By IAN M.KAUKUI
IF the government wanted to see real changes in the Solomon Islands tourism sector, it should have doubled the SBD$5 million budget for the 2020 financial year.
Tourism Solomons chief executive officer Josefa Tuamoto made the statement in a short press conference at the recent ‘Tourism in Focus’ Forum in Honiara last Friday.
“It’s not enough for us since we have quite a lot of programs so we would love to have that doubled,” he said.
He said when they heard the government stated their commitment towards tourism; they are hoping to see its commitment by placing around $100 million for a five year period or something like that.
“But at the moment, like every year we’ll get the same $5 million allocation from our marketing site, we would love to get more funding,” he said.
Tuamoto said there are lots of people coming to Honiara doing nothing and with the ‘tourism in focus’, they would like to create investment opportunities in the regions for them to enjoy and avoid them coming to Honiara.
“With that, Munda has provided a perfect opportunity as a start. We can then spread it to Malaita and to all the provinces with hotels and whatever they want instead of just allowing Honiara to be over crowded which will create a lot of negative social issues,” he said.
Solomon Star also understands that in his budget debate last year, Leader of Opposition Matthew Wale said the tourism industry will continue to fall behind if government funding towards the sector continues to decrease.
The government in its seriousness to slowly rid of the logging industry look at the tourism sector as one of the country’s main sources of growth yet it did not show any detail of it in the 2020 national budget.
It’s understood that actual expenditure in tourism has declined since 2015.
Wale said that most of this decrease has been in the ministry’s development budget and 2020 development budget is set at $6.3m, down from $7.8m in 2019.
“The allocations to this ministry are so small and the House must question the government’s seriousness in pursuing strategic opportunities in the sector,” he added.
He further questioned the government on how it is going to create sources of growth in the sector with declining investments
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in his keynote speech at the ‘2020 Tourism in Focus’ last Friday said though no direct budgetary support has been extended to tourism, addressing infrastructure improvement and development will directly address some of the key development priorities for tourism as per the National Tourism Development Strategy.
“In a sequential approach, investing in the key support infrastructure will support the growth of our productive sectors including tourism,” he said.
He said attracting the right type and size of investment in the tourism sector is crucial.
“Over the life span of last government, land reform has been a priority undertaking. The plans and commitments to ensure investable lands are made available to interested investors remains a priority for the DCGA Government,” he said.
Sogavare said as mentioned by the minister of Finance in his 2020 budget speech, the number of policy priority for 2020 is focused on resourcing the productive and resource sectors, improving quality of expenditure through targeted investment and work towards building a strong and sustainable economy.
He said DCGA therefore is looking at boosting sectoral growth (including tourism) through this lens.