Although it wasn’t her first career choice, Rebecca Smiley has spent more than 14 years working in the country’s tourism industry — and she loves it.
Mrs Smiley, 40, is from Choiseul Province and the Shortland Islands in Western Province, and she started working at the King Solomon Hotel in Honiara in 2003.
A year later, she transferred to a smaller branch of the King Solomon, the Gizo Hotel, in Gizo, Western Province.
Now, she manages the hotel.
SIBC Online spoke to her about her experience, which she said was not without its challenges.
“When I graduated and started working, I never had any experience in hospitality,” Mrs Smiley said. “I had a degree in commerce and tourism management, but within the hotel itself was more about hospitality.”
So she learned on the job, through trainings and via the internet.
Mrs Smiley said, as a woman, looking after a large staff was another challenge.
At one point, she was in charge of 78 employees.
“With our society, it is difficult for some to take that a woman is superior to them,” she said. “I held back sometimes because it has to do with our culture. Even today I still face that challenge.”
She said because tourism is a new industry in Solomon Islands, most people lack theoretical knowledge about it. That made training employees difficult, she said.
But Mrs Smiley said the country’s tourism sector is growing, albeit slowly.
As she sees it, tourism operators need to consider outdoor activities and attractions for tourists.
“Most operators focus more on providing accommodation,” she said. “When tourists come they don’t want to stay in their room, they want to see things and experience our culture.”
Mrs Smiley, whose master’s degree in commerce and tourism management is from Lincoln University in New Zealand, said she hopes to continue her studies.
“But if I can’t, I want to share my knowledge with the rural communities in the Western Province,” she said. “A lot of them don’t realise the potential they have, and I want to help them.”
By Kikiva Tuni