Visitor increase expected

THE Solomon Islands is expected to see a nine per cent increase in tourism arrivals in 2016 across all markets compared with the previous year once the final figures are recorded.

Around 25,000 international tourists visit the islands annually, with the majority (or 66 per cent) coming from Australia, followed by the US and New Zealand.

Minister for Culture and Tourism Bartholomew Parapolo told travelBulletin at a recent travel mart in Honiara that he could not over-emphasise the importance of Australia and New Zealand to the development of tourism in the Solomon Islands.

Several delegates at the travel mart, such as Infinity Holidays executive Deborah Francesca, had never visited the country before and were impressed with the beauty of the Gizo region and keen to include a couple of the better known resorts in their forthcoming produce range.

New upmarket B&Bs and self-contained properties have recently opened in the western province including Evis Resort on the island of Nggatirana, which is a designated 15-hectare conservation area, as well as a single suite called the Golden Cowie, designed for honeymooners on a tiny island not far from the well-known Fatboys Resort. Golden Cowie is the latest development by the Kennedy family — two brothers who own various properties in West Province including Fatboys and the Gizo Hotel.

Small resorts, with less than 10 bungalows, and homestays are the backbone of the Solomon Islands’ tourism industry. While many may not be in wholesaler brochures most are accessible through the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB) website.

These small thatched resorts dotted on near-deserted lagoons are the reason why the country is still considered a “best kept secret”, Minister Parabolo told wholesalers. SIVB chairman Wilson Ne’e said the Solomons had experiences that other countries could not provide and it was time to move out of the mindset that selling the country was a hard task.

Ne’e said he expected 2017 would also reap a similar nine per cent increase, with many visitors due to take part in the in the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal commemorative events planned for August.