Air Vanuatu's acquisition of a second ATR72 aircaft is expected to significantly boost its operations to Vanuatu’s outer islands from September, offering better connections with flights to and from Australia.
The addition of the 70-seat aircraft to the fleet comes as the airline reported a “firming up” of its performance this year after a lacklustre start.
“I’m confident that we’ll achieve a similar good result to that which we achieved last year,” general manager Australia & New Zealand Malcolm Pryor told Travel Today. He confirmed that 2013 had been a “very good year” which had delivered substantial growth for the carrier, exceeding expectations.
The new aircraft is expected to further bolster that performance, catering to rising tourism numbers to islands such as Espiritu Santo and Tanna.
While difficult to substantiate with actual numbers, Pryor reported growing interest in travel to the outer islands from wholesalers and was confident they could comfortably absorb additional capacity.
“We’re very interested in expanding the accessibility of the outer islands,” he said.
“However, we have to be realistic and say that the number of overall visitors who take advantage of that sort of thing and visit the outer islands is relatively small.
“But that’s the charm of it – it’s not mass tourism, nor in the near future will it be.”
The drive ties in well with Vanuatu Tourism Office’s own efforts to develop the outer islands which include the launch of the Ambrym information centre earlier this year to sell tour packages to the lesser known parts of the archipelago as interest in travel beyond capital Port Vila grows.
“We have seen an increase of 20% of visitors actually going out to the islands,” general manager Linda Kalpoi told Travel Today earlier this year.
“That’s more than 10% on previous years.”
The majority of that growth is to Tanna and Santo, but also to islands such as Malekula and Pentecost.
Meanwhile, Pryor urged agents to visit the new Vanuatu Tourism Office trade website, highlighting it as the ideal way for them to boost their destinational knowledge and find further information about Air Vanuatu’s $50 agent fares. The airline has recently reduced companion fares under the deal to $200.
“The good thing about it is we’re very flexible,” Pryor said of the offer.
“People can pretty much design their own holiday and take time when they have time instead of joining an organised famil.”