MINISTER of Culture & Tourism, Bartholomew Parapolo, has underlined the priority his government is placing on tourism development and the efforts being taken to facilitate growth at the recent South Pacific Tourism Organisation Council of Ministers of Tourism meeting in the Cooks Islands.
One of three high-powered events taking place in Rarotonga – including the Council of Ministers meeting, a regional marketing meeting and the SPTO board meeting where the SIVB holds the deputy chair positon – Minister Parapolo used the opportunity to draw reference to the emphasis the government is going to in order to review and introduce tourism specific legislation.
This, the Minister said, was intended to address the governance of the Solomon Island’s tourism sector and as a result, update the country’s National Tourism Policy, facilitate growth and bring focus to bear on upgrading tourism accommodation and product.
“This strategy includes the implementation of a Solomon Islands Tourism Investment Incentives Package in response to increasing interest from potential investors in both the hotel and product development areas,” Minister Parapolo said.
“As part of this new approach the Government is also exploring viable options for public private partnerships in the tourism sector and working closely with existing hotel owners to further explore these options which include the introduction of a Minimum Quality Standard for the industry in 2017.”
Drawing reference to the high cost of air travel to the Solomon Islands, the Minister said the Government is also considering business cases for a subsidy with the airlines currently serving the destination aimed at driving leisure visitor numbers up.
The Minister also outlined the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau strategic plan for the next five years, a plan which complements the national tourism development strategy in place since 2015.
A key component of this, he said, is development of the extremely lucrative cruise sector which remains a key focal area of the strategy and one which the Ministry is aggressively developing in partnership with Carnival Australia, P&O Cruises and with support from the Australian Government.
This partnership, he said, has already begun to yield results with the recent arrival of a P&O vessel for the first time into Gizo and a further vessel expected on 30 October.
The outlook for 2017 too is strong with a further six vessels expected to visit Solomon Islands waters next year.
While in the Cook Islands, the Minister and his delegation also held meetings with executives of the Cook Islands Tourism Corporation regarding airline subsidy arrangements they have with Air New Zealand.
Meetings were also held with the Vanuatu delegation to explore possible collaboration in the cruise ship sector.
Minister Parapolo was accompanied to the Cook Islands by Ministry of Culture & Tourism Permanent Secretary, Andrew Nihopara, SIVB chairman Wilson Ne’e, SIVB CEO, Josefa ‘Jo’ Tuamoto and SIVB Marketing Manager, Ms Freda Unusi.