By SAMSON SADE
Solomon Island is not just Honiara.
Out there in the provinces that constitute the Solomon, are untapped attractions and resources that their economic benefits are yet to be realized.
Difficulties in enjoying these attractions and resources are partly attributed to remoteness and the lack and poor level of infrastructure.
The need for transportation infrastructure is far greater because of the geographical scattered-ness of the Islands.
Poor road conditions, lack of jetties and airports exacerbated and denied economic contributions from a huge portion of resources owners to the national coffers.
Successive governments have failed to deliver on the many promises to the rural people either deliberately, corruption marred or through mere oversight.
This has led to the concentration of developments in a few urban centers leaving the rural populace spectators amidst mountains of economically viable resources.
However, for the people of Lau and Mbaelelea, Baegu Asifola and North Malaita Constituencies this has changed for the better.
The completion of Binaelu Airport on Manaoba in the Lau and Mbaelelea Constituency of Malaita Province is a government initiative aiming at rural economic participation.
Since it received its first domestic flight early this year, the airport is bringing about phenomenal changes to the rural economic landscape and in so doing gives the rural populace the opportunity to partake in economic development.
Not only wantok holiday-makers are benefiting from the airport, but more imperatively, domestic and international travellers and tourists who wished to see and experience the uniqueness of the people – their cultures, traditions and the many attractions such as surfing and snorkeling sites and beaches that define the people of Lau and its immediate hinterlands.
The direct and the spinoff economic, social and cultural benefits and opportunities generated by the airport are overwhelming.
The three constituencies have a lot to offer and the establishment of the airport is a gateway to enjoying these attractions and resources.
Situated on a duly registered land with the Lau Lagoon a glance away, the airport poises significant economic potential as far reaching as Baegu Asifola in the East and North Malaita Constituencies in the North.
The three constituencies have huge economical potential waiting to be unleashed, most notably in the tourism sector.
The flight from Henderson Airport takes approximately 35 minutes direct at a one-way airfare of $1,090.
Whilst airborne, one would have the opportunity of seeing the famous Lau Lagoon with its artificial islands stretching in the serenity of the shallow crystal waters below, an attraction to behold.On a fine day, one could even see the many canoes that cress-crossed amongst OBMs which mostly navigated the deeper passage ways that snaked through the lagoon.
With the government’s policy of promoting tourism, this development could not come at a better time.
Tourism is a global phenomenon and is growing every year. Tourism can have beneficial impacts on the rural as well as the national economy.
Besides economic benefits, tourism has the ability to create positive social and cultural outcomes and supports rural communities through the improvement of utilities and services, establishment and expansion of infrastructure, increase of standard of living, redistribution of wealth and generation of employment.
Not only that, tourism also helps to sustain local cultures by reinforcing cultural identity, encouraging traditions and help foster the preservation of cultures from the forces of modernity.It is these advantages that make tourism a viable venture for a conservative society like Lau.
Tourism is not a new concept for the people of Lau.
Though not properly organized, in the late 70s and early 80s, Piere Maranda’s family (an anthropologist from Canada) had spent well over 15 years on the artificial island of Foueda.
So closed was his relationship to elites of Foueda that he could speak Lau so fluently and even became a custom priest by merit of his know how, or the German tourists who paid visits to New Kwaloai in the 80s on a quarterly basis to experience rural life for themselves.
Although the people had little knowledge then of what took to be tourist-needs and expectations, the experience had given them the taste of tourism.
Now, tourism is a household name and the Lau people are knowledgeable and well equipped to embrace itin all its glory in their midst.
The people of this region are hard-working and business-minded and as soon as an opportunity presents itself, they grab it with both hands to their own advantages.
The operation of the airport has seen these dreams and aspirations materialized and the region’s economic potential is slowly unleashed.
In so doing, it is hoped that the rural economy, social and cultural landscape of the region transformed for the better and Lau’s true economic potential realized.