revenue reported were highest in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, with 100 per cent of respondents at the end of 2020 reporting a decline, in contrast to New Caledonia, where 56 per cent of businesses reported a decline.

Continued uncertainty about how long the crisis will last and when borders will re-open makes it difficult for many businesses to generate short and long-term plans, particularly in countries that rely heavily on international tourism.

At the time of publishing the 2020 report, 62 per cent of businesses were experiencing negative impacts on their mental health, though this had peaked at 74 per cent earlier in the year.

The surveys also took a closer look at the data to understand the impacts of the pandemic on female-led businesses, finding that in 2020, female-led businesses were more likely to have experienced a 'very negative' impact.

As an example, 79 per cent of female-led businesses reported a significant decline in revenue since the pandemic began, compared to 54 per cent of their male-led counterparts.

Although approximately one third of respondents permanently or temporarily closed their businesses in July and August in response to these conditions, this number decreased towards the end of 2020. However, only 53 per cent of businesses reported being operational in Tonga at the end of 2020.

To remain operational, most respondents took action to minimise the damage to their businesses, such as reducing operational costs.

The surveys also showed business confidence has decreased - with just 69 per cent of respondents confident their business will survive Covid-19 and 55 per cent of businesses also indicating that they require access to financial support.

Pacific Trade and Invest Australia said it is still a long voyage for businesses in the Blue Pacific and it's vital that we continue to listen to the private sector and ensure our responses are tailored to the circumstances of individual nations and businesses.