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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, June 2) – Solomon Islands is gradually regaining international visitors' confidence as a safe and peaceful tourist destination.

About 120 tourists are expected in Honiara this morning on board the cruise vessel, the National Geographic Endeavour.

While in the capital the passengers, who are mainly from North America, will be visiting World War II battlefield and view carvings and handicrafts at the Cultural Village.

"Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau (SIVB) anticipates that confidence of cruise vessels to return to the islands is a clear indication that Solomon Islands is once again a safe and peaceful country to receive more of international visitors," said Karen Foimua, the Bureau's Marketing Manager.

The National Geographic Endeavour is currently on her first visit to the Solomons, from the 31st of May to the 3rd of June.

The ship visited Lata yesterday and will call into Santa Ana, Honiara, Sand Fly passage in the Central Province and Gizo, Western Province.

The vessel left Port Vila, Vanuatu, as part of its South Pacific voyages before visiting Solomon Islands. Her next country of visit is Papua New Guinea.

Early this month, a cruise vessel, the Pacific Princess, cancelled its scheduled visit to the country due to the political unrest, which resulted in the burning down of the Chinatown district and one of the country's premium hotels, the Pacific Casino Hotel.

The civil unrest has forced international visitors to reroute their business and holiday travels to other Pacific Islands destinations. It has great impact on the tourism industry and the economy.

But with the new confident, Karen confirmed that there will be other planned visits of the Geographic Endeavour this year.

The announcement of the cruise ship's arrival is good news to the local carvers, handicraft producers and local tour guide and organisers.

"At last our expectation has come true," commented few carvers from Western Province who arrive in the capital this week.

The carvers said they heard about the cruise ship's visit from their 'wantoks' and decided to travel to the capital to sell their wooden and stone products.

They urged the Bureau to continue to promote the country overseas to lure more visitors to travel and see the beauty of this Hapi Isle.

"The recent civil unrest should not be viewed as an obstruction to tourism development.

"We need to present the positive image of our country overseas," they told Solomon Star yesterday morning.

June 5, 2006

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