We’re on a mission to #SaveSurfTravel, and our humble contribution is to give voice to those most affected in our industry. World Surfaris ‘Covid Updates’ series serves to share some insight as to what our operators are going through during this time. Let’s spread the love and show our support, folks.
This Covid Update is brought to you by our mate Allois, owner-operator at Pohnpei Surf Club, and expert in the region.
What were your initial thoughts when Covid-19 hit? How did you respond to the madness being a business owner in the surf travel industry and what was your attitude like towards the pandemic?
We didn’t panic. The President was fast to move and took really early action closing down boarders. At first, only people from none infected areas could fly in. As soon as Guam and Hawaii got cases, no one could fly in, even if you are from the island. It’s been that way since late February. Things were very confusing at every level, from the airlines, to the government, to the various restrictions in place, which made it tricky to comprehend and respond to what was happening. I had plans for my usual summer vacation to see the family, but it didn’t happen. So, I’ve now been on the island for two years straight, which is okay with me. Luckily no one brought the virus here on those last few flights inbound. Pohnpei’s medical facilities were absolutely not prepared, and the result would have been devastating. Around March, some restrictions were put in by the government regarding social distancing, group events, washing hands and using masks, but most people went on with their lives as if nothing was happening. Again, luckily it never hit us properly here!
How has Pohnpei Surf Club been affected by Covid-19? Is Pohnpei Surf Club still up and running and have you welcomed many guests since Covid-19 hit?
We can’t say that we have closed down the business, but we are down 99% as far as business goes. There are a few tourist groups that arrive on Pohnpei here and there, mostly embassy workers from America, Australia and Japan. They come for the diving, cruising, and fishing though so no surfers as of yet. I think I said goodbye to my last guest around mid-March. At that stage, I thought I had money to survive for just 3 months, but somehow we are still going. The local government has offered their financial support to local tourism businesses, including unemployment packages for our staff. I still work a bit every day at the office or on maintenance, but as time goes by, more people leave, and with no one coming in there really isn’t much work for us to do. Every year we do a flash sale with some really good deals on offer. This was my last chance of getting any bookings and payments from anyone this year, and I wasn’t sure what kind of response we’d get. Instead of the usual flash sale, we offered guests to book credit nights with us that are valid until December 2023. We ended up getting almost the same amount of bookings as we did last year! I’m not sure if people just felt sorry for me and our situation, or if they booked because they are dying for a surf trip once this is all over. Probably both! The success of the flash sale meant we could hang on for a few more months, pay our staff and do some maintenance work, so thank you guys!
What are you looking forward to the most once Covid-19 blows over? What can guests expect from Pohnpei Surf Club when borders finally open?
I feel confident that surfers will always travel for good surf, even under the darkest of times. I’ve been getting so many emails and messages from surfers that can’t wait to come back or come here for the first time, and they often say that if Pohnpei was open, even at the peak of Covid, they would’ve still tried to make it. For now, I’m glad that Pohnpei is closed for the safety of all it’s people, Pohnpei is still a very fragile island compared to other major cities around the world. As of today, Pohnpei and all of Micronesia are still closed to any tourists. Entry restrictions keep being extended on a month to month basis. The world has changed and so has travel but this will blow over and people will come back. A bunch of them have even already paid for their next trip here and are just waiting for things to get safer and borders to open to jump on that first flight. I think it was around mid-March that I saw the last plane leaving with our last guests on board, and I am looking forward to seeing that first plane land and welcoming the first guests back.
With limited surfer numbers and epic fishing, Pohnpei Surf Club is the perfect option for the time-poor surfer looking for the ultimate surfing, fishing and diving adventure. Check em’ out!