A watershed moment for the Solomon Islands tourism industry, the destination has surpassed the 25,000 international visitor mark for the first time since numbers were first recorded in 1990.
Figures released by the Solomon Islands National Statistics Office (SINSO) show a total of 25,709 international visitors travelled to the Solomon Islands in 2017, a 10.9 percent increase over the 23,192 recorded for 2016.
Australian visitor arrivals continue to dominate, the 10,161 number recorded accounting for 39.52 percent of all arrivals.
New Zealand (1694 arrivals/6.58 percent of total) and the USA (1622 arrivals/6.30 percent of total) came in respective second and third in terms of most important source markets with Fiji (1651 arrivals/6.26 percent of total) and Papua New Guinea (1487 arrivals/5.70 percent of total) in fourth and fifth position, respectively.
The biggest surprise came from mainland Chinese visitation, albeit off a small base which increased by 47.1 percent to reach 1215 (4.7 percent of total).
Acknowledging what he described as a “very hard worked for result”, Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB) CEO, Josefa ‘Jo’ Tuamoto said the destination still needs to maintain strong focus on growing the leisure market, currently sitting on around 35 percent of overall
“We know our weaknesses and we recognise our challenges and we use these as a strength in terms of our international PR activity and online platform utilisation,” Mr Tuamoto said.
“Our disruptive approach in 2018 will see a shift from our traditional base of wholesale to pursue with vigour the retail space – and we have already seen results of this in 2017 and we will look to enhance this in 2018.
“We are confident, with government and local industry support, this can readily be achieved.
“But we also need to see an increase in the country’s accommodation infrastructure, and particularly in Honiara where we see huge potential from the MICE sector and related business traffic.
“There is a recognised need for more resources and investment to tap into and grow this area of the business.”
New accommodation inventory in 2017 included the Coral Sea Resort & Casino in Honiara and Ginger Beach Resort a short drive from the capital.
Development of the extremely lucrative cruise sector remains a key focal area of the strategy and one which the Ministry of Culture & Tourism and the SIVB have aggressively developed in partnership with Carnival Australia and P&O Cruises.