The Solomon Islands is gaining ground rapidly as a tourism destination and the latest figures released yesterday – showing an increase in arrivals of almost 13% – coincided fortuitously with a visit to Australia by top tourism figures from the Solomons.
About 40% of visitors to the Solomons are from Australia.
Solomon Islands Minister for Culture and Tourism, Bartholomew Parapolo, said in Sydney yesterday that transport and tourism operators in the Solomons were working alongside accommodation providers to establish uniform quality standards.
The government was looking at supporting new investment in the tourism sector and was creating a framework to make tourism more investment-friendly, Parapolo said. This could include public/private investment opportunities.
Parapolo is visiting Australia to meet with key investors and senior tourism industry figures in Sydney and Brisbane. The agenda includes opportunities for new infrastructure and hotel construction in the run-up to hosting the 2023 Pacific Games.
The Solomons is not a mass destination, which adds to its appeal. A total of 1897 international visitors arrived across the month compared to the 1750 recorded in May 2015 – an increase of 12.8%.
The May total brings the destination’s five-month total to 1896, representing a 12.7% increase over the 1681 recorded in 2015 and keeping the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau’s 2016 target of a 9% increase right on track.
Australian numbers continued to dominate, the 770 figure recorded for May representing a 12.4% increase over the 685 recorded in 2015 and claiming 40.5% of all visitation.
Once again, Asian numbers showed the strongest growth, the 305 figure recorded for the month indicating a 50.5 per cent increase over the 203 figure recorded in May 2015.
Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau chief executive, Josefa ‘Jo’ Tuamoto, attributed the strong increase in Asian visitation to the recent efforts by his team to attend major travel industry events in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
On the air services front, the recently introduced Air Niugini, Solomon Airlines and Air Vanuatu tripartite codeshare agreement, providing access to Air Niugini’s Singapore gateway and other Asian connections, is seen as potentially lifting tourist numbers from Asia, Tuamoto said.
The Solomons is currently served by direct flights from Brisbane, and the feeling is that a direct service to Sydney would greatly boost numbers.
Visitation from the USA also rose again, increasing 55.5% from 115 to 179.
New Zealand arrivals continue to build, Kiwi numbers increasing 15.8% from 107 to 124, continuing a positive growth trend for the year. New Zealand has a close historical relationship with the Solomons and is funding an upgrade of the country’s main airport in Honiara, as well as six domestic airstrips.
Honiara is also a seaport and the cruise potential is major. Last year four cruise ships visited and the government expects the number to double this year, Parapolo said. Carnival Australia expects to bring in eight ships. The Australian Government had helped by organising a hydrographic survey of the harbour.
Cruise tourism to the Solomons could grow fivefold to reach AUD 3.3 million in value by 2017, according to recently completed research commissioned by the Australian Government, World Bank Group member IFC and Carnival Australia, the region’s leading cruise operator.
As well as Parapolo and Tuamoto, the Solomons delegation included Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Andrew Nihopara; Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Director of Tourism, Barney Savoro; and Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau Board Chairman, Wilson Ne’e.
Written by Peter Needham