Tourism numbers in the Solomon Islands have been boosted following an increase in the number of business conferences and meetings held there, according to the latest 2012 figures.

The Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau recorded 23,925 visitors in 2012, compared to 22,941 in 2011, Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau Marketing Manager Freda Unusi told ISLANDS BUSINESS.

“Indicators show that the increase has been due to the increase in the business and conference sector in the international arrivals,” Unusi said.

“There has been an influx of business people travelling to the Solomon Islands to attend business conferences and business people searching for fresh opportunities in a destination that is yet to be explored and yet to fully realise its potential in the South Pacific region,” she said. In her market survey, she found that tourists from the United Kingdom tend to spend up to 20 days to allow them to see the Solomon Islands. There are over 900 islands to see.

“To see the Solomon Islands one has to spend at least one to two weeks to really see the people and activities. So travelling around the islands is a factor as to why they stay longer in the Solomons."

She said UK visitors to the Solomon Islands were mainly those whose parents or grandparents had served in the colonial administration in the Solomon Islands. “So the activities they would participate in are visiting colonial administration centres which are sporadic around the islands.

“UK divers also come on packaged tours. If they are using Bilikiki Cruises travelling around the country to dive spots, they would normally spend up to two weeks.

“If they go diving in the Western province, they would start diving in Gizo, travel to Munda where they dive for a few days and travel to Marovo and explore dive spots in Uepi and Peava.” She said this would take a visitor almost two weeks to accomplish. The other group are the birdwatchers who would go island hopping to visit islands with organised bird watching activities, Unusi said.

The number of hotels has also increased from 133 in 2010 to 141 in 2011 whilst the number rooms increased from 1,526 to 1,556 for the same period. The tourism belt of the Solomon islands in the Western Province welcomed five new hotels—Lolomo Eco Lodge in Vonavona Lagoon, Ravaine Homestay in Munda, The lodge in Banaga Island, Zea Eco Lodge in Roviana Lagoon and the Titiru Eco Lodge in Rendova. Sanalae apartments went up in Honiara whilst Farmane Motel and Maringe Lagoon Lodge were built in Buala in Isabel Province.

She said the air visitor survey would help SIVB gain a better understanding of characteristics of visitors to the Solomon Islands, particularly information on what visitors do, how much visitors spend during their stay and what they spend it on.

The survey would also give the bureau a better understanding of the Solomon Islands as a travel destination. SPTO chief executive Ilisoni Vuidreketi said the survey is part of SPTO’s activities to assist its member countries across the region, which will also be implemented in 2014. The project which is an initiative of the Pacific Regional Tourism Capacity Building Programme and funded by the European Union, is expected to be completed in October.