By Gary Hatigeva
THE government has been urged to give strong and adequate backup to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, especially on its programmes to develop the country’s Tourism Industry, which according to experts, if thoroughly supported, can become the next major economic drive, in a long run.
With hopes to boost the country’s Tourism essence in the global and regional market, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism through its Marketing Agency, the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB) is pushing to give new directions and aspects to its brand name.
Formerly known as “So Solomons, So Different”, the Bureau together with the Ministry, after thorough consultations and audit, developed a new brand name, “Solomon Is (is)”, with intentions to incorporate all aspects of the country as part of its marketing strategy.
Giving more insights to this, SIVB’s Marketing Manager, Freda Unusi who was part of the Ministry’s delegation at the Public Accounts Committee last week, explained the whole process involved in the rebranding and its importance.
Mrs Unusi revealed that the rebranding is a marketing strategy, and if people can remember, seven years ago, the country had a brand called “So Solomons, So Different”.
“Then it came to last year, we did a marketing audit, which involved our partners, members, and stakeholders, both local and international where we look at it, this brand, for one, Solomon Islanders are not patriotic and not nationalistic about it even if they don’t know.
“The other thing is, when we go out to the overseas market, when we say we are from Solomon Islands people would ask, whether it was in the Caribbean or somewhere in Africa or elsewhere.
“And that to us was not on, and so we came back and look internally, externally, we saw the collaterals we have, the wholesalers and the overseas market, we saw the staff we have and what we can provide, and then we decided after the audit that we needed rebranding because of these issues,” the Marketing Manager explained.
She said from these experiences and issues highlighted, the Bureau together with its stakeholders thought there was need to rejuvenate, and the need to give more offerings, which on the outset, is the reason why it was important to host festivals and why events as such were also important for the country’s marketing and promotional programmes.
“On our part, what we will do is after people have come to see our cultures then they would say, how do we come back to see them, and in this case, the ones that were outstanding from the events hosted are the Choiseul culture, Guadalcanal culture and the Shell money making, and those are the very prominent ones thus far.
“For this to become part of our products, we’d have to go back to the people who do those things and then package them,” Unusi added.
She further added that those responsible as subjected cultures will decide on the costs that will have to be paid before they can showcase their cultures.
“Then we will take those packages and give them to our overseas wholesalers, who we will be expecting to sell on our behalf.
“The processes will include being featured on their website, it will go on social media, it will also be featured on the traditional advertising and those are what they will be doing for us.
“As for our part, through the new branding, we should have a new website, and we should have our social media platform ready, to receive the incoming demands from around the world.
“To be seen, I think that’s the theme.”
Unusi further explained that the brand is simply a promise about who Solomon Islands is as a people and as a nation, and what we are doing, and what we do have as a unique selling point.
“We wanted to give our customers what they are asking for, as to what they can do in the Solomon Islands,” the excited SIVB official added.
In addition, the Ministry’s Tourism Director, Barney Sivoro confidently suggested that Solomon Islands has very broad based tourism products that are ready to be offered.
The rebranding has so much to connect all aspects of the country’s tourism products and the Bloody Ridge also comes as part of other national culture and tourism projects, which are anticipated to play vital roles in the new branding.
“In terms of state driven ones, last year the ministry started with the Bloody Ridge Project, this is connected to the World War 2 attraction, and we are very grateful that this was initiated by the Prime Minister’s Office who assisted us to acquire a 25 hectares of the Bloody Ridge land and we are hoping to make it as an iconic tourism product for the country.
“And slowly, we are also looking into other areas in terms of environment; we have very important sites like the world heritage site in Rennell and a few others.
“Those are very important assets that we have and as far as the new branding is concerned, they need the state to help the ministry to drive them, so that we have these iconic products to promote to our visitors,” Mr Sivoro added.
The new brand, Solomon Is, was launched mid this year with so much hopes for it together with collaborative efforts, to see the local tourism industry revamped and pushed to newer heights.
The Ministry however needed an additional $3 Million in state funding to see that all its remaining implementation programmes are finalised and experts join members of the Public Accounts Committee to reiterate calls for the government to ensure this is realised.