COVID-19-free Solomon Islands wants to be part of ‘South Pacific travel bubble’
Virus-free Solomon Islands pushes for ‘Pacific bubble’ inclusion
Tourism Solomons CEO, Josefa ‘Jo’ Tuamoto has called on the Australian and New Zealand governments to ask for their active consideration in allowing the COVID-19-free Solomon Islands to be included in a potential ‘South Pacific travel bubble’ when international travel restrictions are finally lifted.
Praising the Solomon Islands’ government for the proactive steps it has taken since early March to close its borders to international travel and in the process keep the country 100 per cent free of any COVID-19 infection, CEO Tuamoto said Australian and New Zealand travelers could be assured of their safety when visiting the destination.
Australian and New Zealand travelers, he said, form the bulk of the country’s international visitor intake and allowing the destination to be included in the bubble would have a major impact in resetting the Solomon Islands economy which relies heavily on tourism as one of its key sources of foreign exchange earnings.
“That to one side we are confident, along with the extremely strict control measures we have had in place, and continue to have in place, which have prevented COVID-19 from entering the country, we are in very strong position to be considered one of the safest travel destinations for Australians and New Zealanders.”
“Given the fact that tourism represents a key economic driver, it is vital we reset the sector in the shortest possible time.
“This really is the best way Australia and New Zealand can help us get back on our feet.”
Tuamoto said it was ironic that visitor arrival statistics for January 2020 had proven one of the destination’s best starts to a year on record.
“We kicked off the year with a very healthy 6.11 per cent increase over the same period in 2019, traditionally our strongest month – three months on and we are seeing an almost minus 70 per cent deficit in March.”
Looking at the bigger South Pacific picture, Tuamoto said he was hopeful the very low instance of COVID-19 infections in New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and Tahiti combined – 88 cases and zero deaths – could point towards the resumption of inter-Pacific island travel in short time.
If this was to happen before the Australian and New Zealand governments announce their decision, he said, it could well prove the catalyst for speeding things along.