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Page: Travel Bug 48 - February 2009 Vanuatu travel news

Travel Bug 48

Issue 48 - February 2009

Vanuatu Air Travel Growth at 30%!

With not so much good news in international travel these days, Vanuatu has shown incredibly solid growth in air travel demand. There was a massive 28.9% growth for January 2009, over January 2008. This is on top of a very solid 2008 year-on-year growth figure of 15.4%, and 17.5% the year before. Chief Executive of Airports Vanuatu Limited, Hendry Joewangeh, while very pleased with the results, says it’s difficult to identify the exact cause of this massive counter-cyclical growth.

He says that there are most likely a number of reasons. “These include a large increase in capacity from both Air Vanuatu and Pacific Blue, at a time when travelers in Australia and New Zealand are tightening their belts and cutting back on more expensive long haul travel, in favour of great short haul holiday destinations. Being 2-3 hours from our major markets helps in this regard”.

He also pointed out that the competitive environment has led to some great air fares out in the market place. Other commentators have suggested that Vanuatu’s strong economic growth in a stable political environment has also played a role, through attracting investment not only in tourism product but in other areas of the economy, all contributing to increased air traffic. Political problems, natural disasters and security risks in other competing destinations may also be contributing factors, although Vanuatu's tourism industry members like to play that down. According to Tony Burns, Chairman of the Vanuatu Hotels and Resorts Association, “it’s really more that Vanuatu’s time has come as a tourist destination with travelers attracted by the diversity of the destination, including its pristine environment, unique fusion of Melanesian, French and British Culture and perhaps the relaxed, low key, visitor-friendly feeling about this little haven (population of 200,000 over 83 islands) in the SW Pacific.

Airports Vanuatu also confirms that plans are well in place for direct international services between New Caledonia and the second most visited island in Vanuatu after Efate, Tanna – home to the famous Mt Yasur Volcano - and that detailed work is going on in developing a direct air route to Asia. (Source: VTO Island Nius – February 2009)

Ambrym Volcano on Alert

Following recent observation during a field work of the Geohazards mitigation team over Ambrym volcanoes (24th – 31st January), Marum volcano has erupted with thick ash fall and an ash plume height of more than 2 km (estimation). The wind threw the volcanic cloud in the west direction. Geology and Mines could confirm, by OMI SO2 satellite picture, the record of a very active phase one day before the eruption. The alert level of the Marum and Benbow volcano is now at level 2 of the Vanuatu Volcano Alert Level (VVAL). Be advised that any observation should be done in the distance, away from the craters. Following the Alert level 2 recommendations, all visitors of the volcano need to be advised about the current and potential hazards, and operators should contact the Geo-Hazard section of the Department of Geology, Mines and Water Resources, on telephone 22907 email gesline@vanuatu.gov.vu , and mharrison@vanuatu.gov.vu for more information. For more details about Vanuatu volcanoes, see Vanuatu Islands page. (Source: VTO Island Nius – 4. February 2009)

"Zorbing" down the Devil's Point Slope

Wet n’ Wild’s new product “Zorbing” was launched in late January and is recommended for all ages above 6 years. Guests enjoy a scenic drive from their hotel right up to Devil’s Point Slopes, then they will get ready to experience a fun and unique ride of their lifetime. Imagine rolling down the picturesque Mele hills inside a 2.5 meters giant inflatable Hydro ball, with water added into the balloon to slip and slide in the best waterslide ever!

Zorbing does exactly that adding to variety in our colorful array of tours Vanuatu already has to offer. Zorbing caters for both the adventurous and daring which is the “Ultimate Run”, and for those first timers, young children, or the “not sure,” an easy “Chicken Run” is the best pick. Tour days are Tuesdays and Fridays with minimum 8 people permitting. Alternative days can be arranged for larger groups. Tour departs every morning at 9.30 am. Pre booking is required. Bus picks guests up from hotel front lobby or reception and returns after 3 1 hours of fun fun fun! There are cold drinks available, and please bring along swimmers, towels, sunscreen and insect repellant. (Source: VTO Island Nius – January 2009)

