BY TAVAKE SIMON HANA’AROA
SOLOMON Islands tourism industry was hit hard by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic; the majority of small to big tourism operators were forced to scale down or close business operations.
Since March this year, the domestic tourism industry had suffered a huge blow on the decline of international visitors due to travel restrictions in most or all around the world including its borders.
Kulikau Tabu Lodge (KTL), located at Central West Big Ngella is one of the many struggling locally-owned tourism businesses that fighting to keep their business afloat.
With the decline of international visitors since March this year that would eventually lead to no visitors at all after eight straight months, Kulikau Tabu Lodge had gone through countless struggles and challenges with some of which cannot be overcome and solved.
To help the business meet its ongoing operating costs, they had to venture into other business alternatives.
According to KTL, its biggest challenge is earning income to pay for its employees.
“Our biggest challenge is having enough income to pay for the employees while at the same time maintaining the place to meet the Tourism minimum standards.
“The small income that we get from workshops and local guests cannot even meet our operating costs.
“At the moment we are involved in Boat Transportation that runs passengers between Honiara and Ngella and as well selling layer eggs.
“We also run a canteen, Telekom top-up, bar and petrol depo with the small profits that we earn goes for the ongoing operating costs,” Kulikau Tabu Lodge Management told Tourism Media Solomon.
The KTL Management continued; “though we cannot afford to meet all the challenges, we have asked for family members whom we employed for their patience and understanding.
“The operation has therefore accumulated outstanding salary and pay bit by bit when we feel the need to,” said the Management.
With the current situation, KTL said there are no more international visitors and tourists and sadly revealed that Workshop participants and the occupancy rate have also dropped significantly to 20% compared to last year.
However, for the business to keep rolling, they have come up with their weekend package specials which they have on offer for their clients.
“Amidst the COVID-19 situation, the current prime package that we have on offer to our clients is our weekend special package.
“This weekend special package comes with transportation and accommodation costs for singles @ $600 for 2 nights and $900 for double with free breakfast.
“Our clients have a choice to cook for themselves at our kitchen or arrange for a basket of locally cooked food from our mothers and youths. Lunch @ $20 per basket and Dinner @ $30 per basket.
Chief Executive Officer of Tourism Solomons Josefa Tuamotu recently told Tourism Media Solomon for the local tourism sector to keep afloat during this crisis is to focus on domestic tourism.
“The focus now in the immediate term is to look at domestic tourism focusing more on domestic travel.
“When I say domestic travel I mean business travels and visiting relatives domestically.
“Those are the things that will sustain us for the short term and when the borders open then we will aggressively target overseas people,” Mr Tuamoto said.
With this sentiment, the KTL Management reiterated by acknowledging the importance of domestic tourism.
“We do see the importance of domestic tourism as a way forward in terms of revenue collection for the business as well as the economy.
“We believe that it does contribute to filling the gap that was left open when no international tourists come into the country.
“Though not frequent, we do have some local guests from Solomon Telekom and Central Provincial Government who during their work visits are accommodated at the lodge.
“Workshops and conferences organized by various Government ministries also contribute significantly to our operation and improvement of the lodge, the TKL Management said.
Kulikau Tabu Lodge is a memorable family establishment opened in 2018, which reminds them of their never-ending struggle that began from the total loss and devastating ordeal that they had gone through during the Guadalcanal Flash Floods in 2014 at Sape village, Guadalcanal Plains losing all they had.
Consist of 4 self-contained bungalows that can accommodate up to 2 people and 8 rooms backpackers/dormitory that can accommodate up to 4 people per room, Kulikau Tabu Lodge is located at Toga Village on Ward 2 of the Central West Big Ngella, Longana District, and Sandfly passage with approximately an hour drive across the Iron Bottom Sound in a 75 HP Powered OBM (Out Boat Motor).