Mr Ne’e said the media had played an invaluable role in helping the destination arrest a 2014 decline in visitor arrivals year on year growth, respectively 7.8 per cent in 2015 and 7.3 per cent in 2016.
“Our targets for 2016 show we have once again increased – 23,192 international visitors for the 12-month period – a 7.3 per cent increase over the total achieved in 2015,” Mr Nee said.
“Australian visitors continue to lead the way – close on 10,000 Aussies visited last year – that’s 41.1 per cent of our total arrivals.
“Compared to our near neighbours that might not seem to be too many people – you do need remember all our visitors come by invitation only. It’s the only way you can get in.”
As a growing travel destination, Mr Ne’e said the Solomon Islands continues to hold huge appeal for this market with its unique living culture, diving, fishing surfing, bird- watching, romance and family travel.
The destination, he said, is slowly developing its ability to service the wedding and honeymoon market with support from both the government and combined church groups fully support of the national tourist office’s initiatives.
“And let’s not forget our WWII history – we are the very place where freedom was born fin the South Pacific, where the Aussies joined with the US forces in finally turned the Japanese tide in the Guadalcanal camping,” he said.
“This year we celebrate the 75th anniversary of those battles and the 100th anniversary of the birth of John F. Kennedy who fought in that campaign and was rescued by the Solomon islanders when his ship was rammed and sunk in 1942,” he said adding the Guadalcanal battlefields are today some of the best kept battle grounds to be found anywhere in the world.
Mr Ne’e said it was important to note that while the Solomon Islands government values the economic importance of tourism, one thing remains very important that the destination does not let development change exactly what makes the Solomon Islands so appealing to international visitors.
“We remain a charming, very unsophisticated, and very friendly destination with an infrastructure to match across our 992 islands.”
Mr Ne’e also pointed towards the development of the extremely lucrative cruise sector which he said remained a key focal area of the strategy and one which the Ministry of Culture & Tourism has aggressively developed in partnership with Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises.
This partnership, he said, has already begun to yield results with the arrival late last year of a P&O vessel for the first time into Gizo in the Western Province.
Pictured (from left to right) SIVB PR, Mike Parker-Brown; SIVB marketing manager, Freda Unusi; Solomon Airlines' director global sales and marketing, Victor Sharan; Solomon Airlines' marketing officer, Darlcey Riqeo; SIVB chairman, chairman Wilson Ne'e; SIVB Marketing Officer AU/NZ, Stella Lucas and SIVB trade marketing representative AU/NZ, Richard Skewes.
(Source: Press Release Distributed on behalf of the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau by Mike Parker-Brown 19 May 2017)
T: + 61 2 9977 0149
M: + 61 421 025 469