By Gary Hatigeva
THE Solomon Islands government through the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is hopeful to boost the country’s tourism cruise program with the likely inclusion of one of Fiji’s biggest cruise operators, Captain Cook, as works are closing in on an initiative to see plans become realized.
Following a week of thorough talks and visits to tourism stakeholders in the Asian region, on their way home, the Tourism Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Andrew Nihopara who was accompanied by the Tourism Director, Barney Sivoro, stopped in Fiji where they met with top officials from the Captain Cook Cruise operators as follow ups on establishment proposals.
According to the Permanent Secretary during an interviewed yesterday, explained that meetings to secure a deal with the group was something, which was done last year, and a follow up meeting with the company indicated that things are looking positive.
Nihopara said getting the operator into the country’s tourism domestic market was one of the ministry’s priority programs through its strategic development plans, and that earlier discussions have already been held with the group on it.
He said the recent stop over visit was to discuss some key areas needed to be looked into, as well as reiterating the country’s keen anticipation to have the operator include Solomon Islands in its cruise programs.
He added that after last week’s meeting, it is clear that the proposal is going to happen, but reminded that it is not something that will just take place overnight.
“It takes time, and so after our meeting in Nadi with the group, the onus is now on us from this end, that means a close collaborative program and approach is needed by the ministry with its stakeholders.
“Based on the outcomes from the recent dialogue in Fiji, we are expected to coordinate meetings with our local tourism stakeholders, and that should happen soon, getting ourselves prepared to participate in the new and exciting initiative.
“We will however, be expecting those from the Captain Cook Cruise Company to be here in Solomon Islands around August to see our onshore products and if they are satisfied, then we will have a deal.
“Therefore, working together to achieve this is very important, to see that we are able to pull them in, because it will be a big boost to our tourism industry, especially when we include an operator like the Captain Cook who’s already got its own market basis,” Nihopara explained.
He further added that whatever programs including marketing and promotions for the local destinations will be vital from Solomon’s participation in the cruise program if it is extended to our shores, and this will be highly emphasized in the domestic collaboration as potential destinations are realized.
“After their visit around the said period, if satisfied, some more administrative works will be involved, which include SIMSA and other relevant authorities, and so we might be looking at around April or just around the middle of 2019, for this initiative to be realized,” the excited PS added.