BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
IMPERIAL Travel Service (ITS) management believe that travel and tourism is the alternative sustainable development for Solomon Islands.
Ender Rence the Managing Director of Imperial Travel Service during her remarks to New Zealand’s Craig Hooper under the Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) program working alongside ITS and Guadalcanal Nature Tours for the past months acknowledge the people and government of New Zealand for supporting an organization such as VSA to assist in the local initiative on travel and tourism in Solomon Islands.
“Travel and tourism is one of the sustainable alternative development for Solomon Islands requiring government stakeholders and donor partners so thank you the people and government of New Zealand,” said ITS Managing Director.
“It positively affects the economic growth and development of the country including various industries especially ‘healthy tourism industry’ such as accommodation, transportation, arts, entertainment, wildlife and culture, however, sometimes big challenges affect various resources of the country such as economic, environmental, socio-cultural, and educational.
Imperial Travel Service initiative is the source of jobs to their family, people and revenue to the country. It also has impacts on their living standard and their work partners linked to their small but growing travel business ensuring safety and security.
“Recently VSA supported us with First aid training and bought a first aid kit. We are ready and equipped to look after our visitors anywhere, anytime.
“To attract tourists from abroad, Solomon Islands government need to invest some money in making sure macro businesses are strengthened, tourist destinations are attractive and are safe and secure for tourists seeing that nowadays the risk of criminal activities is increasing too.
“Imperial travel service in its capacity will continue to provide professional services in order to correctly guide our visitors from other countries.
ITS added that in terms of benefit, tourism is one of the economical sources and many lives can depend on, however due to lack of proper infrastructure proper communication and coordination, tourism has not been an easy industry to promote in Solomon Islands.
Ender and her Husband Atkin Rence are the owners operating Imperial Travel Service being a beneficiary of VSA program. Another beneficiary under the VSA program is Mr Stanley Mataniata of Guadalcanal Nature Tours.
Imperial Travel Service is a transport service and its primary product is ‘meet and greet’ at the airport for tourists, doing peace tours as part of promoting the SGD 16, and some logistical support and advices for stakeholders.
“As owners of the Imperial Travel service we are proud of New Zealand for supporting the local initiative in travel and tourism in Solomon Islands,” said Ender.
“I stand here not only representing Imperial Travel Service but taking this opportunity too to also voice some of our common issues that other genuine Solomon Islands macro and small businesses face in the country in which I believe they too deserve better improved services and facilities and special attention to make their business grow and thrive to give back to families, communities and the country.
“To make this happen it takes a village, it takes a community and it takes a nation, in some cases, some external support.
“So I thank New Zealand for enabling our friend Craig Hooper and other Volunteers through VSA in providing professional support, advice and working together for the last 10 months being highly appreciated.
“We could never achieve most of our activities without Craig’s support.
“As a small operation, lack of business know-how, we were handicapped before Craig came.
“An example is the Pana Festival, the first ever festival that was organized in Solomon Islands without any support from any government organization however, our small team with Craig’s support brought together almost 200 tourists to participate at the first ever grassroots level festival. Craig was the one working behind the scene from the production of paper works such as promotional materials, media promotions to psychological support ensuring that our small team were mentally fit to successfully host the festival.
“It was a success. These things Craig will never be forgotten and it will go down in the history of Solomon Islands.
“Unlike our neighbouring pacific countries for example Fiji and Vanuatu, we are slowly developing out travel and tourism industry on which we have to be smart and strong being not easy so we must work hard.
From the inbound travel point of view, ITS is one of the newly established and growing inbound travel and transport operator among the long existing ones in Solomon Islands. How they operated before Mr Craig Hooper went to assist was only learning from experiences and working with existing networks to support their operations.
“With the technical and professional support Craig has rendered to us in the past 10 months is worthwhile, a big boast to improve many of our weaknesses especially when meeting challenges in today’s world of providing standard and professional transport services.
“To curb and handle situations such as the presence of other long existing travel agents poor relationship and partnership with each other, conflict of interest and poor government policies making situation not an easy place to operate services to meet the need of very limited tourist arrivals in Solomon Islands.
“Solomon Islands is one of the beautiful countries of the world. It is full of attractive historical places, natural sites including white beaches, lagoons and small islands in various provinces which make the country a potential tourist destination in the Pacific region.”