BY JOHN HOUANIHAU
SOLOMON Islands unique scenery and diverse culture and history have drawn an international recognition from top Chinese government representative to Solomon Islands.
Chinese Ambassador to the Solomon Islands His Excellency (H.E) Li Ming told participants at the recently held 2021 ‘Lokal Tourism – Redefine, Readjust and Realign’ Tourism in Focus summit in Honiara that Solomon Islands is rich in tourism resources.
“Solomon Islands has rich tourism resources, which I’ve already had opportunity to experience in the past months.
“I sincerely enjoy the beautiful natural landscape and highly appreciate the valuable cultural heritage and people’s hospitality,” the Chinese Ambassador to the Solomon Islands said.
Relying on its rich natural resources and cultural heritage, the country is set to be an international tourist destination in the near future.
Li Ming said that in recent years, Chinese tourists are becoming increasingly interested in visiting Pacific Island countries, including Solomon Islands.
“Solomon Islands is a land of great potential, especially for tourism, and our cooperation in tourism has just begun,” he said.
He said that the experience of China’s development for the past 40 years has seen infrastructure as the pillar to economic growth.
“To attract international tourists, hotels, airports, roads, internet are necessary.
“China supports the PG2023 that will be hosted in Solomon Islands and will work closely with government and people to advance the major infrastructure projects of the Pacific Games.
“I believe the stadium and other structures of the project will become new landmarks and tourist attractions in Solomon Islands,” the Chinese Ambassador to the Solomon Islands said.
According to Li Ming, the total number of cross-border Chinese tourists in 2019 had reached 155 million.
“Not only that, but also the consumption power, where in 2019 the total consumption rate was USD 133.8 billion generating huge revenues for tourism destination countries.
He said that cooperation at three levels of Government, Industry and Individuals are also important for the development of tourism sector in Solomon Islands.
“Private sectors like travel agencies, airlines and hotels can make some preparations for post-pandemic opportunities, design some attractive travel routes to discover new tourist attractions.
“The two countries China and Solomon Islands are now working together on the implementation plans, including civil aviation agreement, visa facilitation, and other arrangements,” said LI Ming.
In relation to Solomon Islands rich in tourism resources, the Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands Dr Lachlan Strahan described the country’s beauty as “a tourist wonderland”, which is yet to be exposed.
“Solomon Islands has a wonderful demonstrated culture and music with wonderful landscape, awesome villages, and quite beautiful churches and of course the wonderful people,” he said.
Dr Strahan has been in the Solomon Islands for 14 months and had the privilege visiting seven provinces both on his journey as the high commissioner and as a tourist.
“What strikes me the most is of course; Solomon Islands is an absolute tourist wonderland which is not really appreciated for most of the world.
“We can really tap into the potential of the tourism sector, of course we do need much more infrastructure.
“At the moment Solomon Islands is still an expensive tourist destination compared to Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia,” he said.
Dr Strahan said that there is an opportunity to maximize tourism if right deals are made during this time where COVID-19 taking control of programs and activities.
He said his office continues to work towards improving the country’s tourism and at the same time engage in promotion.