Call of the Pacific

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An Arrowtowner is swapping a top job at a swanky local resort for non-paid work in a developing country. 

Karen Henry (right), tomorrow finishing after 12 years-plus at Millbrook including six as hotel manager, is taking on a two-year tourism development role with Volunteer Service Abroad in the small Pacific nation of Vanuatu, near Fiji. 

“We all feel like a change from time to time,” 50-something Henry says. 

“Something I’ve always been interested in is going to work in a developing country. 

“There were some vacancies available which suited my skill-set from hospitality and tourism so I applied.” 

Henry will be tourism business development adviser working with the Vanuatu National Tourism Development Office based in the second largest city, Luganville, on the island of Santo. 

Alongside a Vanuatuan national in the same role, her mission is to “increase the participation and income generation opportunities of the tourism industry”. 

“I’m working with tourism operators and Vanuatu people looking to develop a tourism business so they can get more visitors into Vanuatu to go to the outer islands. 

“Most people just go to the island where Port Vila is – only 17 per cent of tourists go anywhere else.” 

Diving and snorkelling are two popular attractions on Santo. 

Henry says VSA flies her over, houses her and provides a living allowance but otherwise she’s unpaid. 

“Someone called me altruistic. 

“They say you’ve got to be very careful you don’t hook up with too many expats because won’t be able to afford it. It’s a bit of a lifestyle change.” 

Her induction will include learning the native pidgin English language, Bislama. 

“It’s a very abbreviated version [of English], from what I gather.” 

Henry has given no thought to what she’ll do after Vanuatu but is likely to resume tourism/hospitality work back in the Wakatipu. 

At Millbrook she originally opened the health and fitness centre, then the spa, before becoming hotel manager.