HONIARA, Solomon Islands (eTN) – The current political stability in the country has caused Australia to downgrade its travel advisory, and its immediate impact on the tourism industry has been positive, a Solomon Islands official has said.
Solomon Islands Culture and Tourism Minister Seth Gukuna said this is good news for Solomon Islands especially when it comes at a time when the ministry is taking steps to substantially improve the role of the tourism industry in the local economy.
He said Solomon Islands will benefit immensely. “The easing of the travel warning could increase the number of arrivals in Solomon Islands, especially from Australia and New Zealand,” Mr. Gukuna said.
Australia last week downgraded its travel warning to level two. It gave the warning in November last year when a political uncertainty period loomed over Solomon Islands which subsequently led to a change of government in December.
Minister Gukuna said the number of arrivals had immediately increased to 15 percent but the government is pushing forward to doubling the current rate.
The Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB) , which is tasked to promote Solomon Islands overseas, is pleased that the Australian government had eased the travel warning. “This is what the Bureau has been waiting for over the past months and the action taken by the Australian Foreign Department is a welcoming sign for the Solomon Islands’ tourism industry”, SIVB general manager Michael Tokuru said.
Meanwhile, tourist operators in the Western Solomon Islands, the country’s tourism hub, have seen immediate positive impact on inquiries from potential visitors.
Owner the Sanbis Resort, Hans Mergozzie, said the reaction has been immediate with increased number of inquiries reaching his office from tourists aged 40 to 60. He said many of the inquiries relate to swimming, snorkelling, scuba and diving and visit to war relics, which the Western province provides to tourists.
Mr. Mergozzie added the only handicap is the unreliable domestic flights to the Western province of which Mr. Gukuna said will be addressed soon. “The Ministry [of Culture and Tourism] wants to develop Solomon islands as a tourist destination where tourists will be able to get to the provinces and return to the capital for onward travels with having gone through transport hassles.