15 February, 2011     

Samoa tourism picks up after the tsunami

by Merita Huch

Since the September 2009 tsunami, Samoa has had major reconstruction works. One of the biggest spending had gone towards the rebuilding of beach fales and hotels which were destroyed by the wrath of the strong earthquake that was followed by the tsunami which hit most of the eastern side of the main island of Upolu.

Internationally acclaimed hotels such as the Sinalei Beach Resort, the Coconuts Hotel and hundreds of beach fales sufch as the Taufua establishment at the Lalomanu Beach were destroyed, killing a number of tourists who were staying in the area at the time.

A prediction of millions of tala worth of losses in the years that followed given the impact of the tsunami has however proven wrong with the continuous flow of tourists to these refurbished hotels.

On the anniversary of the tsunami last year, those who survived the tragedy that killed more than 140 people in Samoa alone were back at the newly-built Taufua beach fales in memory of those who lost their lives a year earlier.

Since that tragic event, Taufua beach fales have added self-sustained units on the hills to the beach fales by the ocean.

It’s still the preference of many visitors to have fales on the beach. Further up however, the units are also filling up. They overlook the ocean and over the Christmas period, these units and fales were fully booked.

Warning systems are put in place to ensure a quicker response to natural disasters.
It’s a gamble says Tai Taufua-Apelu to continue after such a huge loss, her own family lost the most number of people in this disaster than any other family at Lalomanu.

Resilience is something Tai has picked up quickly after running the Taufua resort for over 10 years and the response of those who stayed at her place in previous years has added to the challenge of running beach fale resorts there now.

Rebuilding
After having lost his wife in the tsunami, Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale, the co-owner of the Sinalei Reef Resort, is back at work with the support of his sisters and with a new-look added to one of Samoa’s most popular tourist destinations at Siumu, about 30 minutes drive from Apia.

With help from the governments of Samoa through the Samoa Tourism Authority, Samoa Hotels Association, the governments of New Zealand and Australia, hotels such as Sinalei and Coconuts Beach Resort are able to rebuild.

Losing millions from this natural disaster has not deterred the owners from rebuilding despite the many challenges they’ve had to face over the past year.

All these owners do know that tourism continues to grow in Samoa despite the knowledge that climate change and its twisted turns will continue to impact the lives of those living in the Pacific.

What they’ve all done is to build with the understanding that there will always be challenges when it comes to the drastic changes in the weather.

The response from tourists in the last financial year (2009/2010) resulted in total revenue earned of $301 million (tala).

There is a noted drop in revenues and there’s no doubt that during the reconstruction period there was a decrease in the number of tourists booked for a stay in the hotels that were affected.

After the financial year in July 2010, tourist arrival has again picked up and the Samoa Tourism Authority is confident that Samoa will get a definite boost this financial year in revenue from the industry.

Millions have also been injected into television advertising in New Zealand and Australia this year with images of lush green vegetation that’s drawn many tourists to Samoa.

For any potential tourist, Samoa has unique features that differentiates it from other destinations aside from its culture and people.

Beach fales provide a uniquely Samoan experience—where you can pay less than $100 (Samoan tala) a day to enjoy the beaches and the ocean.  “It’s also a great opportunity for visitors to experience life and interact with locals,” says Dwayne Bentley, Samoa Tourism Authority’s Marketing and Promotions Manager.  “It’s largely locally owned and provides employment for those living in the villages”.

Like other Pacific islands who’ve relied on the tourism industry for growth, tradition is important and Samoa is no exception with its strong cultural heritage that many visitors come to seek.

The Faa-Samoa (Samoan way of life) is the essence of culture and life, says Bentley and the focus being promoted here is Samoa’s nature in welcoming visitors and their hospitality.

For the visitor seeking adventure, there’s hiking available where you can experience Samoa’s lush jungle trails, inland wate holes and waterfalls. 

Snorkelling and diving in Samoa’s lagoons and reefs around the islands are also available.  Samoa is home to 900 species of fish and over 200 varieties of coral. Beyond the reef—tours are available for those wishing to spot dolphins and whales that continue to grace its deep blue seas during the migration season.

