Solomon Islands Tourism Bounces Back
The tourism industry in Solomon Islands, after four years of ethnic tension which has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the country, is set to rebounce into its pre-ethnic tension period. Solomon Islands, once voted as one of the world’s best diving spots had recently experienced ethnic rivalry between two Island groups of people, namely Malaita and Guadalcanal, saw a dramatic fall of tourist arrivals from15-thousand in 1998 to a mere One thousand two hundred and forty-five in 2001. This was the lowest arrival ever recorded in the country’s tourism industry history.
But figures have shown a slow recovery from 2001 figures to over one-thousand-700 last year. Tourist arrival figures yet to be published by the Solomon Islands Statistic’s Bureau had indicated more than 10-percent increase from the 2003 figures. The Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau had estimated that 10,000 visitors will be arriving this year now that the country has recovered from ethnic rivalry and visitors advisories have been scaled down especially in Australia and New Zealand where Solomon islands is receiving most of its visitors from as well as Japan, the US and Europe.
The Visitors Bureau is basing the increases on the return of law and order in Solomon Islands after the arrival of a combined force from nearly all the Pacific island countries to quell the unrest in Solomon Islands, RAMSI, and the improvement of Solomon Islands image as a travel destination in some overseas markets, regaining confidence of wholesalers in overseas markets in selling Solomon islands, the reestablishment of marketing relationship with wholesalers and agents in Australia and New Zealand and the rebuilding of trading relationship with agents.
The major obstacle blocking tourist arrivals, especially from Australia and New Zealand was their government’s travel advisory, advising their citizens not to travel to Solomon Islands because of the recent social unrest. Now that these advisories have been scaled down, flights into Solomon Islands from mainly Australia have been fully booked since last November. As another effort by the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau to promote Solomon Islands as a tourist destination it will host a one week “Queensland Commuters campaign” next month in the State of Queensland, Australia. The campaign includes the posting of advertising materials reflecting Solomon Islands’ tourist destinations and the people’s lifestyle in all Queensland train stations. The initiative would be its second.
General Manager Morris Otto said the first one was held in November last year, a week after the Rugby World Cup finals. Mr. Otto explained that the promotion was jointly organized by the Dive Adventure of Sydney Australia and was administered by World Aviation on behalf of the Visitors Bureau.
Otto also indicated that the second campaign this year will be held between March 15 to 28 and a two week free campaign will be held in April.
The sudden increase in the number of tourist into Solomon Islands had forced the Solomon Airlines to share seats with Air Nauru, another airline belonging to a tiny Pacific island, Nauru. In response to the expected increase in tourist arrivals in the next few months and in the longer term, years, big hotel developments never seen in the capital Honiara before have started springing up.
The double-storey, Pacific Casino Hotel, about to be completed, will have 90 deluxe rooms and a casino. Construction started a few months ago and will be completed before June this year. It is expected to be one of the country’s’ grandest hotels, situated at the forefront of East Honiara’s shoreline.
Another hotel development belonging to a Honiara-based Casino is now under construction. These hotels will be offering accommodation and casino for their guests. The Honiara Casino Hotel is being constructed along the shoreline of West Honiara. Nationally, 77 Motels, resorts and rest houses spread among the many Islands of Solomon Islands, have started renovations, upgrading and re-building as tourist arrivals have started to soar.
These hotels, motels and resorts offer scuba diving, snorkeling, eco-tours, transport, game fishing and live-in cruises. These resorts are mainly situated in the Western Solomon, which has one of the biggest sea lagoons in the Pacific region with clear diving spots. But within Honiara, there are dive operators, such as Honiara Hotel, which normally take tourists to dive Second World War wrecks along the coasts of Guadalcanal and the Floridas, just across the strait separating Guadalcanal and Florida group of Islands. Another of the “must see” spectacles is the wrecks of the World cruise ship “World Discoverer” which ran aground on a reef in a passage through the Gela, or the Florida group of Islands.
Meanwhile, Hotels, motels and rest houses in Honiara are renovating, expanding room capacities and are offering extra tourist activities. The tourism industry in Solomon Islands, after four years of ethnic tension which has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the country, is set to rebounce into its pre-ethnic tension period. Solomon Islands, once voted as one of the world’s best diving spots had recently experienced ethnic rivalry between two Island groups of people, namely Malaita and Guadalcanal, saw a dramatic fall of tourist arrivals from15-thousand in 1998 to a mere One thousand two hundred and forty-five in 2001. This was the lowest arrival ever recorded in the country’s tourism industry history.
Tourists, while in Solomon islands, have lots to see including, Japanese and American war memorials in recognition of soldiers who have been killed during the Second World War, stone and wood carvings along the streets of Honiara and for those who want some little bit of fun, the night clubs are up and running.
By Charles Kereau
eTN Solomon Islands
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