Strong recognition of the potential birdwatching related tourism holds for the Solomon Islands, the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB) has taken firm steps to prepare the local tourism industry in readiness for a hoped for influx of international birdwatchers in 2016.
An SIVB team led by Australian birdwatching expert, Phil Gregory of Queensland-based Sicklebill Safaris and SIVB marketing officer Brenden Mautoa has been busy this past week training a number of hand-picked local guides representing tour operators from Honiara, Guadalcanal, Isabel and Makira.
The three-day training sessions revolved around teaching the guides how to properly identify various bird species and their sounds, how to use specialised birdwatching equipment and also how to look after the groups of birdwatching tourists they will be hosting into the future.
The birdwatching training also include three field trips on Mount Austin, in the Honiara Botanic Gardens and the Betikama Grasslands.
Describing the potential birdwatching represents as a major opportunity for the Solomon Islands’ tourism future, SIVB CEO, Josefa ‘Jo’ Tuamoto said the training sessions were a further build on the investment the SIVB has made in this key niche area over the last two years.
“Birdwatching is huge the world over and birdwatchers will travel anywhere to catch a glimpse of a rare or unusual species,” Mr Tuamoto said.
“With close on 300 species of birds in the Solomon Islands, 102 of which are endemic, we have recognised this niche area as representing a major drawcard for the international birdwatching community.
“The last two years have seen us speaking with birdwatching organisations and specialist tour operators in Australia and New Zealand and also further afield in the UK which Brenden visited last year to represent the Solomon Islands at the very high profile Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) annual Birdfair.
“These training sessions are critical if we are going to be able to compete with other destinations which already place great emphasis on this important source of international visitors to their shores.”
Mr Tuamoto also acknowledged the generous support Sicklebill’s Phil Gregory has provided the SIVB in the last two years, describing his input as “invaluable as the national tourist office moves to capture the potential this key niche tourism opportunity represents to the Solomon Islands tourism future.”
Pictured the newly formed and trained SIVB birdwatching tour guides (from left to right) Ministry of Tourism & Culture research officer Laurie Leketo; Isabel-based Maeholo Birdwatching’s Rodger Collin; Humbere HomeStay’s (Kolombangara) Venty Maena; Betikama Grassland Tour’s Helix Samson; Bubuli Homestay’s Jared Kidia, Mount Austin Birding Tour’s Samson; Hauta-Nara Conversation’s (Makira) Joseph Waihuru and SIVB marketing officer, Brenden Mautoa.