Solomon Islands Make Efforts to Revive Tourism

Two conferences aimed at reviving the country’s tourism industry run concurrently in the capital Honiara this week. They are the Solomon Islands Tourism ministers Council conference which kicked off today at one the country’s premium hotel, the “King Solomon Hotel” and the Pro-Investment Conference which starts on Thursday in another conference room of the same hotel.

imageThe Solomon Islands Tourism Ministers Council conference pooled together all the provincial tourism ministers in Solomon Islands nine provinces as well as stakeholders in the tourism industry. Chaired by the national government minister for Tourism, Alex Bartlett, the meeting is aimed at reviving the Council which has collapsed after its  inception about ten years ago. The formation of such council is a government policy to bring in line tourism activities in the provinces and Honiara, the various policies and development strategies in each province and work program to enhance tourism flourish in the provinces. It has long been a government policy to decentralise tourism activities to the provinces by involving rural area-based entrepreneurs involved in small scale eco-tourism and dive activities instead of having four-star hotels in Honiara.

A paper now before the conference plans to strengthen the functions of the Council to examine, discuss and make recommendations on all matter pertaining to the orderly growth of tourism from the national government and provincial governments’ perspectives, discuss issues related to tourism policies, development plans and projects.

At the moment there are varying degrees in tourism development in the nine provinces and an incoherent development strategy which calls for a close consultation with the national and provincial governments to address if the standard of tourism attraction and activities are to be enjoyed by visitors which ever province they go to during their vacation in Solomon Islands.

The government admits that the current state of tourism in Solomon Islands is precariously fragmented and the fragmented nature of tourism management in

Solomon Islands tends to emphasis the gap between policy and implementation.

The government recognizes that “tourism is an economic activity that is predominantly sustained by the private sector but the government had a key role to play in its development and promotion.”

A government statement says that while tourism is still not recognized as a major economic developer, government support is crucial to really commercialese the industry. As such the working paper before the conference calls on the national and provincial governments to take appropriate actions such as the construction of various infrastructures in the provinces to enable players in the industry fully utilise their resources.

In the next three days, Provincial ministers and stakeholders in the tourism industry will wrangle over policies and practices to standardize administrative procedures on land lease, development policies, development plans and permits, fees, levies and taxes and to uniformly address the tourism industry throughout the country.

It is hoped that by this Friday, when the meeting is concluded, some understanding will have been made about the overall administration of the industry and how much stakeholders can work in partnership to develop the industry in a sustainable way. A set of resolutions will be formulated for further action by target agencies.

Another important conference to start tomorrow is the Pro-investment conference, a follow-up on the previous regional conference in the Vanuatu capital Port Vila last month. The European Union had identified sectors in which it can assist Pacific island countries of which Tourism is one.

General Manager of the Solomon islands Visitors Bureau, Morris Otto who was at the meeting told eTN, Solomon Islands that if Solomon Islands is to develop the industry, it must formulate a workable timetable and strategy to sell to the European Union for Funding.

“This is an opportunity, Solomon islands cannot miss taking into account the poor financial backing from the national government in the promotion of the country as a tourist destination and the blow the tourism industry had received during the last four years of social unrest” Mr Otto said.

The Pro-invest conference will pool together stakeholders in the industry which include Airlines, Hoteliers, dive operators, resort owners, eco-tourism operators, home stay and live in cruises representatives will attend.

Mr. Otto said, “The work is going to be interesting given the wide range of participants in the industry but to start now is the important thing to be able to put forward a general plan for funding before EU choose to fund other sectors in other regions of the world”.

The Pro-invest conference will also end this Friday. Meanwhile, while these two tourism related conferences are under way in Honiara, one of the popular tourist homes in the Western provincial capital Gizo, the “Koburutavia Lodge” in Gizo was engulfed by a fire last Sunday morning. Reports indicate that the fire started about one o’clock and nothing was saved.

The Koburutavia lodge is part of the popular restaurant P-T 109 named after the patrol boat commanded by former US President John F Kennedy during the Second World War. Reports from Gizo said said that fire may have started when one of the guests, a 76 year old expatriate has been doing some cooking in the late night and forget to turn off the stove’s grill and after sometimes returned to the kitchen to light the stove, resulting in an explosion.

Nearby witnesses heard an explosion and later flames were seen lighting up the building.  Some people who got to the scene say that the guest may have struggled for sometimes to put out the fire. The expatriate guest, Rodger Lucas, has sustained mild burns on the head and arms and he was being treated at the Gizo Hospital.  

By Charles Kereau
eTN Solomon Islands

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