In an attempt to reduce the country's reliance on the export of round logs, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is embarking on an ambitious plan to diversify the countries economic base.Tourism and Culture Minister, Seth Gukuna, expressed these views when speaking on the Government's policy initiatives as reflected in the 2008 national recurrent Budget.
"This is an area that holds so much potential for this country...there is no doubt about this. We all know this. We have talked about this all the time and we all know that tourism has the capacity to pick this country up," he said.
Mr. Gukuna said that despite the huge potential in the country's tourism sector, his Ministry did not receive much from successive government budgets. Mr Gukuna said that he is pleased that the 2008 Budget has given his Ministry a comparatively larger development budget allocation of SBD$12 million, indicating the seriousness of the Government towards the development of tourism in Solomon Islands.
"The Government is seeking to double tourist arrivals in the country by 2010, an objective which my Ministry has the pleasure to take on," said Mr. Gukuna.
"Of this $12 million my Ministry will immediately use SBD$750,000 to set up a training program that will enable us to provide hospitality training to all our contact service providers in our hotels, lodges, resorts and restaurants throughout the country. This will start as soon as this Budget is passed,"
He told Parliament that his Ministry has already started work in drawing up the curriculum for the establishment of formal hospitality and tourism training at the Solomon Islands College of Higher Education.
The Tourism Minister said that his Ministry intends to extend the training initiatives to accommodate other service providers in the country including taxi drivers.
As part of the Tourism Ministry's plan it is putting aside a Million Solomon dollars to finance arrangements to restart the once famous Anuha Resort in the Central Province, which will be put out on international tender in the very near future.
Minister Gukuna said that since taking up office the Ministry has adopted a strategic shift to the need to develop short to medium term tourist products based on well studied tourist preferences and market demands.
"This shift is a deliberate move to allow tourism in this country to be driven by well developed tourist products priced to capture markets and demands that have been strategically identified to be relevant to our tourist settings," he said.