With the blowing of a conch shell and the playing of a tribal drum, Tok Tok 2017 got underway beneath unusually overcast skies in Vanuatu this morning.
Staged at the welcoming Iririki Island Resort & Spa in Port Vila, the two day event will see 51 buyers from eight countries meet and greet local suppliers. Representatives of 20 travel companies from Australia are attending Tok Tok, which is now in its 15th year.
Welcoming delegates and dignitaries, Ms Adela Issachar Aru, the General Manager of Vanuatu Tourism Office, said tourism continues to play a vital role in the country’s economy.
“This year has been a big year of development for Vanuatu as we continue to grow as a destination,” she said.
“This event offers the perfect opportunity to learn more about the adventure, the undiscovered and untouched side of Vanuatu, local bungalows, hiking, culture and village experiences. All this will be on show at this year’s Tok Tok.”
Several large infrastructure programs form part of these developments, including a new seafront precinct, parklands and walkway, which stretch for more than a kilometre along Port Vila Harbour. Renovations to the terminal at Bauerfield Airport are due for completion at the end of the year, while a new cruise ship wharf opened in Espiritu Santo this month.
“The seafront precinct is not only a wonderful place for visitors and locals but also secures the Port Vila waterfront for the future of Port Vila and Vanuatu,” Ms Aru added.
Along with infrastructure projects, several new resorts have opened or are about to open across Vanuatu, including the five-star Black Pearl on Santo, a new boutique hotel on Moso Island and the Ramada Resort Port Vila, which opened in May.
“We are excited that all these accomplishments are bringing a refreshed and renewed focus on working closely with you all to generate more tourism business back into Vanuatu,” added Ms Aru.
The theme of this year’s Tok Tok is ‘Waking up in Vanuatu’ and Deputy Prime Minister Joe Natuman highlighted the effect a successful tourism industry has on his country.
“Tourism is an important business for us because it supports not only our tourism operators and their families and villages, but it also supports our farmers, fishermen, handicraft suppliers and provides many opportunities for us to open small businesses and provide employment.
“It is through these tourism dollars that we see families grow and prosper. But not only do they make money from tourism, but it also encourages them to revive traditional cultures.”