COVID-19 and tourism in Pacific SIDS: lessons from Fiji, Vanuatu and Samoa?

02 June 2021

Tourism was of critical economic importance in Pacific SIDS until COVID-19 border closures cut off international ties. The virus did not reach Vanuatu and Samoa, and few cases occurred in Fiji. The collapse of tourism, on land and from cruise ships, resulted in increased unemployment and the closure of hotels and tourism-oriented businesses with multiplier effects throughout the island economies. Many people returned to home islands, putting pressure on local land resources. Diverse local markets, exchange and bartering increased. Women were most affected in terms of lost jobs, more domestic burdens and a rise in domestic violence. This article argues that tourism is unlikely to restart in the immediate future, but may be initiated through small elite ventures. In response, regional metropolitan states – Australia and New Zealand – have increased aid to what is increasingly a strategically important region.