By IAN M.KAUKUI
CHALLENGES the country’s tourism operators face are numerous and varied.
Among them is irregular and unreliable air service.
Mereoni Adimaisau manages the iconic Tavanipupu Island Resort, located in the Marau Sound, east of Guadalcanal.
A Fijian of 40 years experiences managing resorts in Fiji, Cook Islands and Tahiti, Adimaisau shared real challenges she had encountered while preparing to meet and greet her international guests.
She was speaking to a group of journalists attending a five-day workshop on the “Economics of Tourism” in Honiara this week.
On one occasion, she said a Swedish couple who booked their honey-moon at Tavanipupu could not make it to the resort because the local airline operator failed to get them to Marau Airfield.
“In fact the couple were already on the airline flight that was scheduled to fly to Parasi, Gwaunaru’u and then on to Marau,” Adimaisau said.
“They could have easily dropped the couple off at Marau before flying on to Parasi,” she added.
“But this was not so.
“By the time it reached Gwaunaru’u and preparing to head back to Marau, the weather changed.
“As a result, the plane could not land at Marau. The couple has to return to Honiara.
“They cancelled their booking with us, and Tavanipupu lost big time.”
Adimaisau said not only that, understanding the importance of tourism in our communities is also a challenge when trying to promote tourism development.
However, she said Tavanipupu is working closely with the community and the relationship with their neighbours has been improving.
She said at first, their neighbouring tourism operators who have operated home stays and others were not willing to work together but want the government to support them individually.
“I continue to explain to them the importance of collaboration and now we have strengthened that relationships and shared our guests so we all can be satisfied.
“If Tavanipupu has secured seven nights for our guests, we will make sure two of the nights will be spent at our local home stay so the money can also reached down to our local people,” she said.
Chief Executive Officer of the Tourism Solomons, Josefa Tuamoto said in terms of marketing, it is exciting as every destination is not the same.
“When it comes to destinations, it’s exciting because not every destination is the same and it comes with a lot of responsibilities in whatever we do,” he said
Tuamoto said they are trying to increase the number of tourists coming into the country but also face challenges with the required facilities under the Minimum Standard requirement.
He said currently only 300 plus beds out of more than a 1,000 meet the Minimum Standards requirements and it is a challenge to increase the number.
A visit to Barana Nature Park & Heritage Conservation behind the hills of east Honiara also heard some interesting comments from the local operators who call themselves rangers.
One of the rangers Samson Hohosi said they are working hard to educate their people to fully understand the importance of preserving their Nature Park not for the purpose of tourism only but for sustainable land use that can benefit their future generations.
He said logging is also one problem that contributes to the mindset problem where majority of their tribes outside of Barana were already affected.
Vice Chair of the Barana Nature Park and Heritage Conservation Peter Tabiru said they are now looking forward to change the mindset of their people by encouraging sustainable development such as planting
of Kava, Noni, and Ginger as part of promoting land management just outside of what they are offering such as bird watching, waterfall visits, caving, and lookout.
Meanwhile, National Consultant at the PMO, Joyce Konofilia said in terms of tourism, the government is trying to do things differently and want more to be done in the tourism sector.
Konofilia said with logging gradually phasing out, the government is looking at tourism as one of the sectors to replace it.
But she said more needs to be done to boost the industry. Konofilia said currently, the government is working with stakeholders to ensure more operators meet the minimum standard for accommodation.
“The government expects that any funding allocation must be utilized for its intended purpose so that what it expects is seen on the ground in terms of tourism development,” she said.
This article was produced from the “Economics of Tourism” training for journalists in Honiara funded by the Pacific Media Assistance Scheme (PACMAS) in partnership with Strongim Bisnis.