BY ALEX DADAMU
SITUATED in the province considered by many to be the Tourism Mecca in the Solomon Islands, Tetepare Eco – Lodge are eagerly waiting for the COVID Storm to Pass.
The onslaught of the COVID-19 health pandemic has greatly negatively impacted the Aviation and the Tourism Sector and according to statistics from ‘Tourism Solomons,’ last year alone, due to international border closure, the country has lost more than $350million in revenue from overseas visitors.
The COVID-19 negative impacts has no doubt seriously affected Tetepare Eco – Lodge whom in an recent interview with Tourism Media Solomon Islands, expressed their hope that travel restrictions will be relaxed as soon as the whole world gets vaccinated.
According to Mrs. Zeno Entrikin-Hughes, Bookings Agent for the Eco-Lodge establishment, they are currently part of the ‘Iumi Tugeda holiday package’.
“We hope that the ‘holiday package’ initiative will encourage the domestic market to travel more within the country to support the county’s tourism sector. Because of Covid19 we’ve come to realize how important our domestic market is and that we need to cater for it.
“Before Covid-19 we didn’t worry too much about the domestic market as we had international tourist and visitors coming into the country, so in a way it’s good that now we’ve been forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to focus on our domestic market,” Hughes said.
Mrs. Hughes revealed that Compared to pre-COVID years, 2020 was basically the worst year, with Tetepare Eco-Lodge’s biggest challenge was surviving with little to no income at all.
“When the ecolodge gets no tourists, we get no income which means the business will either really struggle to survive or cease to exist. “Surviving with hardly any income is the biggest challenge right now.
“The eco-lodge also plays an important role in supporting Tetepare’s conservation activities when funding has been reduced as it keeps the island’s vision of conservation and sustainable use alive.
“We are just so thankful for whatever business we can get these days, hopefully this year will be better for us as the domestic market becomes more accustomed to traveling within the country for their holidays,” the Tetepare Eco-Lodge Booking Agent said.
In the meantime, she said through these COVID-19 trying times, Tetepare Ecolodge is lucky to have such dedicated staff who have managed to keep things going.
“…Also not forgetting the Tetepare conservation rangers, they all deserve recognition. Even with scarce guest bookings, the staff turn up and take great care of the guests, show them a great time, prepare awesome local based meals and then wait for the next booking,” Mrs. Hughes said.
She indicated their intention try their best to remain in operation so that when the borders reopen they will be prepared to receive international tourists same as before.
“Dealing with domestic tourism does not come without challenges though, we have had a case when guests refused to pay for certain activities that they decided should have been free. Fuel is not free, staff time is not free, please if you decide to come to Tetepare do pay for the non-free activities.
“The money made supports the ecolodge and also the conservation program on Tetepare Island,” Mrs. Hughes said.
Tetepare is the largest uninhabited island in the south pacific and has been identified as an area with high biodiversity and conservation values. It has received awards for its conservation efforts internationally, thereby elevating the status of Solomon Islands globally.
“We need more locals to visit and support our conservation efforts. Every dollar goes to a good cause and you can contribute to the conservation of the largest uninhabited island in the South Pacific when you visit us.
“Come enjoy good food and hospitality with nature on Tetepare Island,” Mrs. Entrikin-Hughes urged.
Tetepare Eco-Lodge has a Facebook page and a Website which interested individuals can accessed at Facebook: @tetepareecolodge and Website: Tetepare.org.