Samoa Hotel Association President Tupa’i Saleimoa Vaai says the industry is being adversely affected by the coronavirus travel restrictions and it is important to find short term solutions to ensure the social and economic impact on the people of Samoa is mitigated.
Speaking to the media during the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) forum at the STA fale yesterday morning, Tupa’i said the main concern for the industry is bankruptcy and closure of hotels which would lead to thousands losing their source of income.
The SHA President says hotels were already laying people off and more will loose their jobs.
“Occupancy-wise in the industry, it is flat, forward bookings have completely dried out, however, we still have financial obligations.”
“The hotel industry in Samoa employs more than 5,000 people; A lot of hotels are talking about, either closing up, or taking necessary measures in terms of cutting employment by half;
“That is more than 2,000 workers that are going to be out of employment if nothing is done in terms of assistance to the industry.”
Tupa’i says Samoa is under threat of loosing a lot more hotels, which could potentially end up collapsing the whole Industry.
“That will happen if there is nothing being done. There is a need for assistance, not only from government, but from our financial institutions”.
The owner of Vaimoana Seaside Lodge in Asau and Island Grill restaurant in Apia says the hospitality industry is taking a double blow, with the coronavirus hitting immediately after the measles epidemic.
“There is so much uncertainty, and there is no end in sight, unlike the measels where we could see the solutions and were able to put measures in place to combat it, but with coronavirus, it is not only Samoa, it’s global”.
Asked if they had approached the government, or if there were stimulous packages being discussed for the industry Tupa’i said they were working towards approaching the government.
Tupai acknowledged that there were other industries in the country but says the necessary border restriction measures in place directly impacts the tourism industry.
Tourism has been at the forefront of governments national strategy for the development of Samoa for several decades now due to the trickle down effect it has on other service providers such as transport, food and beverage, IT and communications, and even handicrafts when visitors buy gifts upon their return.
A big part of the industry has been termed VFR – Visiting Friends and Relatives and they return with a “oso” that includes products such as chilli sauce, locally made taro/banana chips, kekesaiga, Samoan koko and of course ‘umu’ which requires the traveler to visit our local market.
Tupai told the media that the industry have gone into survival mode and taken price cuts to encourage locals to come and use the hotels.
“But it’s still not enough, because we only have a certain amount of population”.
“We support the travel bans because we know it’s crucial that we protect our country, that is the most forefront issue for us.”
Tupai says there is no simple solution and the issues are not straight forward, however they hope to talk with government about how they can work together to find a way to maintain the tourism industry.
“To see how we can allay our fears and how we can assist, to maintain the industry, so that after all this has been averted, that there is still an industry, when we’re done.”