Recognition of the potential the international cruise market holds for the Solomon Islands, the Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA) will address government, local tourism officials and operators attending the 2014 National Tourism Forum.

SIPA interim CEO, Jane Waetara said she was extremely keen to impress the more than 150 delegates attending the 29 August event with the benefits the international cruise market can have for the Solomon Islands.

“SIPA has drawn up major plans to modernise the Honiara wharf in order to attract and persuade large passenger shipping lines to include the Solomon Islands as part of their South Pacific cruise programs,” Ms Waetara said.

“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.

“It is time for the Solomon Islands to share in these benefits.”

Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau CEO, Josefa ‘Jo’ Tuamoto said the SIPA approach and its plan to develop the Honiara wharf was extremely timely.

“The international cruise market is growing at a rate of knots with global passenger numbers estimated at 21.3 million in 2013,” he said.

“2014 forecasts alone are expected to reach 21.7 million passengers with 55 per cent of these emanating from a North American market hungry for new international cruise destinations.

“We know that there are close on 800,000 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.”

The last cruise vessel of size to call into the Solomon Islands was the MS Amsterdam carrying 917 passengers in November last year.

A more regular visitor, the M/S Paul Gauguin last visited in June with a full compliment of 330 passengers.