Reopening an entire country to the world following closed borders

They say life is either a great adventure or nothing. We say, listen to your heart and Answer the Call of Vanuatu.

When we were asked to help reopen an entire country to the world, the incredible privilege was not lost on us at Engine. As an invitation from Vanuatu to welcome the world back, we saw this as a huge opportunity to help create positive change for a very special country.

With the Vanuatu borders reopening to international travellers on July 1, after being closed for over two years, we needed to develop a campaign to help Vanuatu stand out from the crowd, showcase its breathtaking natural beauty and the warmth of its people, and give the industry confidence and hope for the future of tourism—an industry that accounts for nearly 50% of the country’s economy.

Engine has worked with Vanuatu Tourism for the last 5 years. Prior to border closures, we launched a new brand positioning, Answer the Call of Vanuatu, and an associated campaign that raised visitation by >20% YOY in January and February 2020.
Watch the hero video

While Covid times made it impossible for the campaign to reach its full glory, we were still able to help Vanuatu stay present over the last two years with our ‘We’re keeping it beautiful’ campaign.

When we were invited to help Vanuatu open its borders, we knew we had to leverage so much of the brand positioning that so little of the world got to see. Vanuatu’s emotive and heartfelt brand story became the centrepiece of our communications.

It was more than preparing a few ads. It was a huge undertaking, that involved many talented people across client, creative agency, production, media agency and PR teams.

The Nabanga Pledge
Firstly, we needed to remove the biggest barrier for international travellers—fears around Covid safety.

We created the Nabanga Pledge, an initiative to help keep everyone Covid safe. A promise between international visitors, the Vanuatu tourism industry and Ni-Vanuatu chiefs and communities; the pledge is a reminder that Vanuatu is doing all it can to protect visitors from Covid while encouraging visitors to do their part in return.
We developed a suite of communications to support the pledge and promote Covid safety, including a logo, website content, an infographic, posters, counter cards, inflight brochure, social tiles, an industry toolkit and a pledge card for visitors to sign upon arrival to Vanuatu’s island shores.
Pledge card

Welkam Back to Vanuatu
Next we developed a central idea for our reopening campaign—Welkam back to Vanuatu was born.
Welkam is a simple word that expresses a thousand deeper meanings—happiness, friendship, joy, optimism, hope, kindness, goodwill, harmony and many more. It’s an invitation to share experiences and explore the culture of the islands. It instantly puts people at ease and reassures them because they already know a word of Bislama before they’ve even set foot on Vanuatu. And it reinforces visitors’ first impressions of Vanuatu as a nation of people who greet new people with open arms and open hearts.
What better way to invite travellers back than with a message of genuine welcome in a language everyone can understand—the language of the Ni-Vanuatu people themselves.


The reopening campaign
Once we’d developed our central idea, we dove into creating a multi-faceted campaign to share Vanuatu’s reopening far and wide and warmly welcome the world back to its breathtaking island shores and ancient culture.

The campaign includes bought media across digital, social, outdoor, radio, cinema and magazine, in key markets of Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia.

Whilst we were able to leverage existing visual and video assets we had created prior to border closures, it was also important to create a very personal, heartfelt and authentic real-time welcome back from the Ni Vanuatu people themselves. So, we remotely directed production partners in Vanuatu owing to closed borders at the time to help create the campaign assets.

Watch the hero video
Watch video suite
Brand 15
Blue Hole
Outdoor 2
The campaign also strongly leverages earned, owned and shared media, and we kept busy producing media walls, photo props, eDMs, social content, email banners, stakeholder tools and more.

And our MD and his family jumped on the first flight from Brisbane to Port Vila to experience Vanuatu’s reopening to the world, firsthand.

It’s time to voyage to the land of sunshine smiles and natural wonder, to the heart of ancient kastom, and let your worries drift away on the island breeze.

It’s time to Answer the Call of Vanuatu.

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