In this week’s instalment of citizen journalism, Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau general manager, Michael Tokuru, says his country will weather the economic stsorm on the back of its most important source of holidaymakers — Australia.
“It is too early to make any predictions on visitors’ arrivals to Solomon Islands in 2009. Visitors’ arrivals statistics for the first quarter of 2009 is not yet available. Nonetheless, Australia has been the most important source market for holiday travellers to Solomon Islands.
Michael Tokuru wearing his favourite shirt
The Solomon Islands recorded an estimated 32.8 per cent growth in 2008 compared with 18.6 percent growth in 2007. Other important source markets, particularly USA, grew but at a lower rate, whilst New Zealand, Japan, and UK have recorded growth but at a declining rate over the past two years. These growth trends are expected to continue in 2009.
In spite of the global downturn in tourism and the looming recession in Australia, we are optimistic that Solomon Islands tourism will weather the storm. With the weak Solomon dollar against the Australian dollar at a rate of 7/1, the holiday packages currently offered by the industry is as value for money and as competitive as the discounted holiday packages offered by neighbouring countries with stronger local currencies.
Furthermore, Solomon Islands offers niche tourism products and with less money in their pockets because of the global financial crisis we are optimistic that visitors from Australia and New Zealand will choose Solomon Islands for their leisure holiday and enjoy surfing, diving, fishing, honeymooning, WWII sites and relaxing.
Our plans for 2010 are clear. Our target is 20,000 visitor arrivals in 2010. We are increasing our media campaigns in Australia and other source markets in 2010. The opening of the quality Heritage Park Hotel in Honiara in July this year with an additional 204 beds and the stabilisation of international flights from Australia by our major carriers Solomon Airlines and Pacific Blue, after the departure of SkyAirWorld, will help meet our target.
Similarly, the country’s achievement in restoring law and order and gaining political stability in recent years will provide the enabling environment for tourism growth in Solomon Islands in 2010 and beyond.”