Jupiters Vanuatu Casino Opens on 6th February

images/Port-Vila-street.jpg
Port Vila getting new
Jupiters Vanuatu Casino

South Pacific gaming is to reach a new level with the opening of Jupiters Vanuatu casino at the Sebel on Friday February 6th. The glamour of Monte Carlo has been mixed with the excitement of Las Vegas and Macau to create two gaming floors of vibrant opulence. Classic chandeliers will highlight the gold leafed ceiling of the Main Gaming Floor on the lobby level of the Sebel Hotel. Patrons will be seated at the Baccarat, Blackjack and Roulette tables on furniture unsurpassed in any casino in the world. Slots on the two levels of casino gaming, will dazzle local players with state of the art graphics blazing from new machines, many of which have games that have never been played before in any gaming venue in Vanuatu. The casino will also comprise multiple jackpots to satisfy the most discerning player.

Thomas Bricknell, Jupiters Vanuatu Casino Manager, is delighted to introduce the Jupiters brand to the people of Port Vila at such an exciting venue. The teams of training managers from Australia have been very impressed with the amazing retention of their local trainees. Jupiters now have seventy three Port Vila based employees who are eager to show their skills to their friends, families and tourists alike. Thomas is confident that Jupiters Vanuatu will quickly be recognized as the premier entertainment venue in the South Pacific. Jupiters Vanuatu is here to cater for the local patron who wants a relaxing evening of fun gaming as well as the more serious player. The gaming tables will cater for the 100 vatu player right up to the Baccarat punter who likes to invest in more substantial wagers. Jupiters will certainly add to the value of the Vanuatu tourist industry and create yet another reason for tourists to visit this beautiful country. Opening hours will be 11am until 3am. (Source: VTO Island Nius – January 2009)

More Air Vanuatu Flights to Santo and Tanna Islands

Air Vanuatu’s new aircraft, an ATR-72 will make more international passengers for Pekoa a reality, Chief Executive Officer Hollingsworth Ala Ngwele has said. The new aircraft, due to arrive mid-2009 will enable more flights from Tanna and Santo to Vila and excitedly, international connections to Nadi (Fiji) and Noumea from Santo and Tanna, via Vila. “We recognise Santo and Tanna are growing markets and are grateful for the marketing assistance of the local tourism associations,” Mr. Ngwele said. “Air Vanuatu selected the ATR-72 with Santo and Tanna in mind – and not just for the domestic market.

The schedule for the new aircraft will be built around international connections from the USA (via Fiji). “There is a strong push for connections from Fiji to Santo, particularly for the diving market,” Mr. Ngwele said. “We aim to have the ATR-72 connect with flights from the USA through to Vila and Santo, but are also looking at connections with Noumea and Honiara.” Mr. Ngwele said Air Vanuatu had already begun discussions with Customs and Immigration to prepare for the connecting flights.

Santo tour operators have welcomed the news. “We’re very excited by the planned new flights and new markets for Santo,” Wrecks to Rainforests tour agent Mayumi Green said. “The additional traffic this will bring is very exciting for Santo and we are grateful for Air Vanuatu’s confidence in our unique destination.” Mr. Ngwele said the domestic market had grown significantly and acknowledged at times it has been difficult to keep up with demand. “Upgrading from the ATR-42 to the 72 will enable an additional 320 passengers a week to fly from Vila to Santo and at least 180 to Tanna. Not to mention the additional freight capacity, which will be welcome news for the business community in Santo.”

Chairman of the Espiritu Santo Tourism Association Dave Cross said the extra seating would make a huge difference to Santo. “The additional capacity is great news for Santo – and not just for international tourists. The new aircraft will enable more domestic travel as well, which is great for locals needing to get to Vila.” Mr. Cross said ESTA members welcomed any additional international flights and said a flight from Fiji was a fantastic initiative. “Irrespective of worldwide economic situations, divers will dive. To have a flight that opens up connections with the USA is huge for Santo.”

Mr. Ngwele said the ATR-42 would be flown to Bangkok at the end of January for it’s yearly major service. “We experienced delays with the yearly maintenance last year, but are hoping to avoid a recurrence by sending the aircraft to Thailand. We expect the ATR to be gone for six to eight weeks.” Mr. Ngwele acknowledged there would be some disruption to regular domestic schedules during this time but said with the addition of the Y12s to Air Vanuatu’s fleet, passenger and freight inconvenience would be minimised. (Source: VTO Island Nius – January 2009)

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