It is human nature when looking at ranked lists (no matter what they may be of) to see who is at the top and who is at the bottom! In the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) table of tourism destinations, France stands proudly at the top with almost 84 million arrivals in 2014. At the bottom lies Tuvalu, a tiny country made up of 9 coral atolls in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.
In 2014, just 1,416 tourists visited Tuvalu, of which only 424 were travelling on holiday. It is hard to comprehend why so few people visit somewhere that, to most Europeans and North Americans, looks pretty close to their vision of an island paradise. Azure blue lagoons with low lying white sandy beaches and palm trees is a pretty accurate description of Tuvalu.
However, they are not easy to reach. The only air link is by Fiji Airways, which flies twice a week using a 66 seat aircraft, or the less frequent three-day trip on a small ship, also from Fiji.
When you get there, accommodation is limited and of not a particularly high quality, the variety of food is also limited, and there isn’t much to do. Diving would be world class, but there are no certified dive operators. Yachting and fishing would also be appealing to many tourists, but facilities are currently lacking.
Despite the lack of visitors, the reason I’m currently here in Tuvalu is to conduct a tourist survey. The country urgently needs good solid data upon which to base the recommendations of their recently completed National Tourism Development Strategy, which was undertaken by the South Pacific Tourism Organisation.
This survey is clear evidence that no matter how small your tourism sector is, good data is essential to ensure future decisions are based on solid evidence rather than hearsay. Tuvalu deserves it!