It is time for travel agents to embrace the opportunities offered by the Pacific Islands’ smaller, harder to reach destinations as travellers increasingly look for something different and relatively untouched, say exhibitors at a travel exchange in Honiara last week.
Mi Save Solo 2019 involved sellers not only from the Solomon Islands but also Kiribati, Nauru and beyond. Georgina Auton, digital marketing officer of Nauru Airlines says Nauru itself attracts just a few hundred visitors a year but has incredible fishing, World War II history and walking. There is also the opportunity to ‘island hop’ on the airline to Tarawa (Kiribati), Majuro (Marshall Islands) and Pohnpei (Federal States of Micronesia). It also flies to Honiara, Nadi and Brisbane. ‘Travel agents are important to us. We joined the Amadeus GDS two months ago and we are looking at other GDS opportunities. At present we also have a trade portal on our website that agents can sell through and we would like to get more agents to see our destinations. ‘We say that a lot of the places we fly to don’t offer fivestar hotels, but they do have five-star experiences.’
She says Pohnpei, for example, has one of the top five surf spots in the world (Palikir Pass), World War II history, and Ant Atoll – a place where snorkelers and divers will swim with small sharks, manta rays and a wide variety of other sea life. One of the surprising attractions is Nan Madol, an ancient city about 1000 years old. Visitors walk through a jungle track to reach its coastal location.
Petero Manufolau, chief executive officer at Tourism Authority of Kiribati was at his first trade show in the role and says he is urging agents to consider the destination as an authentic off the beaten track destination. ‘Phoenix Islands is the largest protected marine area on the globe and we have species of fish and coral life that the world is yet to know of. ‘We’re not easy to get to but that is part of our appeal. We are a new destination, one of the least visited islands, and something to consider in an age where people are looking for sustainable and authentic tourism.’ Manufolau says the islands currently attract a total of 6000 corporate and leisure travellers. He adds that a priority for Kiribati Tourism Authority is to get its accommodation and activity providers up to speed with trade requirements. ‘We are in the process of educating suppliers on this. For most there are a number of boxes they need to tick to become trade compliant. As we progress through next year we should become much more trade friendly.’
(Source: TRAVELink MEMO 09th July 2019; issue 2015)