Par­adise Found

Is­land-style bis­nis Story by Pa­tri­cia Gil. Pho­tog­ra­phy by Valery Lebeau, Ig­me­dia, cour­tesy of the TVET pro­gram.

Island Life - - Contents -

In re­cent years, the is­land of Espir­itu Santo has seen a surge of new lo­cally owned and man­aged tourism busi­nesses. Is­land-style bun­ga­lows, sand-be­tween-your­toes restau­rants, and ac­tiv­i­ties show­cas­ing as­pects of tra­di­tional cul­ture are adding yet more to the al­lure of Santo. TVET ini­tia­tives and train­ing pro­grams have much to do with this latest out- pour­ing of en­tre­pre­neur­ial ac­tion. Funded by the Aus­tralian and Van­u­atu Gov­ern­ments, the TVET (Tech­ni­cal and Vo­ca­tional Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing Sec­tor) Strength­en­ing Pro­gram has been pro­vid­ing small busi­ness own­ers with the skills to make their oper­a­tions grow. The pro­gram has en­cour­aged the ap­pear­ance of new eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties by pro­vid­ing in­di­vid­u­als with the

©Valery Lebeau

knowl­edge and skills nec­es­sary to start their own com­mer­cial ac­tiv­i­ties. Since 2009, the TVET pro­gram in Santo has been of­fer­ing ac­cred­ited cour­ses, work­shops and coach­ing on dif­fer­ent in­dus­tries, from agri­cul­ture to hos­pi­tal­ity. The tourism in­dus­try is an im­por­tant source of rev­enue for the is­lands and one of the goals of the pro­gram has been to pro­vide in­di­vid­u­als with the skills nec­es­sary to es­tab­lish and/or op­er­ate hos­pi­tal­ity busi­nesses. From how to fur­nish bun­ga­lows us­ing lo­cally-made fur­ni­ture and items, to com­mer­cial cook­ing, cus­tomer ser­vice and book-keep­ing, these cour­ses have given lo­cals the knowl­edge and con­fi­dence nec­es­sary to launch them­selves into the task of be­com­ing eco­nom­i­cally self-suf­fi­cient, us­ing the re­sources avail­able to them. As a re­sult, more and more lo­cally-owned busi­nesses are

©Valery Lebeau

©Valery Lebeau

sur­fac­ing in the is­lands. “The TVET cen­tre has seen a lot of in­ter­est from lo­cal peo­ple who, un­able to make it to the cap­i­tal to fur­ther their stud­ies, have been able to ac­cess ed­u­ca­tion and new skills here in Santo. There was a great need to grow the skills and ca­pac­ity of peo­ple who wanted to start their own small-scale busi­ness but did not know how to,” ex­plains El­lise Sailas, Sanma TVET cen­tre busi­ness de­vel­op­ment ser­vice co­or­di­na­tor and coach. El­lise is full of energy and his pas­sion for the pro­gram is con­ta­gious. “Through pro­gres­sive train­ing and pro­vid­ing work­shops and coach­ing that fits the level of skills and the needs of in­di­vid­u­als, we now see that this is trans­lat­ing into real and prac­ti­cal eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. This year, we are adding more ac­cred­ited mod­ules to our cur­ricu­lum to cater for the de­mand and the skill growth that our pro­gram has gen­er­ated,” he ex­plains. The TVET pro­gram’s flex­i­ble and holis­tic ap­proach pro­vides not only the train­ing that is needed but also works to­gether with other or­gan­i­sa­tions to as­cer­tain that small in­dus­try re­ceives the on­go­ing sup­port it needs to be able to flour­ish. I n the Malampa Province, af­ter run­ning ex­ten­sive work­shops and train­ing for lo­cals to de­velop their own tourism busi­ness, it was clear that a plat­form was needed to mar­ket these prod­ucts to po­ten­tial visi­tors. Lit­tle ac­cess to in­ter­net and phone meant that once a busi­ness was up and run­ning, lo­cal op­er­a­tors found them­selves with­out av­enues to mar­ket their ser­vices. Visi­tors were dis­cour­aged by dif­fi­cul­ties se­cur­ing in­for­ma­tion and ac­com­mo­da­tion ahead of their visit. To re-

