The number of tourist arrivals in Solomon Islands fell 48.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 due to impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic worldwide and in our region, the Solomon Islands National Statistics Office said, Wednesday 3 June.

Government Statistician Douglas Kimi while releasing the International Arrivals statistical report said a total of 8,340 arrivals were recorded in the first quarter of 2020. This is a decrease of 48.6 per cent compared to the 4th quarter of 2019.

“Compared to the same quarter a year ago, a decrease of 29.6 per cent was noted,” Mr. Kimi said.

Visitors from Australia, the biggest source of tourists, tumbled 41.0 per cent to 1,626 compared to the fourth quarter of 2019 where the figure was 2,757.

He says that arrivals by country of residence for the first quarter 2020 showed that Australians still remain the largest group of visitors to the Solomon Islands with 39.9 per cent, but that has since declined.

The next largest group of visitors were from Asia with 10.3 per cent, followed by Fiji 9.7 per cent, Papua New Guinea 7.8 per cent, New Zealand 6.9 per cent, Other Pacific 5.6 per cent ,United State of American 5.1 per cent and Japan 2.5 per cent.

He says visitor arrivals by month showed that January recorded the highest number of arrivals in the first quarter of 2020 with 1,857 visitors followed by month of February with a total of 1,471 visitors and March the least with 752 visitors.

Pacific countries have significant exposure to air and cruise tourism. Shutting airports and a docking ban has brought those activities in these countries to a standstill.

The EIF Executive Secretariat at the WTO says the resumption of air travel and the return of foreign tourists could take considerable time.

They say governments can, in the meantime, retrain workers and promote domestic tourism as people move to travel once lockdown measures are relaxed. And, now may be just the time to plan for more resilient and sustainable tourism.