15th June 2018
Following the recent publication of a government report outlining the important contributions of Vanuatu’s handcraft industry to local communities and the wider economy, a 4-year Action Plan of the Handicraft Business Development Program has been released.
This new plan has been supported by the Australian Government in their Vanuatu Skills Partnership Program and the New Zealand Government through the Vanuatu Strategic Tourism Action Plan (VSTAP).
Focused on developing the production and sales of ‘Made in Vanuatu’ souvenirs across the state, the plan wishes to significantly disrupt the substantial quantity of imported products into the country (currently 90% of goods sold to travellers have been imported).
One of the major barriers to expansion is the misinformation regarding quarantine procedures that is dissuading tourists from purchasing local. Many international tourists believe that buying goods made from raw materials will lead to confiscation upon reaching their home customs. The new Action Plan aims to initiate a re-education program, ensuring that vendors, operators and tourists are all on the same page regarding quarantine truths. For example, 90% of handmade goods produced in Vanuatu make it through Australian quarantine.
The new program will also work with local makers to encourage increased production and greater inclusivity of those making the goods.
“What producers need to understand is the need of product change in the evolving tourism market,” said Ian Baniuri, the Handicraft Officer at the Department of Industry.
“Part of the action plan is encouraging an inclusive handicraft business. Not only women are handicraft producers but people with disabilities too have skills.
“Traditional handicraft skills in Vanuatu varies within islands,” he said.
Today, most sales of handicraft are recorded in Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila, and in Luganville on Santo. Other islands, including Mystery Island, Tanna and Malekula, also sell directly from maker to tourist. By value, Tourism is the largest industry in Vanuatu and while it is undergoing substantial growth, it remains in great need of this kind of support and attention.