The first ship to visit the Solomon Islands since the government’s decision to drop PCR testing on arrival into the country, the French-flagged M/V Le Soleal is currently making its way through the archipelago.
Arriving in Honiara today (Friday, 21 October), the ship, carrying 114 passengers and 146 crew, has so far visited Gizo, Fanalei Island in Malaita and Roderick Bay in the Sandfly Passage where the ship’s contingent was welcomed with a traditional, fierce welcome from the local people.
Roderick Bay Beach Bungalow owner, Patrick Sara commented that having a cruise ship visit once again was a great boost for the tourism industry.
“It offers a much-needed business to domestic tour and site operators, and presents a business opportunity for local community members including craftsmen, traditional dancers and musicians.
Tourism Solomons Head of Sales and Marketing, Ms. Fiona Teama said the Solomon Islands’ geography coupled with its unique culture offered huge potential for the international cruise market.
Boasting a multi-million-dollar, state of the art cruise terminal in Honiara, local tourism authorities and international cruise companies have also now identified several new ‘destinations within the destination’ which have the ability to manage visits by large cruise vessels.
These include Tulagi in Central Province, Gizo, in Western Province and Marau Sound in eastern Guadalcanal Province where Tavanipupu Island Resort earned world-wide recognition when it hosted the then Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge several years ago.
Recognition of the potential the international cruise market holds for the destination, Ms Teama said the national tourist office has in the past held regular meetings with key cruise operators and cruise associations in Australia prior to the pandemic.
“We know many of our neighbours benefit from international cruise traffic and the positive impact they have on the local economy, from hotels, transportation providers and food and beverage suppliers to local cultural groups and even the craftsmen making souvenirs,” she said.
“It is time for the Solomon Islands to share in these benefits.”
“We know that there are more than 1 million Australians and New Zealanders enjoying cruises predominantly in South Pacific waters every year.
“If we were to attract just a small percentage of this key visitor arrival source, the benefits for our tourism industry would be exponential.”
From Honiara, M/V Le Soleal will sail to Buka in Bougainville and Rabaul in Papua New Guinea’s East New Britain Province before looping back to Solomon Islands on 09 November when she is scheduled to revisit to Roderick Bay.