Solomon Islands Set Strategic Goal
PHOTO: Josefa Tuamoto, standing second from left, gives Solomon Islands tourism an experienced leader as it takes on a new five year plan. (Courtesy of Solomon Islands Tourism)
Recently, the prime minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, officially launched a National Tourism Development Strategy (SINTDS). The Solomon Islands government hopes to see tourism become a major economic contributor within the next five years. Made up of 922 islands and atolls, the Solomon Islands are not well known among American travelers, even though they are the South Pacific’s third-largest archipelago and the setting for one of America’s most hard fought battles, Guadalcanal. The strategy is being funded by the South Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO) and the European Union (EU). The plan is to guide the destination towards forming a market profile that will give them product differentiation from other competing destinations in the South Pacific.
The Solomon Islands, like many other South Pacific destinations, have fine beaches, world-class diving, fishing, kayaking and other activities common to islands in the tropics. For the Solomon Islands, the points of distinction lie in its WWII history and in the specific Melanesian cultures that live there. The diversity of those cultures is reflected in the 87 different languages spoken throughout the archipelago. English, and Pidgin English, which came with the American presence in WWII, are the languages spoken by nearly everyone throughout the country.
In unveiling the SINTDS, Sogavare warned that even to achieve a relatively modest 9 percent growth over the next five years would “require sustained commitment to the strategy backed by strong leadership, increased investment and additional government and donor resourcing.”
The Solomon Islands are fortunate to have one of the most experienced tourism officials in the South Pacific serving as the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau: CEO Josefa Tuamoto. Tuamoto, who was also recently named deputy chair of the SPTO, served as the CEO of Tourism Fiji as well as Tourism Fiji’s top man in Australia and in the USA with three years each in Sydney and Los Angeles. Both markets, and New Zealand, will be critical in the success of the country’s tourism.
Tuamoto played a key role in shaping the SINTDS in tandem with Director of Tourism, Barney Sivoro. At a recent South Pacific Tourism Exchange in Melbourne, Tuamoto said that “for the first time, the Solomon Islands government is serious about tourism and has committed major resources into the sector.”
For the Solomon Islands, diplomatic relations with wealthier countries is an important aspect to the growth of tourism. Earlier this month, a high delegation of New Zealand officials met with Sogavare to discuss assistance in the Munda International Airport project, a project that would greatly assist in the growth of the country’s tourism. Munda was an important airstrip for American forces during the Battle of Guadalcanal, and today serves as a commercial airport. Henderson International Airport, located on Guadalcanal near Honiara, the country’s capital, is the main aviation gateway.
Solomon Airlines is the national airline of the Solomon Islands headquartered in Honiara. The airline currently operates regular return services from Honiara to Brisbane and Sydney, Fiji and Vanuatu and as well as an extensive domestic network around the Solomon Islands. In March it received its second IATA Operational Safety Audit Certification (IOSA). From its hub at Nadi International Airport, Fiji Airways and Fiji Link serve 48 destinations in 12 countries including the Solomon Islands.
The Solomon Islands don’t have the same sort of aviation connectivity, nor the same sort of promotional budgets that other competing destinations in the South Pacific are lucky to have, but Tuamoto brings a lot of knowhow to his task.
“You can achieve almost any goal if you plan your steps wisely and establish a time frame that allows you to carry out those steps,” said Tuamoto recently. “The SINTDS has been extremely well researched with key drivers identified. It is now time for the Solomon Islands to take the next step and make those aspirations a reality.”
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