The upgrading of Munda Airport to cater for international flights, and the laying of an undersea communications cable are critical items on the agenda for the Solomon Islands Government.
With tourism identified to fill the void left by declining traditional industries such as logging, this infrastructure, along with more accommodation and improved roads, will be required if the Solomon Islands is to achieve the economic empowerment it desires.
‘The undersea cable is on target for connection in late 2019 and will be our gateway to the world,’ says Prime Minister Rick Hou who launched the country’s new branding, ‘Solomons Is.’ last week.
The Japanese Government is funding an upgrade to Honiara International Airport (yet to be commenced) as well as road improvements between the airport and Honiara, which are presently under construction.
And with Honiara’s accommodation at capacity, investment in new hotels is key, says Tourism Solomons CEO, Jo Tuamoto.
‘Business travel is driving everything at the moment,’ he says. ‘It is 60-70% of our business. We want to raise leisure from 30-40% to 50% and to be able to cater for leisure; for honeymoons and families.’
Tourism Solomons is looking at a sustainable approach. ‘We are not about mass numbers,’ says Tuamoto. ‘We cater to diving, soft adventure; bird watching is taking off from the UK and US, and growing out of Australia. And we are working with hotels to give staff the confidence to look after families.’
A challenge for new tourism businesses is the lack of a website. Tourism Solomons is offering a temporary solution for smaller operators by hosting a portal on the Tourism Solomons website whereby the NTO will handle the bookings.
Tuamoto emphasises this is a stop gap. ‘Operators must have a website if they are going to work with wholesalers.’
[Source: Travel Inc Memo – Issue 1118]