The Samoa Tourism Authority has stepped in to defend the industry that pre-covid, had consistently accounted for over one third of Samoa’s GDP.
The statement issued yesterday afternoon is a response to recent negative publicity that refers to tourism as a ‘dead-horse’ and future plans as ‘impossible’.
Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) Fa’amatuainu Lenatai Suifua says the Authority is concerned at the cynicism and lack of support shown through the recent publications, especially at a time when the industry is facing unprecedented challenges.
“It is an attempt to undermine long term plans for the development of Samoa and create further uncertainty, especially during these unprecedented times”, he says.
“To refer to tourism as a ‘dead-horse’ is both incorrect and demeaning,” says Faamatuainu.
“The tourism reference lacks balance, especially as it is heavily based on the opinion of a political lobbyist whose intent is clear and whose opinion was the basis of another cynical article: Government tourism plan impossible,”..states the STA release.
Faamatuainu says the inclusion of tourism in the 2040 Plan reiterates the long term commitment by Samoa to an industry that has been acknowledged as the backbone of Samoa’s economy.
“Tourism is resilient and will continue to be a key pillar of Samoa’s economy,” assures the STA CEO.
“The concerted efforts of Stakeholders to rebuild will facilitate its recovery and future growth”, he adds.
Faamatuainu’s confidence is backed by many of Samoa’s key development partners who have already tagged the regeneration of tourism as a priority area of their assistance across the Pacific region, under post-covid recovery plans.
In the past 12 months, the Authority has shifted its focus to ways of encouraging domestic tourism through initiatives such as Rock the Coast, and employment schemes such as the partnership with MAF that aims to rehabilitate the coconut and cocoa industry while offering wage incentives to hundreds of laid off staff.
A video linking Samoa to Seiuli Dwyane The Rock Johnson’s Teremana Tequila has also been developed and shared widely across the globe.
Faamatuainu adds that many remain employed in the Industry and domestic tourism initiatives continue.
“Combined, all of this supports the livelihood of many..”
The Samoa 2040: Tranforming Samoa to a Higher Growth Path is a national development agenda that has identified seven areas with the highest potential to achieve sustainable development for Samoa by 2040.
Top of the list for Samoa is “Enhanced Digital Development” and unsurprisingly, listed second is, “Lifting Tourist Numbers and Spending”.
The other five areas are: Greater Labor Mobility, Boosting Agriculture, Effective investment in Human Capital, Resilient Development and Safe & Secure Samoa.
Faamatuainu says, “Government continues to prioritise tourism as it is the backbone of Samoa’s economy. Tourism has been a key driver of business development opportunities which the private sector and many in the community have benefited from;
“When international travel eventually restarts, those opportunities will gradually open up once again and support strategic efforts by Government through STA and others, and the Private Sector through Tourism Business Operators to rebuild and recover” – states STA.
STA agrees that Government’s plans for tourism are bold, adding that this commitment to tourism will bode well for the Industry.
“STA is confident the transformative growth vision of the 20-year Plan can be achieved through the resourcing and implementation of strategies to address the highlighted challenges and opportunities”.
Faamatuainy saya they are saddened that someone who had been a member of the Authority’s governing board at the time of the Samoa 2040 consultations, would then become so cynical towards the forward looking planning approach taken.
“The Political Lobbyist should at least be aware of these given they are a member of the Samoa Tourism Marketing Taskforce of which STA is the Secretariat and a Board Director of STA during the development phase of the Samoa 2040 Plan”.
The Authority says they also recognise the inherent challenges that post-covid rebuilding will bring, and a number of tourism-specific Covid-related initiatives required to gain visitor confidence and achieve the targets of the 2040 Plan are already underway.
“These include the development of a travel-ready toolkit, training for operators on health, safety and hygiene measures and other such preparations”.