Solomon Islands welcomes increase in tourists

HONIARA (eTN) – Solomon Islands is seeing a steady increase in the number of visitor arrivals in the second quarter of 2009. The latest figure released by the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB) indicated an 8 percent increase to 4,832 compared to the same period last year.

SIVB general m anager Michael Tokuru said visitor arrivals for the first six months of 2009 between January and June grew by 23 percent to 8,805. He said the majority of the visitors were on a business trip. “Fort-three percent of visitors came for business and conference, 26 percent for holiday and vacation, and the rest came to visit friends and relatives, transit, and other business,” he said.

SIVB said those who came for business and conferences grew by 12 percent, while visitors who came for holiday and vacation dropped by 5 percent in the second quarter of 2009.

Australia made up 51 percent of the arrivals, followed by New Zealand, which accounted for 7 percent and USA five percent. More than 20 countries made up the rest.

Visitors from Australia grew by 48 percent in the second quarter of 2009 compared with the same period in 2008.

“In spite of the current global economic downturn affecting both the global and regional tourism, the growth in visitors’ arrivals to Solomon Islands as shown in the second quarter and the first six months of 2009 is welcoming,” Mr. Tokuru said. “We are optimistic the number of visitors coming for holiday and vacation will pick up again in the third quarter of 2009.”

In other related tourism developments, Solomon Islands Tourism Minister Seth Gukuna said that his ministry will sponsor more students to undertake the certificate course at country’s Highest tertiary schools, the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SICHE).

Mr. Gukuna said the sponsorship is part of the ministry’s ongoing assistance towards the tourism and hospitality school, which opened earlier this year and the first of its kind in Solomon Islands.

Currently, the ministry is sponsoring 10 of the 33 students enrolled this year.

Mr. Gukuna said that as part of short-term training, the ministry plans to hold five courses this year, which will cater for existing tourism operators. He added that last year the tourism ministry conducted seven courses in hospitality and tourism training.

Mr. Gukuna said, however, that the tourism industry “still got a long way to go before reaching the expected standard of service.”

According to him, finance is currently the main constraint that slows down the progress of this industry. But, he said everything takes time before reaching the standard everyone wants.

Government has allocated about US$700,000 under its development budget for tourism and other related developments in this area.