Vanuatu is a beautiful island in the South Pacific that attracts visitors from around the world with its crystal clear beaches and tropical climate. Through the development of elite holiday resorts and boutique shops, the island is experiencing tremendous economic growth. Port Vila, the island’s capital and most popular city, is home to many entertainment venues, including casinos and world-class restaurants. The real appeal of Vanuatu, however, is the exciting shopping opportunities. The duty-free shops at Port Vila offer a huge variety of items: European and East-Asian imports, clothing and local island arts and crafts.
Visitors to Vanuatu come to the island by cruise ship or international flights. Port Vila is on pace to receive more than 100 cruise ships per year in the near future, bringing thousands of more visitors to the local shops and restaurants. Flights from all across the world are also increasing on a yearly basis. Visitors who arrive by air and sea enjoy a multiculural blend of shops with English, French, Chinese and Melenisian influences. Shops carry fine wines, patisseries, jewelry, printed t-shirts, beachwear and any other item that the modern savvy tourist wants. Port Vila becomes easily navigatable by picking up a free city map from the information centre on main street.
Vanuatu also has many traditional arts and crafts from natives of the region available for purchase. These crafts from Port Vila, Santo and the outer islands, include ankle rattles, shell or bead necklaces, carvings, carved bowls, baskets, mats and headdresses. Scaled-down copies of handcrafts, often used for traditional ceremonies, are sold as valuable representations of the island’s culture. North Ambrym in particular is known for its artistic carvings of ancestral figures. Carvings are usually made out of wood, but other common materials include coral, tree fern, stone and even volcanic sand. Sculptors on Vanuatu also carve miniature animals, bows, canoes and tools used for cooking. Carvings of birds and fish are especially beautiful and attractive to tourists.
Visitors lucky enough to witness a traditional ceremony on the islands of Ambrym, Ambae, Maewo or Malakula can see the use of elaborate masks decorated with feathers, paint and pig tusks. The most famous masks are worn by the Rom dancers of Ambrym, which represent the faces of ancestral spirits and demons. Most of these masks can be found at the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, and copies are usually available for purchase at the various shops at Port Vila.
Main street is the primary destination for shopping at Port Vila. Visitors need a passport and onward ticket in order to make a purchase; the shop will then forward the purchased goods to the main wharf of the cruise ship or the airport terminal. This shopping process provides a more convenient shopping experience for visitors, allowing them to shop throughout the day without be encumbered by previously purchased goods.