There is much to look forward to this year with the expected arrival in the Solomon Islands of greater numbers of cruise liners bringing in many tourists.
Princess Cruise Lines, operating their two cruise liners, Sun Princess and Dawn Princess has scheduled six visits to the Solomon Islands in 2015 and, in April, the Silversea Cruise Liner is expected to dock.
Also in April, the Spirit of Enderby is anticipated will visit Honiara about the 6 April.
In September there will also be another cruise vessel call in at Gizo in the Western Province.
Later in the year, Ponants luxury cruise liner Le Soleal will call in after cruising from Australia. The liner will also make a port of call in Papua New Guinea.
The tourism sector has the potential become the prime source of the countrys foreign exchange within the next 10 years.
The AUD 4 million passenger terminal being constructed on the Honiara waterfront is expected to become fully operational by mid-year in time for the first of two scheduled visits by 15,000 passengers aboard the P&O cruise liner Pacific Eden.
This development project will, of course, better facilitate docking procedures and the transfer and handling of passenger requirements.
Quoting extracts from the popular magazine, Travel Bulletin, published this month, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB), Josefa Tuammoto had further encouraging words to relay. Here are some of his comments.
Each year visitors from Australia number approximately 11,000 and they currently take the podium as the countrys largest source of visitor arrivals, followed by Papua New Guinea, the United States and New Zealand.
Mr. Tuammoto said the Solomon Islands remains pristine in almost every impact and the visitors bureau plans to keep it that way.
He added, One of our key objectives is to broaden the Solomon Islands appeal to attract a more diverse range of visitors.
While the destination is renowned as a magnet for scuba divers, surfers, back packers and World War II veterans, the plans are to involve positioning the Solomon Islands as a multi-faceted destination that appeals to a wide range of travellers, including families, those looking to have a wedding, or a honeymoon, culture, seekers, those wanting to go trekking, kayaking, sailing or fishing, and seniors, he mentioned.
In concluding his commentary, Mr. Tuammoto, added, Solomon Islands doest do big numbers, instead focusing on its strengths as a cultural destination that appeals to a diverse clientele and the SIVBs targeting a total of just 32,000 visitors per annum.
Actually, from information to hand, the international visitor arrival intake has shown a gradual increase in recent years, with 24,431 tourists in 2013, although this was reported to have dipped slightly last year. Realistically, this could possibly have been attributed to the Honiara floods and likely, also, due to the lead up to the general election.
Taking the last five years overall, it can be reported that growth in the tourist sector has been close to 40 per cent.
In February last year the national tourist office and the national carrier, Solomon Airlines, formalized a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at boosting the destinations overseas profile and increasing international visitor numbers.
Under the agreement the provisions require both parties to jointly explore and implement activities to promote increased tourist traffic to the Solomon Islands in its existing mature source markets and also other markets seen as offering strong potential to the destination.
It is understood from SIVB sources, that the partnership includes the airline providing assistance with airfares allowing the SIVB to participate in overseas travel shows and other promotional opportunities as well as supporting activities taking place within the Solomon Islands.
All the foregoing is exciting news, heralding increasing numbers of cruise liners, passenger numbers and a much needed boost to the Solomon Islands economy. It could, and should, see jobs in the tourism and hospitality sectors and the time is right, I believe, to encourage this. Isabel Province seems to have already had a head start with hospitality training and the SIVB has also been promoting the need to welcome our visitors with a friendly smile in keeping with the ï¿½Happy Isles.
Perhaps, it is now timely for attention by the newly created Hotel Association, as operates in other regional countries such as in Vanuatu, Samoa and Fiji, to give added focus to issues. that still needs addressing in areas of accommodation and overall standards.
While geographically the Solomon Islands is but a small destination on the world tourism map, it is unique, pristine, safe, relaxing and a most lovely part of the world that is easily accessible and a never to be forgotten travel experience in a much troubled world.
Do, please, come and visit us. We are looking forward to welcoming you all