BY BEN BILUA
One might think the photo below is a hotel somewhere overseas. If you are one of them, you are wrong. The photo is a snapshot of a $12.5 million three storey hotel project that is currently under construction at Gizo, Western Province.
A ground breaking ceremony was held on Saturday last week where Pastor Siope from the United Church gave a formal blessing before the construction kicked off.
Community elders, friends and families were also present to witness the beginning of one of the biggest developments at Gizo.
The man behind the project is Jacob Kwan, a striving local businessman who has established few hotels and homestay in Western Province.
He also owns a Construction Company called “TOOR Building Construction”
I sat down with Kwan this week to learn more about his proposed plan and what the hotel will offer when it’s open.
About the Project
The hotel will accommodate 32 self-contain rooms, a restaurant, a VIP bar, a Sports Wear Shop, a jetty designed for elderly tourists to offload baggage and drop off upon arrival as well as departure.
One interesting thing about that hotel is, it will be the first environment friendly building ever built at Gizo as it will be powered by Solar.
“This project is a joint venture between me and my business partner from France. The design of the building is drawn up by an architect from France.
“Our first objective is to make sure it will provide the necessary services for all age groups especially elderly tourists who wish to visit Gizo.
“Focus of this first objective is to build a user-friendly jetty as existing jetties are not user friendly, especially to elderly passengers especially tourists. I want to build a jetty that is user friendly to all age groups,”
“Not only that, the hotel will be powered by Solar – an advocacy on its own, promoting green energy to reduce greenhouse gases,” Kwan said.
He said the timeline for the completion of the hotel is two and half years depending on weather and availability of resources so as building materials.
Kwan said TOOR Building Construction Company is leading the construction of the building and most of the construction workers are youths from rural communities.
“Currently we are at initial ground work trying to set a strong foundation before going into mapping out structure of the building.
“The area is soft so we are trying to compact the ground before proceeding to create the structure of the building.
“It is a challenging job but we are ambitious to make sure the first phase of the project is achieved,” he said.
12.5 million dollars is a huge investment that will have an impact to the province and also the country as a whole.
Part of the money that will be spent on materials and salaries will contributes to the economy through tax payments and other fees.
Did the Western Province and the National Government help the project financially? Nope! And the least Provincial and National Government should do is provide some leverages such as tax free for some of the building materials.
According to Kwan, the fund is from his own pocket and another portion comes from his business partner.
“This is a huge project and I want the province or the national government to recognise how we as small business owners trying establish infrastructures that one way or the other help achieve the government’s objectives in terms of tourism facilities.
“I for one applied for the Stimulus Package to assist me with this project, but my application was rejected.
“It is saddening that to see people receiving the Stimulus Package doing less or nothing at all,” he said.
“I’m using my own investment to make my dream come true,” Kwan said.
It is Kwan’s best interest to provide an efficient, well-organized and user friendly services. But most of, his vision is to promote healthy environment where both tourists and locals can enjoy while doing their business.
“Our environment best describe our lifestyles. Keeping our environment clean while taking responsibility to clean our surroundings is the best way to start.
“The best investment you’ve ever make is your own health,” Kwan said.
He encourages Gizo residence to maintain cleanliness within Gizo town and at the same time do away with the littering attitude.
Kwan said littering has been one of the major issues and it is time for every individual to be responsible to keep Gizo clean.
“While we promote tourism, we must be responsible to keep our town clean. We must make a stop to our traditional attitude of throwing rubbish from mouth to anywhere on the ground,”
“We must also establish network within our communities to clean the town.
“I must say that the first impression of tourists visiting our town depends on how clean we live and this reinforces the need for us to promote cleanliness in Gizo,” he said.
The hotel will be called Zaru and it will add value not only to the tourism services in Western Province but also the beauty of Gizo.
According to The Coral Triangle, Western Province is among the most popular destinations in the Solomon Islands’ nascent tourism industry and rightly so – visitors here discover a mosaic of jungle drenched islands, fringing coral reefs, lagoons and bone white beaches that are the very embodiment of the South Pacific.
There are a number of dive & adventure resorts scattered throughout the region.
Visitors discovered a mosaic of jungle drenched islands, fringing coral reefs, lagoons and bone white beaches that are the very embodiment of the South Pacific.
There are 11 major islands in total and besides the incredible reefs, there are sea grass beds where dugongs cruise as well as some very special wreck dives as the Solomon Islands saw some major battles during World War II.
The province is also home to the largest uninhabited island in the Pacific – a treasure trove of both terrestrial and marine biodiversity.