Letter to the Editor from Human Rights Protection Party leader, Hon Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi. Published below in verbatim.
“The Best Kept Secret”
Two retiring Americans wanted to spend the rest of their remaining days on earth in some quiet Island in the Pacific in a small motel they proposed to invest in.
They wrote to all the Island Governments in the Pacific for support and advice on their proposal.
Samoa was the only country that did not respond.
So, they came to Samoa.
The Chief Executive Officer of our Samoa Tourism Authority explained;
“Samoa is the best kept secret in the Pacific, your project will render that a secret no more.”
The Tourism industry remains the greatest foreign exchange earner for Samoa.
We must therefore prioritise activities that will boost our share of the tourism market in our part of the World.
We have upgraded and rebuilt the Faleolo International Airport for increased international inbound and outbound flights, improved hotels and visitor support services and developed better access to more visitor attractions and scenic sights.
So much so that Samoa became an increasingly popular destination for visitors attending International Conventions and Sports Competitions at our all purpose-built Sports Complex.
This was witnessed in the hosting by Samoa of the United Nations Small Islands Developing States meeting of 4500 delegates in 2014, and the Commonwealth Youth Sports in 2012.
And now, Samoa is preparing to host two very important meetings in the near future.
These are the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2024 and the proposed signing Ceremony of another 20 years of ACP-EU Cooperation Agreement, already approved to be held in Samoa and to be known as the Samoa Agreement
Samoa has done much until now to continue attracting more visitors to Samoa.
Two programs deserve special mention and these are the National Beautification Programme for the capital, Apia and villages nationwide, and the popular annual Teuila Festival.
Before the beautification program started in 1991, our capital city was an eyesore.
Ugly stalls lined up our main streets of Apia, with stone walls around the Town clock and other road frontages as protection against dangerous driving.
The city sea walls and neglected spaces near the Vaisigano Bridge opposite Aggie Greys Hotel and the inward side of the Tufuiopa Cemetery were popular rubbish dumps.
The beautification project covered the Apia city and villages through-out Samoa using the traditional pride of the Samoans to beautify their villages, a traditional role of the village women’s committees.
The project also gave rise to the building of the Savalalo flea market and the Fugalei Agriculture Market, to provide a new cadre of business minded Samoans with ready-made spaces to trade from.
The second project, the now the annual Teuila Festival, was established following a regional meeting in 1991 that I attended in Fiji with then Financial Secretary Afoa Kolone Vaai.
Fiji at the time were celebrating their annual Hibiscus Festival.
Upon our return, a recommendation for an annual Tourism Festival, similar to the Fijian Hibiscus Festival, was approved by Cabinet.
Our Festival was strictly Tourism based comprising traditional Samoan dances, songs, hymns competitions which greatly improved church music, and traditional sports.
The Festivals was named after the teuila flower for its beauty and durability, which Government then chose as the National Flower.
Fiji’s Festivals is charity based. It was also purposely staged in the first week of September every year to raise visitors travel during this traditionally low period of travel.
The charity-based Festivals were often marred by conflicting decisions of pageant winners changing several times after closing.
Several years later a critic wrote in the Fiji Papers that they should copy the Samoa Teuila Festivals based on Tourism.
Visiting Ministers of the Pacific attending regional meetings in Samoa often praised these initiatives.
“We have taken a tour of Upolu, and Samoa has put us to shame. Your villages are so clean and beautiful. You have managed to do all these because of your strong culture. Sadly, we have lost our cultures”.
This is how Samoa is seen by our Pacific Island neighbours and visitors alike.
Our culture of peace and tranquility influenced by our Christian values must be lived, a culture where hatred, greed and hypocrisy should not be allowed to dwell.
Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi
Leader of HRPP