Minister of Culture and Tourism

Senior Government officials of Government ministries - Environment, Agriculture, Fisheries, Commerce

Reps of the Diplomatic Corp and Development partners

All Stakeholders

Tourism Industry operators

Ladies and gentlemen

Gudfala afternoon lo ufala everyone. It is an honor to be invited as Guest of Honor and to deliver the keynote address at the ‘Tourism In Focus 2020’ event.

Tourism development is captured under the productive sector in the Democratic Coalition Government for Advancement (“DCGA”) Policy and Translation Document. DCGA recognizes the important role that tourism can play in developing our country. With the decline in logging industry the need and urgency to diversify into other sectors is more pronounced than ever.

When we look at tourism in the wider perspective, the global tourism and travel in 2018 registered a strong growth at around 3.9%. In the previous year (2017), international tourist arrivals grew by a remarkable 7% to reach more than 1,300 million. In 2019, global international tourist arrivals grew by 4% in the first 6 months, compared to the same period in 2018. These are phenomenal growth demonstrated by the industry globally, making it the fastest growing industry today. For many (if not most) Pacific Island Countries, tourism is the pillar industry and many more are consolidating their efforts and resources in this direction.

Solomon Islands have enormous and wonderful opportunities to develop itself into one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the region. Not only that, but the tourism industry has the potential to become the main revenue earner for this country. That said, we must also acknowledge, and more importantly address the impediments that hinders the tourism sector through strategic and collaborative approaches.

We must see the growth of the tourism sector as an important catalyst for the development of various industries and sectors such as infrastructure, accommodation, arts, entertainment, culture, wildlife, agriculture, marine, just to name a few. In this regard, The DCGA Government has placed its commitment to have a SIG-wide approach for the development of the productive sectors including tourism.

As such, we must address the challenge that we face in terms of our infrastructure both at national and provincial levels. DCGA is also serious in facilitating access to investable land for interested investors, and marketing and promoting the destination internationally with very limited resources. There is an urgent need to address these challenges in order to elevate tourism to be a key part in the development plans for economic progress and growth in the short and medium term for the country.

At the macro level, the fiscal challenge of our country is influenced by many factors including low economic growth rate, reprioritization of our own resources where it matters and global trade issues.

As mentioned by the Minister of Finance in his 2020 Budget Speech, the number of policy priority for 2020 is focused on resourcing the productive and resource sectors, improving quality of expenditure through targeted investment and work towards building a strong and sustainable economy. DCGA therefore is looking at boosting sectoral growth (including tourism) through this lens.

In terms of DCGA Government’s commitment to improving and developing infrastructure to support tourism growth, the focus of the 2020 budget on priority projects such as the submarine cable, international airport upgrade, domestic airport upgrades, the re-establishment of DBSI and the 2023 Pacific Games will have direct impact by establishing necessary infrastructures.

Though no direct budgetary support has been extended to tourism, addressing infrastructure improvement and development through the abovementioned projects directly address some of the key development priorities for tourism as stated in the National Tourism Development Strategy. In a sequential approach, investing in the key support infrastructure will support the growth of our productive sectors including tourism.

Attracting the right type and size of investment in the tourism sector is crucial. Over the life span of last Government, land reform has been a priority undertaking. The plans and commitments to ensure investable lands are made available to interested investors remains a priority for the DCGA Government.

The series of investment dialogue that are being undertaken currently by Cabinet Sub-committee on Russell Islands and other key sites of interest on the periphery of Honiara demonstrates this commitment. It is encouraging to note that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is collaborating with the Ministry of Lands to pursue lease of investable lands in Makira, Western and Central Islands Provinces that are being highlighted as preferred tourism development sites by genuinely interested investors.

DCGA will continue to support and encourage this approach in the interest of ensuring that both landowners and investors are safeguarded in their development interests when it comes to land. Opening up of our highly potential sites for tourism development through innovative approaches will create confidence with our interested investors and also open up our vast opportunities for tourism product development in the country.

The marketing and promotion of Solomon Islands internationally (and especially in our key source markets) will continue to be, and remains a priority challenge to address. The challenge is due to limited funding resource allocation amidst many pressing priorities on the Government.

I am impressed by the relentless efforts and commitments by Tourism Solomons to consistently maintain the 9% visitor growth rate per annum over the recent years against all odds. In this regard, let me acknowledge the complementary commitments and efforts by Solomon Airlines, the Ministry of Culture & Tourism, all the tourism private sector operators and our marketing partners overseas.

Maintaining this growth rate is calculated to yield foreign exchange earnings by the tourism sector of around SBD$560 Million on an annual basis through the various revenue streams from visitor spending.

