Vanuatu welcomes first cruise since Cyclone Pam - Solomon Star News

Vanuatu welcomes first cruise since Cyclone Pam

09 April 2015

TV3 - Nearly four weeks ago an unwanted visitor - Cyclone Pam - arrived in Vanuatu, killing 11 people and devastating livelihoods.

Since then, the local people have worked tirelessly to rebuild their lives and their country.

Yesterday their efforts got a huge boost with the arrival of the Pacific Dawn, the first cruise ship to berth since the cyclone.

The people of Vanuatu showed their appreciation in their own unique way when the ship arrived, loaded with aid and 2000 mainly Australian tourists.

The market stallholders in Port Vila, many of whom lost everything, were somehow ready.

Stallholder Sarah Paton lost her crops and her home was badly damaged. Like so many, she hasn't earned a living for four weeks.

“I am very happy the cruise ship is here, good economy for our nation and even our grassroots people,” she says.

Paton couldn't afford to bargain or barter because prices are up. But tourists didn't mind, saying any support they can give to help get Vanuatu back to what it once was, or what it will be, is great.

There were signs of Cyclone Pam everywhere. Police tried to stop stallholders from stopping directly under rockslides, but stallholder May Laban was prepared to go to jail.

“My life is tourists. I have beautiful things here I sell... for my living. I said, 'If you want to arrest me, arrest me. I don't mind’,” says Laban.

It was feared there was going to be real trouble, possibly even riots, because local people are so desperate for the tourist dollar. Only five taxis and five tourist buses are allowed to wait at a time.

“In time of disaster people want money, it's [the] main income for us so they have to fight – that's why you see so many police here already,” says Paton.

The island's talking about a new motto, a Twitter hashtag - #VanuatuStillSmiles.

“Vanuatu has always been regarded as the happiest place on Earth," says Port Vila resident Bryan Death. 

“We decided that was one of the things people enjoyed most about Vanuatu was the people here and their smiles, it was pretty easy. So Vanuatu still smiles. Absolutely,” she said.