©Valery Lebeau

solve this prob­lem, the TVET pro­gram, in con­junc­tion with the Depart­ment of Tourism, set up the Malampa Call Cen­tre in Malekula which now cov­ers the is­lands of Malekula, Am­brym and Paama and which has proved to be an in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful re­source for both visi­tors and tourism busi­nesses. Fol­low­ing this model, the Sanma In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre was cre­ated to im­prove ac­cess to mar­ket for tourism-re­lated prod­ucts in Santo and the north­ern is­lands. Al­monique Seule, man­ager of the Sanma In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre, comes with a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge and is ready to help visi­tors at the of­fice lo­cated on Lu­ganville’s main street. “The in­for­ma­tion cen­tre is a fan­tas­tic re­source for lo­cals to mar­ket their prod­ucts,” she ex­plains. “For the lo­cal busi­ness own­ers, we pro­vide the link be­tween their prod­uct and their mar-

©Valery Lebeau

opened Lon­noc Beach Lodge, lo­cated on the same bay and of­fer­ing sim­i­lar fa­cil­i­ties. These busi­nesses have been tes­ti­mony to how won­der­ful sus­tain­able tourism can be. A new comer to this area is Towoc Bun­ga­lows which is al­ready fa­mous for the warm hos­pi­tal­ity of its hosts, Janette and Peter Toto. Con­sist­ing of seven bun­ga­lows, in­clud­ing three beach­front bun­ga­lows, a fam­ily bun­ga­low and a res­tau­rant, the bun­ga­lows pro­vide free ac­cess to Cham­pagne Beach lo­cated a few hun­dred me­ters away. Towoc bun­ga­lows is man­aged by Janette, who is also the chef and one of the peo­ple who have ben­e­fit­ted from the train­ing and coach­ing pro­vided by TVET pro­grams. A Along the strik­ingly beau­ti­ful east coast of few kilo­me­tres north along Santo, Lon­noc Beach Bun­ga­lows, lo­cated the road, the fish­ing vil­lage of in Lon­noc Bay, used to be one of the Port Olry emerges as a Tatin only lo­cally run and owned bun­ga­lows in paint­ing amidst a per­fect the area. Sit­ting on a su­perb white sand trop­i­cal land­scape. To say that the lo­cashore, next door to world-renowned tion is stun­ning is an un­der­state­ment. Cham­pagne Beach, the lo­ca­tion is idyl­lic. The vil­lage regularly re­ceives huge of­fers The seven bun­ga­lows are is­land-style, from over­seas in­vestors want­ing to buy with thatched roofs, ba­sic but with their some of their beach or one of the nearby own showers and toi­lets and su­per-cute. is­lands, to trans­form it into a first class Next to Lon­noc Bun­ga­lows is the newly re­sort which no doubt, would be an ex-

Sus­tain­able Tourism ‘Is­land Style’

pen­sive par­adise af­ford­able to only some. Port Olry lo­cals have been adamant that they will not sell their land. In­stead, they will de­velop it them­selves, in their own, is­land-style, low-scale, low-im­pact way. Op­er­ated by Tar­ci­sius Alguet, the ‘Lit­tle Par­adise of Port Olry’ is one of the busi­nesses that have been pi­o­neer­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion in Port Olry in the last decade. With four bun­ga­lows lo­cated right on the beach, this has been a favourite of those who knew the se­cret that was Port Olry. Re­cently, another four bun­ga­lows and two restau­rants have opened in the vil­lage, all with the help and train­ing fa­cil­i­tated by the TVET pro­gram. Chez Louis Res­tau­rant and Port Olry Beach bun­ga­lows are lo­cated right on the beach, at the en­trance of the vil­lage. With a lovely natan­gora roof, the res­tau­rant is ‘is­land­style’ but not lack­ing el­e­gance and so­phis­ti­ca­tion. Gor­geous hard wood slab ta­bles, a bam­boo bar and a great menu fea­tur­ing lo­cal seafood and veg­eta­bles, has turned this res­tau­rant into a true gem and a story of suc­cess. It is owned by Louis Tiome and his fam­ily. His wife Mikaela is the chef in the kitchen -her skills came from at­tend­ing one of TVET’S work­shops-

