SYDNEY, June 28 (Xinhua) -- The Solomon Islands national airline will reintroduce international flights to Australia, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Fiji from August along with connections to partner airlines from New Zealand, Asia and the United States as the South Pacific island country reopens in gradual recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Solomon Airlines chief executive Brett Gebers said on Monday that the new international schedules would include flight times that enable same-day connections at least twice weekly to and from major international markets, such as the flight between Brisbane, capital of Australia's Queensland state, and the Solomon Islands' capital of Honiara.
Gebers said the resumption of flights would mean the "gradual recovery of inbound tourism, more opportunities for international air freight, and that our optimism about the future of air travel in our region has proved well-founded".
"The past two years and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have been an incredibly long and testing journey, and we say 'tagio tumas' (traditional Melanesian Pidgin expression for welcoming visitors) to everyone who has supported us, for your patience and perseverance, especially our hardworking staff who made sacrifices."
"Our immediate priority now is to re-establish our core Pacific Islands network and ensure convenient connections from global markets especially New Zealand, Asia, the U.S. and Europe via Brisbane and Fiji," said Gebers.
The Solomon Islands will reopen its international borders to fully vaccinated visitors on Friday, although mandatory quarantine requirements will continue, so overseas travellers will still need to stay in "tourism bubble" hotels in Honiara upon arrival. The quarantine time period, however, will drop from six days to three if they have a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) result.
Tourism Solomons head of Corporate Services Dagnal Dereveke said the comparative return to normalcy was "wonderful news" with the local tourism industry "more than ready to start welcoming international visitors".
"More than 80 percent of business operators, hoteliers and resorts have undergone 'tourism minimum standards extra-care' training and implemented COVID-safe protocols in preparation for the border reopening," he said. ■