The cruising community banded together when Cyclone Pam struck, to help out Vanuatu, a treasured South Pacific cruise destination. Rebuilding a country devastated by such a huge natural disaster, however, is a long process - and so the New Zealand government's recent announcement of a $26 million aid package for the tourism sector in Vanuatu is welcome for the stricken Melanesian nation and all those who like to visit it.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully said of the package in a release on the 30th of June, "Tourism accounts for 20 percent of the Vanuatu economy and employs 26 percent of the labour force. Getting the tourism sector back up and running is vital to Vanuatu's long-term recovery from Cyclone Pam."
How will it work? Mr McCully elaborated: "The funding announced today is split into two distinct parts. A $10 million package which will help restore confidence in Vanuatu as a tourist destination and a $16 million programme of infrastructure redevelopment, focused on the waterfront and cruise ship precinct in Port Vila."
New Zealand's help is great news for passengers on cruises to Vanuatu, who - although they likely don't need to be enticed back to the beautiful island country - will benefit from the redeveloped infrastructure during their visits to Port Vila.
Cyclone Pam update: The situation from March to now
Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu on March the 13th, causing huge destruction to buildings, crops, natural features and infrastructure, and the deaths of sixteen people both directly and indirectly. The Vanuatuan people were cut off, in desperate need of food, shelter and supplies, and many were displaced from their homes.
Aid organizations and neighbouring nations were quick to respond. Australia, New Zealand and France led the relief efforts, but even with so much help it took a long time for aid to reach all of the outer islands of Vanuatu - some of the more remote communities were scavenging for food and resorting to drinking saltwater in the weeks following the tragedy.
Recovery is certainly underway in the country, with cruise ships having returned to to Port Vila in early April bringing not only passengers but a cargo of humanitarian aid for the people of Vanuatu. One of our cruise consultants recently visited Port Vila during a cruise and said that the effects of the disaster were obvious - but so was the spirit and resilience of the people who were picking up where they left off.
In the months since the cyclone, drinking water has become a big issue for Vanuatu as access to safe water was compromised for many communities. The Red Cross is working with local volunteers to spread good hygiene practices to prevent disease, and the government is tackling issues arising from increased urbanisation in conjunction with disaster - largely, fewer family ties and less access to land and food.
Have you visited Vanuatu in the months since Cyclone Pam? We'd love to hear your thoughts on the rebuilding efforts, and we look forward to the extra boost that New Zealand's aid package will provide the tourism industry which is so important to Vanuatu's economy. Keep an eye on our website to book your next cruise to Vanuatu.