Awareness of Government Programs for Tourism Operators

The Department of Tourism (DoT) begun their awareness workshops for the Tourism Business Support Program, the Safe Business Operations and the Produktif Turism Blong Yumi Initiative with the Provincial Tourism Managers at Breakas’ Resort from Monday the 24th of May until Friday the 28th of May. VBL Media also presented a step-by-step guide on how to use the new National Booking Platform.

DoT Director Mr Jerry Spooner stated “It is critical our Provincial managers are fully trained and aware of the Government support programs that have been developed for tourism operators to ensure they can assist all of our tourism operators in the Provinces to access these programs”.

The National Booking Platform is being created by VBL Media and fully funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to assist the Tourism Industry in recovery from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The DoT and the Department of Industry as part of a Six Member Advisory board plan to manage the National Booking Platform to support tourism operators and others to have further reach to tourists in Vanuatu’s source markets to prepare for the easing of border restrictions.

The National Booking Platform will create one main online e-commerce tourism hub that plans to initially showcase 500 businesses (tours and activities, accommodation, transport, and handicrafts) from among the 6 provinces.

The Directors of VBL Media, Tony Cretier and Lewis Fleming, feel strongly about Software Development as a means to really improve a business’s performance and the National Booking Platform will certainly prove that.

The Department of Tourism Provincial Managers commented on the ease of using the platform and how they believe the interconnectivity and access to statistical data will really assist them in better assisting the Provinces they serve.

The Produktif Turism Blong Yumi initiative which has a Slow Food Education and Support Program; Traditional Cuisine Revival Program; Agritourism Marketing and Research Support Program; and Agritourism Product Development and Business Support Program, aims to develop and promote Agritourism businesses and raise the profile of Traditional local cuisine and Traditional farming practises, while still supporting the initiative of supplying local food to resorts and restaurants through the Slow Food (farm to table) movement and the sale of local value added goods through the Vanuatu Made Program. As part of the Agritourism Product Development and Business Support Program the Vanuatu Government has supported the establishment of a Vanuatu Agritourism Association made up of tourism businesses throughout the 6 Provinces of Vanuatu that meet the definition of agritourism agreed on by the National Agritourism Committee. Product development support will now be carried out for all 30 Agritourism Association members to ensure all members are high quality and ‘Market Ready’ for when border restrictions ease. This work will be carried out in all Provinces alongside the TBSP and National Booking Platform.

The Tourism Business Support Program is part of the DoT’s Tourism Crisis Response and Recovery Program. Its two objectives are:

1. Technically support and financially assist tourism businesses in the short term to survive the impact of the COVID 19 crises and to have them ready to receive local tourists while they wait for the border restrictions to be uplifted and to also be ready to receive international tourists for when the borders do open.

2. To encourage tourism businesses to follow the principles of sustainable and responsible tourism, including product diversification, increased local benefits, safe business operations, energy efficiency, waste management and water conservation.”

Under the TBSP financial assistance will be available to eligible and approved tourism businesses under three categories:

• Tourism Business Survival Grants: for costs associated with cleaning, maintenance, gardening, security, safety and utility bills.

• Renewable Energy Subsidy Scheme: assistance for audit checks and appliance purchasing through the National Green Energy Fund.

• Agritourism Support Program: assistance for selected projects who have integrated the tourism and agriculture sectors into their products.

Application forms are available on the DoT website and can be filled out and submitted on-line.

The TBSP Management team will be available both at the DoT head office in Port Vila and through the DoT Provincial Offices to assist all business operators with questions about the application forms.

Further Awareness Workshops are planned for each of the provinces on the below dates: Port Vila – Mon 31st May – Thur 3rd Jun – Grand Hotel; Tanna — Mon 14th Jun – Fri 18 Jun; Malekula – Mon 21st Jun – Thur 24th Jun; Santo – Mon 28th Jun – Thur 1st Jul; Ambae – Mon 5th Jul – Thur 8th Jul; Gaua – Mon 12th Jul – Fri 16th Jul; Vanua Lava – Wed 14th Jul – TBSP Session, and Mota Lava – Thur 15th Jul – TBSP session.