Looking at a bigger picture on the Solomon Islands tourism needs.
Delivering the keynote address at a recent tourism forum in Honiara, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said the marketing and promotion of the Solomon Islands, especially in its key source markets, will continue to be a priority challenge to address.
He stressed the need for the country’s tourism industry to embrace a low-cost, high-impact approach if it was to achieve its objectives in 2020, adding “The challenge is due to limited funding resource allocation amidst many pressing priorities on the government,” he said.
I guess preventative measures hitting travellers due to the onset of coronavirus will impact on tourist numbers this year and a further challenge to attaining objectives.
With dwindling returns from round log exports there is no question that the government needs to maximise the potential of the tourism industry and that entails marketing to broaden awareness of the potential of the Solomons as an attractive tourist destination. Along with that aspect, there will need to be a workforce as tourism develops, to invest more in holiday accommodation and expand the opportunities for visitor’s experiences.
Such ideas will cost money and the Prime Minister has said government funding is limited.
New Zealand in recent years set aside a significant amount of money from its aid budget to developing the second international airport at Munda in the Western Province and in improving various airstrips in the Solomons.
The New Zealand government has demonstrated its commitment to tourism related activities and the Prime Minister has acknowledged the valuable assistance to the sector from the New Zealand Government.
The Solomon Islands has probably the highest birth rate in the Pacific and also has very high unemployment.
With a sound marketing plan for tourism, coupled with infrastructure and labour force training, it is possible that the tourism sector could give a much needed boost to the economy and create jobs.
The visit to Honiara this week by the Australian and New Zealand Defence Advisors to discuss regional security is seen as important against the need for stability, good governance and social order in the Solomon Islands in the context of the expectations of the close neighbours.
Both Defence Advisors said they supported the Solomon Islands development in furtherance of security.
Taking the lead from New Zealand’s aid assistance with the development of the country’s second airport, it would seem to be prudent for further support from both Australia and New Zealand to help the Solomon Islands meet its needs in growing its tourism sector and related development needs.
As the Prime Minister reportedly said this week, “Security in the region is a collective responsibility.”
A rising population, high unemployment, dwindling income from what has been the mainstay of the Solomon’s economy, round log exports; a potential money earner such as tourism, but one lacking the infrastructure still and the finance to expand; the implications and the opportunities of such a scenario cannot have been lost on the two visiting security chiefs.