The completion of several tourism projects to improve attraction sites in Savaii by the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) with funding support from the New Zealand government was celebrated in an official launch on Wednesday in Salelologa Savaii.
The event took place at Jetover Hotel in Salelologa and was attended by New Zealand High Commissioner His Excellency Dr Trevor Matheson, the Associate Minister of Tourism Fagaivalu Kenrick Samu, STA CEO Faamatuainu Lenata’i Suifua, members of the Samoa Tourism Board, Samoa Hotel Association, and the Savaii Samoa Tourism Association.
In his remarks, H.E Dr.Trevor Matheson reaffirmed the New Zealand government’s commitment as a development partner to the industry through the Samoa Tourism Growth Partnership.
“Even with the impact of Covid-19 causing havoc to the industry and the economy as a whole, we remain optimistic and see an opportunity to consolidate our tourism investment;
“We recognise that the Tourism industry pre-COVID-19 accounted for fully one quarter (25%) of the country’s gross domestic product.”
“Whilst those numbers will take some time to achieve again, we have great faith that once borders the world over re-open and with the help of Covid-19 vaccines; Samoa will, God- willing, again be working its way back to achieving similar GDP figures once more.”
The project activities and works at selected attraction sites were based on feedback in the international visitor survey identifying areas to be improved for quality products and services.
The cost of developing and improving attraction sites amounted to just over WST$775,000 with the bulk of the funds prioritised to upgrading three attraction sites at Afu Aau Waterfall in Palauli, The Saleaula Lava field in Saleaula and the Umumamoa Cave in Aopo.
“We are also proud and honoured that the first sites to be launched in this initiative are here in the beautiful island of Savaii!” said Dr Trevor Matheson.
“Although Savaii is locally recognised as the real or true “Samoa” in relation to tourism experiences; it is often neglected and presents a struggle for both STA and the Savai Samoan Tourism Association (SSTA) to market and bring people over to experience this “true jewel” of the Pacific
To keep attraction sites clean and ensure the safety of tourists and visitors, safety equipment and rubbish bins were also commissioned along with much needed interpretive signs for selected sites.
Included in the project was the publication of Samoa’s Geological History and Attraction sites booklets by well-known Samoa tour guide and Geologist, Tuapou Warren Jopling.
A more recent STA initiative to produce the inaugural Tour Guide TV programme, ‘Tafaoga, Experience our Beautiful Samoa’ filmed by Vanu Studio which promotes and showcases Samoa’s landscape and cultural diversity through Samoa’s attraction sites was also launched on the day with a screening of the promotional trailer.
In his remarks, Associate Minister for Tourism, Fagaivalu Kenrick Samu thanked the Government of New Zealand for their continuous assistance and support to the industry especially during the devastating impact of the measles epidemic in 2019 and the ongoing fall out with the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite the state of Emergency restrictions and ongoing border closures Fagaivalu pointed out that the sudden halt to global travel provides an opportunity for Samoa to develop and prepare the industry and improve the visitor experience for when the borders reopen.
“Although Samoa remains Covid-free, the impacts of the pandemic have affected and will continue to affect the tourism industry.” He said. “Despite the challenging times we face, the Honourable Minister of Tourism, Board of Directors and the Authority are continuing to collaborate to assist the industry.”
Faigavalu also acknowledged the assistance of TRC consultants and local specialist contractors; Apia Lua, Masi Iona, Signs Studio, Tuapou Warren Jopling, Vanu Studio, the Government of Samoa and partners in the tourism industry who assisted in the development and production of the various projects.
The Tourism sector used to contribute about a quarter percent of Samoa’s GDP, employing around 15 percent of the formal workforce. The total arrivals for 2018/2019 was 178,564 which marked an increase of 9.3 percent compared to the previous financial year with total earnings of 514 million.
Due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the total arrivals recorded at the end of April 2020 dropped to 124,399; a 30.0% decrease compared to previous year with earnings of 358 million.