Attack on worker yet another setback for Vanuatu tourism industry in an already difficult year; El Niño causing water shortages, malnutrition

Drought caused by El Niño causing water shortages, malnutition in children

Drought caused by El Niño causing water shortages, malnutition in children. Photo: islandreach.org

The alleged kidnapping and violence against a female tourism industry worker by bus and taxi drivers has been deplored by tourism industry stakeholders. A round table chaired by Tourism DG Marokon Alilee heard that workers in the tourism industry were greatly stressed by the present bleak economic climate for the sector, but were agreed that maintaining peace and security at the wharf is an important part of returning tourism to its key place in the economy. The woman injured had made comments on Facebook critical of certain bus and taxi drivers when cruise ships are in town. Daily Post learned that arrests in relation to the violence against the woman worker were proceeding as the paper went to press last night.

Illustrating the downturn in tourism, here are some hard facts on resort room occupancies  and the flow-on effect of the airport debacle versus the same period just before Pam:

  • All resorts – down 49.1% from January figures, down 34.1% from February 2015
  • Major resorts – down 50.1% from January, down 51.8% from February 2015
  • Small resorts – down 47.2% from January, down 14.5% from February 2015
  • Luxury resorts – down 45.1% from January, down 3.2% from February 2015

This data from from the Vanuatu Hotels and Resorts Association includes properties that have not reopened since Cyclone Pam—  Iririki, Holiday Inn, Surfside, and Tamanu remain closed while they the cyclone damage is repaired. The VHRA is projecting a loss this year to the hotel sector from cancelled or refunded bookings of Vt133,759,691, about 31% of normal earnings.

PM Salwai has told a visiting Chinese Communist Party Minister that as PM he would like to see tourists from China coming to Vanuatu. A long-haul airport would be necessary, but land has been located that would suit the purpose.

Even though it has rained for several hours this morning in the capital, after a damp week last week, the El Niño is still causing serious water shortages around Vanuatu. Radio Vanuatu this morning reports the Tafea Provincial Government requesting provision of water from the national government for those affected by TC Winston. Food relief is also sought. The request was made to Internal Affairs Minister Alfred Maoh on a visit to Tafea HQ on Tanna.

The Digest recently reported the alarming statistics on children’s malnutrition, 30% suffering stunted growth due to chronic malnutrition. Radio New Zealand International has reported further from WHO and ministry nutritionist Louisa Tokon. Ms Tokon is expecting more cases of acute malnutrition in the coming months as Vanuatu recovers from cyclones Pam and Winston but yet remains in the grip of the El Niño. “Systems are being beefed up and health workers being being prepared to deal with the rise in cases,” said Tokon. “There are hotspots of malnutrition around the country, but in many cases it is due to a lack of knowledge about good diet.”