Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB) is confident that the country's tourism industry will weather the challenges of the current economic crisis and looming recession.

With the weak Solomon dollar against the Australian dollar at a rate of 7 to 1 the holiday packages currently offered by the industry are as competitive as the discounted holiday packages offered by neigbouring countries with stronger local currencies.

"Solomon Islands is counting on its niche tourism products and we are optimistic that with less money in their pockets visitors from Australia and New Zealand will chose Solomon Islands for their holiday and enjoy surfing, diving, fishing, honeymooning, WWII sites, and relaxing," said General Manager of the bureau Michael Tokuru.

As for the current state of the Solomon Islands tourism market, Mr Tokuru reiterated that it is too early to make any predictions on visitor arrivals this year.

"Visitor arrivals statistics for the first quarter of 2009 is not yet available," he said.

"Nonetheless, Australia has been the most important source market for holiday travellers to Solomon Islands," he said.

The market recorded an estimated 32.8 per cent growth in 2008 compared with 18.6 percent growth in 2007.

Other important source markets particularly the US grew but at a lower rate while New Zealand, Japan, and UK have recorded growth but at a declining rate over the past two years.

"These growth trends are expected to continue in 2009," the bureau's boss said.

Mr Tokuru said the bureau's plans for 2010 are clearer with a greater focus on promotional campaigns overseas.

"Our target is 20,000 visitors' arrivals in 2010. We are increasing our promotional campaigns in Australia and other source markets in 2010," he said.

The bureau said they are optimistic the opening of the quality Heritage Park Hotel in Honiara in June or July this year, which will provide additional 204 beds, will help meet the target.

The bureau is also banking on the realignment of seat capacity and international flights from Australia between Solomon Airlines and Pacific Blue after the departure of SkyAirWorld.

"Similarly, we are optimistic that the country's achievement in restoring law and order and gaining political stability in recent years will provide the enabling environment for tourism growth in Solomon Islands in 2010 and beyond," Mr Tokuru said.

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