BY TAVAKE SIMON HANA’AROA
TOURISM in the Solomon Islands is one of the hardest-hit sectors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Parliamentary Opposition Leader Hon Matthew Wale said a well-thought-out plan is needed for the industry to survive in this current situation.
Wale said this while presenting his statement during the 2020 Supplementary Appropriation Bill (SAB) debate this week.
He said it is not easy to see clearly what can be done to support the tourism sector at this stage.
He continued to say that the decision made by the cabinet to extend the COVID-19 response has badly affected the tourism infrastructure and operator.
“This sector is the hardest hit from COVID-19. It is not easy to see clearly what can be done to revitalize or support the tourism sector at this stage.
“However, we run the very high risk that tourism infrastructure and operators are decimated over the extended period of the Covid-19 response.
“If there is no well-thought-out plan to support this sector to weather the current situation, Post-COVID-19, or when a vaccine is finally rolled out and tourism picks up again, it will be much more costly to resurrect this industry,” the Opposition Leader Matthew Wale said.
Despite the COVID–19 free status and when the travel bubbles are formed, Wale said the industry should be ready and be able to benefit from it rather than be held back by repairs to infrastructure and facilities.
Solomon Islands’ real GDP is expected to contract by 4.1% by the end of 2020. This contraction is mostly driven by significant falls in the country’s major industries including tourism.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT) has recently developed a five-point plan to cope with the current – and post – COVID-19 environment.
According to the Ministry, their existing development plan (Solomon Islands National Tourism Development Strategy 2015 – 2019) had expired last year – thus, the five-point plan has come about to keep the industry grooving amidst the COVID-19.
The MCT Permanent Secretary Andrew Nihopara had earlier stated that the Covid-19 has given a whole new perspective resulting in his ministry coming up with the five-point plans.