More so, maintaining (or improving on) the 9% visitor arrival growth rate per annum will come at the back of the recently launched Television Campaign in 2019 jointly by Tourism Solomons and Solomon Airlines and the Munda Centric Project, which aims to boost arrivals on the direct Brisbane-to-Munda flight, which commenced in April 2019 and becoming more viable.

At this juncture, may I (on behalf of the Government) acknowledge the support by the New Zealand Government (through the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs) towards the two initiatives already mentioned. DCGA is grateful for the support towards the tourism sector and I look forward to the continuation of such fruitful and meaningful partnership to grow the tourism sector.

It is also worth noting that another key initiative by the tourism sector is the hosting of the ‘Mi SAAVE SOLO’ Tourism Exchange that brings together more than 20 international travel agents and international media to Solomon Islands. This event will be in its third year running in 2020 and I understand that for the 2020 ‘MI SAAVE SOLO’ invitation has been extended to other Pacific island Countries to participate.

Hence, I applaud the Ministry of Culture & Tourism, Tourism Solomons, Solomon Airlines and all stakeholders for this very important initiative that demonstrates a very cost-effective approach to exposing our tourism operators and their respective products to an international audience.

Allow me to acknowledge the support rendered towards ‘MI SAAVE SOLO’ event by the Australian Government initiative of ‘Strongim Bisnis’. Again, on behalf of the Government, I wish to thank the Australian Government for this fruitful and meaningful partnership and look forward for its continuity.

Let me quickly touch on the implications on the growth opportunities for the tourism sector (and development in general) with the diplomatic shift to the People’s Republic of China. The diplomatic shift will bring with it many development and business opportunities for the productive sectors including tourism. We have to push new boundaries by exploring new markets in order to grow our tourist arrivals.

We have to challenge the status quo not only attract but secure new investments in the sector. The Government is managing the engagement process with China (PRC) towards realizing these fruitful outcomes for the growth of tourism through securing relevant and genuine investments, and attracting the relevant segments of this fast-growing outbound tourist market.

It is therefore crucial that development and business opportunities with China (PRC) in the tourism sector are strategically embraced with caution to ensure our resource owners become active participants and our tourism operators are secured in their various tourism business undertakings across the country.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a long-standing political vision of this nation that tourism would one day replace logging as a more sustainable economic driver. To realize this vision, the tourism industry will have to expand more than 5 times its current state to parallel logging receipt let alone to replace it.

In this vein, let me refresh your memory that the theme for the 2018 ‘Tourism In Focus’ was ‘Taking a Disruptive Approach’. In 2019, the theme was ‘Measure What Matters’.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the ‘Tourism In Focus’ 2020 theme is ‘Low Cost – High Impact’ Consequently, the theme of the past two years are relevant to this year’s one.  It is important to note that amongst the steps deemed fundamental to translate the vision of making tourism the key driver of the economy, we need to adopt a disruptive approach to speed up the transition. The disruptive approach includes challenging the status quo (as mentioned earlier in terms of strategically exploring the fastest growing outbound tourist market of China PRC).

Given we are relentlessly striving to strategically tap the global tourist market amidst very steep competition and with limited resources, we must always aspire to ‘measure what matters’ to achieve our vision. 

Measuring what matters could only be effective for the Government, Tourism Solomons, Solomon Airlines, all tourism operators and stakeholders if we embrace and adopt a low cost – high impact approach to expending our limited resources. The application of this theme to your various undertaking might vary but the ultimate outcome will be the same – which is to maximize our yields within our means.

I hereby noted the ongoing commitments and efforts by the Ministry of Culture & Tourism in creating investment incentives for tourism; improving current standards of our accommodation and tour sectors; facilitating land acquisition processes to secure both investor and landowners’ long term interests and engaging with development partners in tourism product development, tourism human resource development and infrastructure improvements.

Furthermore, I hereby note the ‘low cost-high impact’ approach by Tourism Solomons to strategically utilize its resources to effectively position Solomon Islands in the market place and continue to increase our visitor arrivals. While the annual targeted arrival growth rate is 9%, the strategic outcome of the collective efforts by Tourism Solomons and Solomon Airlines (as well as the private sector) is to increase the leisure visitor segment through the marketing programs overseas and with the Brisbane-Munda direct flight.  

I commend these strategic efforts and pledge the Government’s support to grow the sector through incentivizing the private sector and through investments in infrastructure improvements.

Ladies and gentlemen, the purpose of the Tourism in Focus event today is to create the opportunity for the tourism institutions such as the MCT, Solomon Airlines and Tourism Solomons to discuss first-hand with tourism industry stakeholders on addressing key tourism development challenges and share information and plans to strategically address the priority programs in 2020 with focus on adopting ‘low cost – high impact’ approaches.

Ladies and gentlemen, with these remarks, I now officially launch the Tourism in Focus 2020.

May God Bless Solomon Islands from Shore to Shore.

Thank you very much.

comments powered by Disqus