BY TAVAKE SIMON HANA’AROA
SOLOMON Islands should offer its own unique products when promoting its tourism industry to the outside world.
As the logging industry phases out, tourism has been touted as the next potential industry to replace logging.
In a report and recommendation conducted and compiled by Strongim Bisnis in 2019, tourism has offered the prospect for more widely distributed economic power than is the case for extractive industries, which could also ease political economy constraints on future development and it can lead to broad-based employment and income generation, as well as support the preservation of cultural traditions and the sustainable management of natural assets.
Strongim Bisnis is an Australian Government initiative working with the private sector and Solomon Islands Government to make a strong, positive and lasting impact through business growth by tackling the nation’s trade and investment challenges to provide solutions for businesses and investors.
The tourism industry is one of the sectors that strongim Bisnis is supporting.
According to the report, the promotion of the Solomon Islands as a tourism destination in key source markets is severely limited.
“Globally, tourist arrivals grew by 3.9% in 2016 to reach a total of 1.2 billion, and with the Pacific Island region capturing 3.1 million of these,” the report said.
“The Solomon Islands, however, failed to capitalize on this global and regional trend,” the report added.
“It only captured 2% of visitors in the region and 1% (around 6000 individuals) of leisure tourists to which the Solomon Islands become known as the tourism underdog in the region.”
Tourism Solomon, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Josefa Tuamoto said in order to compete with the bigger players in the tourism industry such as Fiji and Vanuatu, their focus is to look into niche products.
“The reason is that we do not have the money to do big things, hence we should be fighting battles that we will win. So our focus is on niches, not the big things. The reason for that is two-fold.
“First is we do not have money to be doing big things so we just focus on things like bird-watching as we know we have the best birds in the Pacific together with Papua New Guinea.
“We also have the best surf,” he added.
Business Partnerships Director for Strongim Business Tim Lawther said they are focussing on assisting in areas that the Solomon Islands has the advantage.
Lawther said the Solomon Islands can’t win in the space with the idea of being the “best destination” in the Pacific.
“We need to focus on the comparative advantages and we have identified those to be a unique culture here that can be shared with visitors, world-class diving, world-class surfing, the world war two (WWII) wrecks and its histories, and as well as bird watching in nature.
“These are the areas, operators should focus on,” he added.
The Second Secretary of Economic in the Australian High Commission in Honiara, Cass Grant said tourism in Solomon has great potential, but it has a very low base at the moment.
Grant said in order to grow the industry, right and proper infrastructures must be put in place.
“The Solomon Islands shouldn’t be another Fiji or Vanuatu or the rest of the Pacific; rather it has to find its own unique niche.
“Solomon Islands should not compete or should not want to be another Fiji as you have something different to offer.
“You have to find your own unique products, something that is different from Fiji, Vanuatu, from the rest of the Pacific, or from Indonesia and Bali, and all other holiday places,” she said.