Vanuatu eyes clean, green and inclusive tourism by 2030
Around the world, Vanuatu is known as one of the most culturally-rich and stunning places on earth.
Tourists holiday here each year to take in its unique culture and natural landscape, with the tourism industry contributing around 50% of the country’s economy.
But, bringing vacationers and the economic benefits they provide to the more remote areas of Vanuatu is a challenge. With basic services like steady electricity unavailable, it’s difficult to encourage tourists to travel off the beaten path.
According to the Vanuatu National Statistics Office, only 29% of visitors arriving by air in June 2016 visited the outer islands, with most tourists choosing to visit the hotspots of Tanna, Santo and Efate.
A significant issue is the lack of secure energy and other basic tourism services such as internet access and transport. Many of the remote islands’ tourism bungalows rely on petrol generation sets which only provide a few hours of electricity each day. Without a steady electricity supply, tourism operators can’t provide the comforts that international tourists demand, and are missing out on the opportunity to improve their livelihoods.
However, a new plan is underway to bring clean and secure energy to Vanuatu’s more remote, family-run tourist bungalows, providing long-awaited benefits to distant islands. The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an intergovernmental organisation based in Korea, is working in close collaboration with the Department of Energy and Department of Tourism to provide renewable energy to grassroots tourism operators.
This initiative aligns with the government’s updated National Energy Road Map (NERM), which seeks to improve affordability and access to energy for rural communities and tourism businesses. Under the roadmap, 25% of rural tourism bungalows will use renewable forms of electricity by 2020, and 65% by 2030.
To turn this goal into a reality, GGGI is exploring technologies like solar, biogas energy, and energy efficiency technologies that could support small-scale tourism operators. By using sustainable, clean energy they could create triple bottom line benefits – economic, social and environmental. The plan aims to improve tourism services and revenues, and provide local employment opportunities, while also developing the sector in an eco-friendly way.
“This inclusive green growth is a game changer for the people,” noted Mr. Antony Garae, Director of Energy in the Ministry of Climate Change.
“By having access to this sustainable energy, they can change their way of living.”
In addition to reducing greenhouse gases which cause climate change, the plan will help small operators minimise their reliance on imported fuel, creating more stable energy costs, making business planning into the future easier. These changes will lead to more inclusive and green economic growth.
But the initiative goes beyond just local energy needs.
To improve Vanuatu’s tourism opportunities, this clean, green approach needs good marketing.
Mr. Jerry Spooner, Principal Accreditation Officer at the Department of Tourism is working to get accreditation from Eco-Tourism Australia for the remote bungalows, to raise the islands’ profile and open up the market to the world.
“Working with GGGI has given confidence to Eco-Tourism Australia that these systems are being developed. With the support from GGGI experts, we can look at achieving more eco-certification by 2017,” says Mr Spooner.
By carrying out this study, GGGI is facilitating cooperation between government ministries, but also, internationally. “Working with GGGI has definitely been a catalyst in bringing more international partners on board. This has given us more support, and has helped grassroots operators improve their opportunity to become certified,” noted Mr. Spooner.
This collaborative approach supports the government’s priority to bring clean energy to remote small tourism operators in Vanuatu.
Thomas Nielsen, Policy and Strategy Advisor at GGGI, says that working between sectors can lead to greater impact.
“This is the whole point of green growth. We’re not just approaching it from an energy angle, we’re looking at it from a development and growth perspective.
“We know there is an issue attracting tourists to Vanuatu, so we start with this angle to then develop actual green growth across all areas.”
2030 may seem far off but providing clean electricity to 65% of all remote bungalows by then requires a clear pathway and dedicated, collaborative efforts.
The partnership between the government and GGGI is the first step in this pathway to building thriving local economies, and showing the world Vanuatu’s true, sustainable and remote beauty.