The uncertainty about how and when the Solomon Islands will reopen to international tourists is causing great concern about the future of dive operators, and tourism in general.
In a statement, the President of the Dive Operators Solomon Islands, Grant Kelly said the Solomon Islands Government has to be highly commended for its handling of the COVID crisis and they fully appreciate and support the closing of borders until acceptable levels of vaccination are achieved, both in the Solomons and also in other major tourism markets such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
But it said a recent statement issued by the SIG is that a vaccination target level of 90% is required.
The target has members of DOSI worried.
“Whilst a highly justifiable target this seems a long way off. My members are getting the definite impression 90% of the population are not going to agree to get vaccinated, so we are not sure where this is going. It is hard to see how the border closure issue ends unless there is a shift in peoples’ attitudes or in government policy, neither of which seems likely right now.
Mr Kelly said the question DOSI members would like answered is ‘What is the plan if people won’t get vaccinated?’
“I am not sure how many DOSI members are going to survive another year of reschedules and border closures, especially when the rest of the world like Australia and Fiji open up.
The dive industry has been the backbone of the tourism industry in the Solomon Islands and is based on bringing in international divers and subsequently foreign capital to the Solomon Islands economy.
“It is the best tourism prospect for strong trading once borders reopen. But dive operators have had no income or very minor income since March 2020 and very minimal ESP support.
“Frankly I am amazed that so many operators have survived to this point in time as overheads and maintenance require ongoing monetary input. I know everyone is struggling right now and with a 90% vaccination target even reopening in late 2022 may be optimistic expectation,” Mr Kelly added.
However, DOSI states that in no way that it wants to undermine the resolution of the SIG’s handling of the COVID situation but wants some reassurance that they will be flexible as the situation progresses and bear in mind the plight of dive operators, and the tourism sector in general.
By Grant Kelly The President of Dive Operators Solomon Island (DOSI)