BY NED GAGAHE
Northwest Guadalcanal beaches are an important tourism asset for the country. Trapped within it are millions of dollars of untapped potentials, which Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MCT) discovered in a survey conducted in February 2023.
MCT Technical Advisor Mr Björn Svensson and MCT Beach Development Coordinator Joan Sautehi presented the findings at a brief presentation with the media yesterday in the presence of Tourism Division Director (acting) Mr. Gregory Auta’a and Principal Tourism Officer (training) Rachel Sibisopere.
MCT led initiative, the Northwest Guadalcanal Beach Development Initiative is part of MCT’s preparation towards the country hosting Pacific Games in November.
MCT has been tasked with improving tourism attraction sites around Honiara in particular the beaches in North West Guadalcanal.
MCT surveyed all beach operations in Northwest Guadalcanal which included in depth interviews with the beach operators.
“41 beach operations were identified, including 6 that also offers accommodation.
“Out of those operations 27% were found to have acceptable facilities. At the majority of beaches facilities are either non-existent or in a very poor state. Domestic tourist spends an estimated $713,600 SBD per month on entrance fees, accommodation and other services.
“This adds up to 8.5 million SBD per year, the equivalent of 530 full time jobs (based on SI minimum salary).
“These beaches are important tourism assets with huge, largely untapped potential. They are also very important to Honiara residents, as one of the few recreational areas available to the public.
“Despite the poor state of the beaches, they are a major contributor to the local economy in Northwest Guadalcanal.
“In conjunction with the site survey, a visitor survey was also conducted. 193 regular beach visitors participated and provided detailed feedback on their experiences.
“By analyzing these surveys MCT was able to identify the key issues that is limiting domestic tourism in the region: Facilities – dilapidated or nonexistent, particularly the lack of toilets and running water.
“Safety – theft, harassment, roadblocks, drunk and disorderly behavior. Environment – poor waste management, lack of infrastructure to manage waste. Services – nonexistent services and low level of hospitality. Access – Rapidly deteriorating roads.” MCT said.
Furthermore, MCT said it will address some of those issues through community awareness, training of operators, funding of facility upgrades and waste management capability.
MCT said the issues of safety and access are overarching issues for the whole region.
MCT is currently mobilizing and coordinating relevant stakeholders to address these issues.
Meanwhile, according to Joan Sautehi the Beach development Initiative is geared towards two important goals.
She said the short-term goal is the Sol23 Pacific Games preparation of local attractions and the long-term goal is to boost economic development of Northwest Guadalcanal region through domestic tourism.