Radio New Zealand reported last week that the head of the Kiribati tourism authority believed being added to China’s list of approved destinations would be a game-changer.
The announcement came after the Kiribati president Taneti Maamau visited Beijing and signed up to China’s ‘Belt and Road Initiative.
The head of the authority, Petero Manufolau, said the new status paved the way for marketing Kiribati and lent more weight to the country’s discussions with airlines and potential investors.
But Mr Manufolau said the real challenge in dealing with a market the size of China was being realistic about what kind of tourism it could sustain.
“We are a unique small niche-market driven destination and for a market like China we won’t be going for the masses.”
“So, what we are looking at is an opportunity to identify the type of market that we think will be sustainable for us in the long-term out of China, and once we have identified that we can then develop products here on the ground to sort of cater to the very niche driven market,” he said.”
I understand the question of Chinese tourists visiting the Solomon Islands was on the agenda when the Prime Minister visiting Beijing for talks and I guess, like Kiribati, the question of marketing and catering for an influx of Chinese visitors is much in mind.
In terms of catering and sustainability for Chinese tourists, the accommodation requirements will need to be given priority, given a report of more than 700 rooms currently short of requirements to see a modest improvement in visitor numbers.
Ahead of any such influx of visitors from China it would be advantageous for Solomon Islanders interested in the hospitality industry to begin work training and gain experience in food and beverage duties.
Courses leading to recognition and diplomas in food and beverage are regularly provided in technical colleges across Australia and it would be ideal, if practical, skilled Australian volunteers could be assigned to the Solomon Islands to help with the requisite skills training for local would-be food and beverage employees.
Perhaps, the Solomon Islands government could give some consideration to such an idea, if not already under consideration.