Tourism Solomons CEO, Josefa ‘Jo’ Tuamoto, has expressed his hopes the country’s official friendship with China will act as a catalyst for increased growth within the key tourism sector.

Speaking to Chinese media representatives in Honiara to follow the recent visit by a Chinese government mission, CEO Tuamoto said the advent of the new relationship with China offered a two-pronged opportunity.

Firstly, he said, the development would signal a marked increase in profile for the Solomon Islands which hopefully will eventually lead to good numbers of Chinese visitors arriving in the near future, and particularly divers given the sport’s popularity in mainland China.

Secondly, he hoped the relationship will prove a catalyst for increased tourism -related investment, and particularly hotel bed inventory, a factor that has continued to hamstring the country’s ability to attract and manage increased numbers of international visitors.

The Solomon Islands government, he said, is looking to the tourism sector to attract 60,000 visitors annually by 2025, in the process netting the country’s economy SBD1 billion.

“Until we have at least 700 quality rooms available for sale, our industry will continue to be constrained and hopes of reaching the SBD1 billion target set by government will be difficult to achieve.

“Once we are in position to offer a much increased, quality accommodation base then the opportunities will follow and this is definitely something that could prove a draw for Chinese investors,” CEO Tuamoto said.

"The Chinese market is quite huge, both in terms of its economy and its ability to assist countries like the Solomon Islands, so investment from this quarter directed towards hotel investment and related infrastructure would be most welcome."

However, he cautioned while it is important that the local tourism industry grow, it needed to remember sustainable growth had to be the way forward in order to prevent the Solomon Islands becoming commoditized and in the process, damaging the country's unique appeal.

“We need to develop in a way that we can manage properly so we have a destination that not only everybody likes and wants to travel to, but as importantly, is sustainable for our children.

“And that is essentially what we are trying to do at the moment.

“We are aware of what we need to do to attract more visitation – but we have never been, nor will we ever be, a ‘run of the mill’ type destination and that is what makes us and keeps us so unique.“

Source: Tourism Solomons