while their daugh­ter Manuela runs the bar and does the ac­count­ing. “We have peo­ple com­ing all the time ask­ing to buy part of the beach and the is­lands. The vil­lage wants to ben­e­fit from the in­come given by the tourism in­dus­try but we don’t want to lose our land. The chief and the peo­ple of the vil­lage de­cided that we will not sell our land be­cause the land is the fu­ture of our chil­dren. In­stead, we agree that half of the beach will be used for tourism fa­cil­i­ties and the other half, where the vil­lage is lo­cated, will be re­served for the vil­lage,” ex­plains Manuela. “We are open­ing our own busi­ness here for visi­tors.” As the land which has been ded­i­cated to tourism busi­ness is owned by only a few peo­ple, the draw­back could be that only a few peo­ple in the vil­lage ben­e­fit from the tourism rev­enue. “I think that the vil­lage is happy,” Manuela ex­plains. “The fish for the res­tau­rant comes from Port Olry fish­er­men and the veg­eta­bles from the gar­dens of the vil­lage. The whole vil­lage ben­e­fits and shares in the prof­its.” The three bun­ga­lows and tree house lo­cated around the res­tau­rant are owned by dif­fer­ent mem­bers of the ex­tended fam­ily. The bun­ga­lows are tak­ing is­land­style ac­com­mo­da­tion a notch higher, with their el­e­gant de­sign and fa­cil­i­ties of­fered. Re­source­ful­ness and cre­ativ­ity go hand in hand and John Leo de­cided to do some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent when he opened his Tree House. Small, peace­ful and cute, it is per­fect for cou­ples and ex­udes ro­man­ti­cism as well as be­ing com­pletely in har­mony with the sur­round­ing land­scape. “It is very ex­cit­ing to see these busi­nesses op­er­at­ing and do­ing well,” ex­plains El­lise. “From the best place in which to erect the new bun­ga­lows to book-keep­ing and de­sign, TVET pro­vided ad­vice, train­ing and coach­ing to the fam­i­lies. It is very re­ward­ing to see the pro­gram work­ing.” A few hun­dred me­ters down the beach from Chez Louis res­tau­rant, is Port Olry Har­bour Beach Res­tau­rant owned by Chrisan­the Franck, which opened in 2013, serv­ing fresh fish right on the beach. With an equally stun­ning de­sign and lo­ca­tion and a very sim­i­lar menu, com­pe­ti­tion could be­come another emerg­ing is­sue. “Our train­ing in TVET fol­lows onto pro­vid­ing ad­vice to vil­lages such as Port Olry which are tread­ing on new ground. Right now, we are work­ing with the com­mu­nity to­wards build­ing more bun­ga­lows and of­fer­ing a dif­fer­ent menu in the ex­ist­ing restau­rants so in­stead of com­pet­ing busi­ness, what we have is busi­nesses sup­port­ing each other. The point is to of­fer pro­gres­sive train­ing and to in­cor­po­rate new train­ing mod­ules as the skills grow and new needs arise. For ex­am­ple, we will be de­liv­er­ing a waste man­age­ment pro­gram in Port Olry to deal with the newly cre­ated waste,” ex­plains El­lise. For places like Port Olry, now in the in­fancy of es­tab­lish­ing them­selves as a tourist des­ti­na­tion, the hur­dle would be to keep the har­mony within the vil­lage while em­brac­ing an eco­nomic model that widely dif­fers from the tra­di­tional one. Com­pe­ti­tion be­tween emerg­ing busi­nesses, achiev­ing eq­ui­table prices be­tween buy­ers and sup­pli­ers of pro­duce, set­ting fair prices for visi­tors and en­sur­ing the whole vil­lage ben­e­fits, will no doubt be­come is­sues that will need to be tack­led and re­solved as the vil­lage moves for­ward in its eco­nomic ad­ven­ture. With the help of pro­grams such as TVET’S how­ever, the vil­lage will not be alone on its jour­ney. To book online and for more in­for­ma­tion visit the Sanma In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre web­site You can also visit Port Olry Bun­ga­lows www.che­zlouis-por­ web­site and Wrecks to Rain­for­est www.wreck­storain­for­

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