first_imgOn the opening day of the Solomon Islands’ ‘Invest to Preserve’ forum in Honiara yesterday, Prime Minister the Hon. Manasseh Damukana Sogavare addressed over 200 delegates, including the Minister for Culture & Tourism, the Hon. Bartholomew Parapolo and senior representation from both the tourism and private sector, saying ‘the ball is now in our court’ in respect to tourism and the economic future of the Solomon Islands.“Tourism is a key driver for the economic future of this country and there is a need to find the right package to achieve our objectives and my government is seriously committed to promoting the Solomon Islands tourism sector,” the Prime Minister said.The theme for the two-day event – ‘Invest to Preserve’ – was chosen to reflect the conscious direction the Solomon Islands’ tourism sector needs to pursue to realise potential in the coming years.South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) CEO, Christopher Crocker pointed out that, apart from Fiji which has proven very successful in attracting foreign investment, most South Pacific countries, including the Solomon Islands, were falling well behind.“There is a need in the Solomon Islands for an attractive hotel incentives package promoting construction both of new hotels and renovations of existing properties,” said Crocker.Australia-based RAW Strategy Director, Roger Wellings, suggested the entry into the local market by a major international brand, first-class hotel with a 75 per cent occupancy rate would be the spur for a major step forward for the country’s tourism future.Speakers included the Governor and Chairman of the Central Bank of Solomon Islands, Denton Rarawa, who emphasised the current dearth of foreign investment into the tourism sector – currently around 5 per cent – and a need to address that situation; and Minister for Culture & Tourism Permanent Secretary; Andrew Nihopara, who said the forum presented the opportunity for “us to get it right.”Other Internationally drafted speakers include Pacific Asia Travel Association, Regional Director – Pacific, Chris Flynn; International Finance Corporation (IFC), Pacific Tourism Program Consultant, Becky Last; and from Fiji, iTaukei Affairs, Deputy General Manager Operations, Solomoni Nata, Government commitments on infrastructure development will also be discussed as part of a presentation to be delivered by the Ministry of Infrastructure Department Under Secretary Technical, Jimmy Nuake.The forum continues today.IMAGE: Solomon Islands Prime Minister the Hon. Manasseh Damukana Sogavare has officially opened the ‘Invest to Preserve’ forum at the Heritage Park Hotel in Honiara Solomon Islandstourismlast_img