Just three-and-a-half months ago, Cyclone Pam ravaged the tiny island of Vanuatu, one of the most popular destinations for Australia and New Zealand cruisers.
But in this short period, Vanuatu has rebuilt its facilities to get visitors back onto the island.
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Last month, a group of travel agents from Flight Centre and Escape Travel from across NSW and the ACT visited Vanuatu to see how the tiny island nation is rebuilding its tourism economy.
Jessica Scardoni from Flight Centre, Mawson, ACT, said her five-day visit proved how resilient the locals are.
“We spent five days in Vanuatu mainly doing hotel inspections, and while some resorts are still closed, most of them are up and running. Although Cyclone Pam ripped through the area and many of the trees are gone, it is still an incredibly beautiful place,” she said.
“They are doing extremely well and they were thrilled to see us there, which is encouraging for us to tell our clients. I would definitely encourage my cruise clients to visit.”
The group of travel agents were hosted by Vanuatu Tourism and took part in a number of activities, including ziplining and visiting local villages.
“The place where we did ziplining was in this incredible part of the island which was right at the peak of the hill, so we could see everything. We also visited a local village where we brought toys and books to the children – they were incredibly thrilled to host use,” said Ms Scardoni.
“So while the facilities are not fully rebuilt, I would say to anyone who has any hesitations about going to not be worried. It’s still a beautiful part of the world to visit.”
In the wake of the destruction, cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, P&O and Carnival headed to the area to deliver vital resources like food and water as well as humanitarian aid, just days after Cyclone Pam.
Royal Caribbean also donated funds to the humanitarian aid.
In May, Carnival Spirit returned to Mystery Island after the locals rebuilt the jetty to accommodate the ships’ guests. Passengers flocked to the beach and visited locals who had set up market stalls offering local tours including fish feeding and snorkelling as well as walking excursions.