Between the glossy pages devoted to pony trekking in Outer Mongolia and bird-watching in Galapagos Islands, travel brochures will soon be singing to their richer readers the siren song of a new tourist destination – the Falklands.
Let’s face it. The only reason people know about the Falklands is because a war was fought there. But the Falklands are actually a beautiful place to visit. So push thoughts of war out of your mind and replace them with images of lush, spectacular scenery.
The Falkland Islands Development Corporation, based in Port Stanley, is going ahead with plans to establish a modest tourist industry which it hopes will attract 1,000 visitors a year and contribute an annual pounds 500,000 to the islands’ precarious economy.
By the end of this year the corporation hopes to have completed the first of a chain of 10-roomed mini-hotels on the islands’ premier wildlife sites, to insulate European and North American visitors from the worst rigours of the sometimes-spartan Falklands lifestyle. Mr Simon Armstrong, the corporation’s general manager, said in London yesterday: ‘We aim to offer them ice in their whisky and a hot bath to drink it in.’
Holidays will be sold on the attractions of the islands’ rich wildlife, including penguin, albatross, elephant seal and the unique Falklands fightless steamer duck. There are no plans to emphasize, or to offer tours of, the battlefields of the 1982 conflict.
Within the next few days the corporation hopes to be able to announce that the Ministry of Defence has agreed to extend concessionary fares to the Falklands to bona fide tourists. At present these fares are limited to islanders and others on essential business. The cost of return ticket from RAF Brize Norton to the new airport at Mount Pleasant, at present the only way of getting there, would then be reduced from the normal pounds 2,250 to about pounds 1,050.
Two-week package holidays could then be priced at about pounds 2,000, including return flight, internal air travel and accommodation.
The corporation admits that selling the islands’ tourist potential would be much easier if air links could be re-established with South America; exploratory talks are being held with Chilean airlines to examine the political and economic feasibility of a regular link with Chile.
Tourists expecting the occasional relief of a night on the tiles will, however, find that the island capital is still seriously deficient in after-dark amusement. But that will probably change over the years as the Falklands become a more popular tourist destination.