Dear Editor – The bid to increase the number of overseas visitors implies extra budgetary support and better Infrastructure, including regular repairs to provincial airstrips.
The Solomon Islands Government is pushing to attract more overseas visitors this year according to a recent article in the Solomon Star newspaper from which I quote a few paragraphs.
“The SI Government is targeting a 9% growth of international visitor arrivals this year.
“Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela made the statement during the 2018 Tourism in Focus, held at the Honiara Mendana Hotel, Tuesday.
“The event gathered stakeholders and tourism operators in the country to discuss and come up with new innovative ideas and approaches that will drive the positive changes in the industry.
“Houenipwela said that in order to realize and achieve the target, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB) needed to cooperate and support stakeholders to build a momentum with strategic and clinical approaches to its activities.
“In September 2017, the global tourism performance registered a strong growth at 6.9% slightly more than double the performance at the same period in 2017.
“Having seen the increase in 2017, I have no doubts that 2018 will be the year to push new boundaries and to challenge the status quo so that visitor arrivals can grow in leaps and bounds to drive new investments to our humble destinations,” the prime minister said.”
Increasing visitor arrivals and encouraging them to stay and tour the country will need extra budget support and better infrastructure including repairs and upgrading to many of the smaller provincial airstrips.
The call for more visitors coincided with a statement to the local media last week by Solomon Airlines Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Brett Gebers, who sought to clarify why the reschedule of many of its domestic flights in the recent past was because of unserviceable equipment largely due in part in obtaining spare parts because of eroded runway surfaces due to bad weather and heavy rain.
Mr.Gebers reportedly said, “Our domestic aircraft operate in harsh conditions caused primarily by the state of the runways that we operate to.”
He added that rough surfaces of domestic runways cause significant vibration during landing and take-off phases which implied deterioration in certain parts of the aircraft and often this leads to premature failure of components.
“The failure of these components results in schedule disruptions as we must make appropriate repairs on aircraft. We are not responsible for maintaining the runway surfaces throughout the Solomon Islands.”
Importantly, Mr. Gebers said, “because of ongoing high costs for maintenance and cancelled or rescheduled fights, Solomon Airlines have offered to pay, and carry out required runway rehabilitation work on many occasions. But each time they were denied approval to do the required work.”
Gebers stressed that their (Solomon Airlines) customers, passengers and crew are of paramount importance and they must come first in their services.
By Frank Short