Kiribati reopens border
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Tarawa-- Kiribati has reopened its border, expecting to revive its tourism industry which has been dormant since it blocked international arrivals in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Kiribati’s international border closure of two years and four months has had a devastating impact on tourism operators across the destination but there is optimism for a sustainable return to normalcy as we begin welcoming visitors from August 2022," Reeti Onorio, deputy CEO of Tourism Authority of Kiribati, said.
Kiribati began welcoming international travelers on Monday.
Kiribati was among the last countries hit by the coronavirus. It has recorded a total of 3,430 positive cases with 13 deaths.
According to Asian Development Bank, Kiribati's economy returned to modest growth in 2021 as the government invested about 32 percent of GDP on social protection to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
ADB said the public expenditures helped lift household income and fuel domestic consumption. "Economic activity was also bolstered by the resumption of some infrastructure projects," ADB said. "Further growth is expected, with GDP forecast to grow by 1.8 percent in 2022 and 2.3 percent in 2023, although the downside risk of potential Covid-19 outbreaks remains."
Tiinai Kaboua, the owner of Terau Beach Bungalows Abaiang, is among the tourism operators who looked forward the border reopening. “I cannot wait to meet our guests and share our culture with them. I’m just excited that business will be back to normal," she said.
Teretia Teitiaki, supervisor at Mary’s Motel, said the lodge is now fully booked.
“The past few years have been a struggle as we could not operate as per normal, but we are happy and excited that Kiribati borders are finally open, as we are now able to have our staff work full time," she said.
The tourism office said flights to Kiribati will begin with weekly Fiji Airways service from Nadi to Tarawa while regional carrier Solomon Airlines will operate fortnightly service from Brisbane (via Honiara) in August and September which will be amended to a weekly service beginning Oct. 1.
Nadi and Honiara will serve as connecting hubs from key source markets of Australia, New Zealand, North America and Asia Direct weekly flights from Honolulu and Nadi to Kiribati’s second international port, Kiritimati is expected to begin later in the year.
"To ease travel to Kiribati, the government has removed its pre-departure Covid-19 test and quarantine requirement upon arrival," the tourism agency said. "However, travelers must be fully vaccinated and will be required to undertake a Covid-19 clinic test within three days of arrival. "
The domestic carrier Air Kiribati also announced an addition to its fleet with a celebration at the airline’s Bonriki International Airport hangar on July 30.
The 19-seater Viking Twin Otter Series 400 is the latest version of the aircraft type and features a full glass cockpit.
"The timing could not have been better as Kiribati opens its international borders," Onorio said. “Air Kiribati plays a vital role in the development and sustainability of tourism in Kiribati and that TAK looks forward to cooperating with the airline to boost the sector’s growth across the destination”.