Deputy Prime Minister Bob Loughman, who is also minister responsible for tourism, gave an upbeat speech yesterday morning at a ceremony opening the Toktok 2018.

Toktok is an annual event, operated by the Vanuatu Tourism Office and sponsored by ANZ, Air Vanuatu, Warwick Le Lagon Resort, Digicel and Vanuatu Media Marketing (VMM).VMM is owned by Trading Post Ltd, which publishes the Daily Post.

The week-long activity is a marquee event on the tourism calendar. In its main event, it unites buyers and sellers of tourism products in lightning round discussions, opening the door to new opportunities, and allowing tourism businesses an unique opportunity to meet face to face with the people who advise or facilitate travel to Vanuatu.

Participants spend a couple of days visiting Santo and Tanna, to see firsthand what the outer islands have to offer, and then over the course of nearly two days, they meet with tourism service providers at the Warwick Le Lagon resort for brief introductory discussions. These chats last only minutes, and there are thousands already booked.

When all goes well, buyers walk away with a better understanding of the products on offer, and in some cases with handshake agreements already in place. The event is seen as essential by many small operators, and for provincial tourism authorities, the chance to pitch their niche markets to the big fish, as it were, is a priceless opportunity.

This year, organisers ran a tourism expo off the front of the event. All day yesterday, tourism service providers opened their stalls to the general public. This is part of an effort to promote domestic tourism as well. As Acting Director of Tourism Donald Pelam said in his speech yesterday morning, the idea of domestic tourism is foreign to many Ni Vanuatu. He went on to enumerate the many life-changing experiences available to all, and encouraged more Ni Vanuatu to take a look at the wonders of their own country before wandering abroad.

Deputy PM Loughman ended yesterday’s speech on a congratulatory note. He commended Vanuatu Media Marketing for ‘going digital’ with their What To Do digital platform.

VMM Director of Business Development Peter Stadly said, “Once again we are very proud to be associated with Tok Tok 2018 as tourism is very important for us with our ‘What to Do’ Brand.”

Trading Post Limited have been publishing What to Do as the official tourism newspaper for the VTO for over a decade.

Stadly added “This is an exciting time for us as we launch What to Do Digital an innovative new digital platform that combines both strategically positioned Touch screens with a Mobile App. We are very optimistic about this business model we have developed”.

The platform is unique in the Pacific islands, allowing tourists to access up to the minute suggestions concerning dining, shopping and tours & activities. It carries current flight information and comes with an interactive map of Efate as well. It will be deployed on 10 standup interactive touch screen displays at convenient locations around Port Vila, and will also be available on Android and iOS platforms.