THE Government of Australia and New Zealand (NZ) will continue to support the tourism sector in the Solomon Islands especially to prepare the sector for the reopening of the borders which was closed due to the global pandemic COVID-19.
The tourism industry in Solomon Islands has been hit hard since March 2020 when the COVID-19 placed drastic decline and zero growth due to the closure of borders.
Speaking at the Tourism in Focus 2021 last week Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands Dr. Lachlan Strahan said, to get to the point where we can really tap into the potential in the tourism sector we need infrastructure.
High Commissioner Lachlan said he had been traveling in his 14 months in the country and realize the need for infrastructure to help boost tourism potential.
“We need more infrastructures in Solomon Islands including to appeal to a different segment of the market.
“And at present, Solomon Islands is still a relatively expensive tourism option for Australians compared to Fiji, Vanuatu, and New Caledonia,” he added.
Dr. Lachlan admitted that we are not living in a normal time and have gone through arguably one of the most unprecedented times.
According to the data until COVID-19 came international visitors coming to Solomon Islands in 2015-2019 Solomon Islands increased by 34%.
And in 2018 tourism constitute 12 percent of GPD in Solomon Islands but unfortunately, a lot has changed terribly and the impacts have been felt by small guest houses, resorts, transport operators, and tour providers.
Local food producers, handy craft sellers, and others along the tourism chain have also been badly affected.
Dr. Lachlan however, affirmed that Australia will make its contribution by developing the tourism sector in the Solomon Islands and helping Solomon Islands to bounce back better.
He said that they will do it in five ways and one is Strongim Business will continue to support tourism operators to do two things.
“One is to attract domestic tourists and second to be ready to accept international tourists into the country,” he added.
Strongim Business will work in partnership with communities and tourism operators to do train guides diversify food and beverage options it will also improve accommodation and transport areas.
Strongim Business will also help in designing holiday packages that will attract and affordable for the domestic market.
Secondly, Dr. Lachlan said through the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) they will continue to provide with Solomon Islands with hospitality skills and management.
“Thirdly, Australia will continue to make our contribution to the economic COVID recovery package,” he added.
Australia recently financially supported the country’s maritime sector but Dr. Lachlan said it is absolutely vital for Solomon Islands to do everything to make sure its national air carrier to remain in business.
It was understood that last year Australia provided SBD12 million to help Solomon Airlines met its financial obligation.
“This year we are looking at further assistance and this assistance will target essential training requirements for aircraft engineers, crews, and safety management staff,” he added.
He further added that in partnership with New Zealand they will continue to support the airstrips upgrading in few provinces in the country.
Dr. Lachlan further affirmed that Australia will continue to support infrastructure development in the country and as much as possible build market infrastructure for the rural market.
He said that the fifth thing Australia will make its contribution to is action on climate change.
Dr. Lachlan admitted that climate change threatens some of the wonderful natural environment here in Solomon Islands.
Meanwhile, New Zealand through their High Commissioner also affirmed their support towards assisting Solomon Islands tourism sector.
By ANDREW FANASIA
(Source: Solomon Star News, 2nd March 2021)