In one short week in Solomon Islands, I snorkelled remarkably fish-rich reefs, visited a rustic, fascinating and deserted-but-for-me war museum, meandered through food markets, ate leaves smothered in ngali nuts straight from the fire on an atoll beach, talked to local artists about their work, and spent hours staring out to sea watching the colour of the water change and squalls race across the horizon.
I was one of just 30,000 or so people who visited Solomon Islands last year. In terms of holiday visitors, the Solomon Islands receives less than one percent of the Pacific market share.
The country aims to do better.
The ambitious 2015-2019 National Tourism Development Strategy aimed to see tourism generate over SI$700 million for the economy (or 7 percent of national GDP), increase the number of those employed in the workforce through tourism to 30,000 and increase the total number of arrivals to 32,500 (equating to 9.2 percent growth per annum) amongst other metrics. The final analysis is not yet in, but there is a sense there is still a way to go. Most of the country’s visitors come from Australia, with smaller numbers coming from Asia, New Zealand, the US, Papua New Guinea, and, like me, from other Pacific Island nations.