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World Travel Guide > Guides > Oceania > Vanuatu

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Vanuatu: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Vanuatu

A casual approach to business prevails. Shirts and smart trousers will suffice - ties are only necessary for the most formal occasions. Business is conducted in English, French or Bislama.

Office Hours

Mon-Fri 0730-1130 and 1330-1630.

Economy

Agriculture and fishing occupy 40% of the working population. Fruit and vegetables are grown for domestic consumption while coffee, copra, beef and veal are the main export commodities. The sale of fishing licences to foreign fleets is another important source of revenue.

There is also a sizeable timber industry, originally encouraged by the government but now strictly regulated in the wake of international pressure. The industrial sector is mostly concerned with food processing and construction. Identified mineral resources, including manganese, gold and copper have yet to be exploited on a commercial scale.

While mineral deposits may be of future value to the Vanuatu economy, the government's recent efforts to diversify the economy have been focused on the service sector. The most important of these is tourism (backed by the construction of new hotels and airport improvements, allied to a focus on 'ecotourism') and 'offshore' financial services. Tourism is worth about US$55 million to the economy annually. Visitor numbers have increased significantly over the last 12 months. A 'flag of convenience' shipping register was also created.

Despite these efforts, the economy is still vulnerable to its geographical circumstances; a severe earthquake followed by a tsunami in late 1999 caused considerable damage to several islands. Meanwhile, offshore finance has run into trouble. In April 2002, Vanuatu was one of seven countries 'named and shamed' by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and threatened with sanctions for its failure to take adequate measures against money-laundering. Since then, the Vanuatu authorities have tightened their financial services regulatory regime.

Foreign aid remains essential to sustain the economy. In 2002, Vanuatu signed up to the newly-established regional trade bloc created under the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA). Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the UK and France are the principal donors.

GDP

US$721 million (2011).

Main exports

Cocoa, beef and veal, copra, timber, kava and coffee.

Main imports

Machinery and transport equipment, food, fuel, basic manufactured goods and chemicals.

Main trading partners

Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and the EU.

Keeping in Touch in Vanuatu

Telephone

There are no area codes. For outgoing international calls dial 00 and then the country code and number. There are public telephones at airports and post offices. SIM cards and pre-paid phone cards can be purchased in local currency from the post office and some retail outlets. For emergency services, dial: 22333 for fire services; 22222 for police; 22100 for an ambulance.

Mobile Phone

Roaming agreements exist with a few international mobile phone companies. Coverage is good. SIM cards can be purchased from TVL and the post office (and in-flight with Air Vanuatu) – the cost for a SIM usually comes with the same amount in pre-paid phone credit.

Internet

There are several internet cafés in Port Vila and Luganville. Internet facilities are also available at some post offices. Most resorts offer internet access.

Media

Vanuatu provides locals and visitors news and entertainment through television, radio and newspapers in French, English and Bislama.

Post

Post offices are located on the main streets in Port Vila and Luganville, on Espiritu Santo. Airmail to Europe takes about seven days. There are novelty post offices at Hideaway Island (underwater with waterproof postcards) and at Mt Yasur, the active volcano on Tanna island (literally 'hot mail).

Post Office hours

Post office hours: Mon-Fri 0730-1630.