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Santo's Tourism Report for 2008
Espiritu Santo Tourism Association was formed 10 years ago to promote tourism on Vanuatu's largest island, Espiritu Santo. This is the Association's Chairman’s Report on the Santo's progress and happenings in 2008.
Certainly 2007/8 has been our most proactive year in direct marketing for Espiritu Santo. The Brisbane and Gold Coast events were well supported by both the membership and the Santo business community and certainly helped Air Vanuatu with their direct flights. The numbers arriving each week would seem to indicate the success of the exercise. In particular I’d like to thank Aore Resort and Anne Thode for the help and support in putting the trip together and our community, both business and private, including the VHRA and VTO, for the financial assistance. Special thanks to ANZ and Westpac banks for their generous donations. Many of our Ni-Vanuatu partners experienced Australia for the first time and I believe the tour operators came back with a better perspective of our guests expectations and a lot of gear!
The association also participated in the Air Vanuatu Melbourne launch and although not having a direct influence on Santo I believe that being there exposed many agents to the attractions of the northern islands. Tok Tok again proved successful and yet again special thanks to Lee Whitely for her attendance at the two shows. A huge thank you is also due to Air Vanuatu and Airports Vanuatu for FOC tickets and airport tax exemptions. With DEMA just around the corner I believe that we may have secured some funding from the European Union who will fund about 60% of the airfares and accommodation expenses. This, together with the money raised at the fund raiser will significantly reduce necessary subscriptions from those members who wish to participate.
The direct Brisbane and Sydney flights have certainly made a difference to both the numbers of visitors and bed nights for us and although the schedule is changing in December it does not appear to be to negative for us. The advent of the new ATR72 in mid 2009 will increase the airlines capacity to service both Espiritu Santo and Tanna with larger passenger numbers.
Since April 2008 the tourism levy has been in place and has proven beneficial for us with in excess of 300,000 vatu being used for direct Espiritu Santo marketing. Not all accommodation houses are participating but the number is slowly increasing. Some recommendations have been made to handle the small number that don’t or can’t see the benefit. It is anticipate that the levy, nationally, could raise half a million dollars in the course of one year and it can only be used for destinational marketing and controlled by the private sector – win win.
The VTO (Vanuatu Tourism Office) have employed an Australian Youth Ambassador to assist in the preparation of a national long range marketing plan. Sarah will also be creating the first ever long range marketing plan for Espiritu Santo which will help us all focus on where we want to go with our industry.
Congratulations and thanks to Brian Farrell for the ‘racing’ experience and everyone who contributed to both our fundraisers. It would appear that we could probably hold quarterly fundraisers without overstretching our welcome into peoples wallets. We do need more people to help organise and manage.
At last we are creating our own website www.espiritusantotourism.com . This will give us our own web identity and allow us to change the site quickly to accommodate specials or product changes. Shane, an Australian Youth Ambassador funded by AusAid, has been working hard and been in touch with everyone and she’ll soon start training people to manage the site.
House keeping and f & b training will commence later this month, another first and a step forward in improving our guest services and training for our Ni-Vanuatu staff. The Australian Technical Colleges are planning some higher level programmes for 2009 and Peter Snelson will be in town 20 – 23 October 2008 to discuss, on a one-to-one basis, training needs.
We have 9 ships arriving from October 2008 until November 2009. This is a great opportunity for the grassroots community to benefit directly from tourism. A new operator, Royal Caribbean, have helped with increase. I hope that ESTA will continue to provide an information service at the wharf. I’ve had meetings with all the Port and Police authorities and I hope the visits will run as smoothly as in the past.
Our membership grew to 38 members at the end of the year. The most members we’ve ever had and representing a wide variety of tourism activities and comprising 50% expat and 50% Ni-Vanuatu businesses.
It has been our busiest year with varied and diverse activities that have all helped to promote our destination and cement closer relationships with Air Vanuatu, national authorities and associations. Thanks to the committee and marketing group for their help and a special thanks to Mal Davies for his help and tremendous support throughout the year. With many new owners and managers in town I hope that we can recruit some ‘fresh blood’ to help and inject new ideas and concepts into ESTA. Thank you all for your support during the past year.
Dave Cross - Luganville, October 2008
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