There are also opportunities to swim with turtles. You’ll get this experience in the big island of Savaii or around the Namu’a Island, off Upolu, where beach fales are also available for any duration of stay.

For the more adventurous tourist, there’s deep-sea fishing available and kite surfing in the tradewinds is also available at the south coast.

Surfing in many isolated surf spots is a must and those interested can enjoy some of the Pacific’s best waves all-year round.

The bigger resorts such as Aggie Grey’s Resort by the airport and golf courses in Upolu can provide golfing enthusiasts a whale of a time. And don’t forget to join in the rugby and kilikiti tournaments which are run throughout the year.

The influx of Samoans coming home for that beach holiday has increased.  In the past, Samoans would only come home for funerals, weddings and other important gatherings within the families, church and village.  In the past 10 years however, it’s been noted that many Samoans are spending their money returning home for re-unions and after a couple of days or a week at home, they hit the beach and stay in hotels available in many parts of Samoa.

Tourism growing
Since the tsunami, the number of Samoans returning home and utilising the accommodation facilities available away from their own homes has skyrocketed.

Most of the hotels in Samoa during the Christmas and New Year periods were fully booked and after several phone calls to various hotels, it was clear many of these visitors were Samoans.

There has also been a jump in the number of touring ships from Europe and the Americas in the past two years and these day-tours have also prompted discussions in Parliament to see if shops in the town areas of Apia and Salelologa in the big island of Savaii could open if they arrive on a Sunday.

More hotels are being built to cater for accommodation, a sure sign that Samoa’s tourism industry continues to grow.

Last year’s Survivor competition from America also ensured international coverage for the islands and the aim by the Samoa Tourism Authority is to boost visitors from Europe, America and Asia.  New Zealand and Australia as well as American Samoa continue to be the top three countries providing the most visitors to Samoa.

Source: Islands Business
  15 February, 2011     

A dream come true - Samoa’s newest art gallery

by Susan Faoagali


A dream has been realised for Tu’u’u and Vanya Ta’ulealo. This happened when they opened their Art Gallery at their home in Si’usega, last week.

Called the ‘Vanya Taule’alo Art Gallery’, it is also a beginning of a new era in Visual Arts in Samoa.

Vanya has been involved in the creative art field for more than 30 years.

Her passion for art and education was realised early on and while bringing up their three sons — Setu, Masina and Alae, Vanya incorporated art into her work as a kindergarten principal in Apia.

From there, she moved onto the teachers college (WSTC) where she was the driving force behind development of Art Education in Samoa.

This led to the development of the Visual Arts curriculum for secondary schools (years 9-12) with many schools now offering Visual Arts as a subject in the Samoa School Certificate examination.

As an artist, Vanya has grown and developed throughout the years while also furthering her professional career through diplomas-masters-and PhD level qualifications.

After leaving the public sector in 2009, both Tu’u’u and Vanya were able to put the considerable amount of time and effort needed to realise their dream of renovating their house and land/garden to allow the proper display of Vanya’s art work.

“The aim was to make our living and working space at home a tranquil space with native trees, vegetable and herb garden and now we have added a gallery” explains Vanya.

The guests at the small opening held on Wednesday night, were appreciative of the space referred by Vanya and Tu’u’u and even with the rain were able to enjoy the beautiful garden and patio surrounded by native trees and bush.

“This is a very pleasant environment to relax and particularly to look at some wonder art based on our own natural environment” describes one guest.

The environment is very much a theme of Vanya’s art work and has been a passion (o
bsession!) for both Tu’u’u and Vanya for many years.  The series currently showing in the gallery is the xxxx based on the Mangroves.

A kayak visit to the Sanapu mangroves has been used as the basis of the series of work which includes paintings on canvas, paintings on paper, photo graphs, real objects and cherished objects (painted and framed).

“The mangrove trip was beautiful and incredibly moody, the sight and sounds, the birds and the whole environment was astounding to me” Vanya said.

Over the years as Vanya has developed her different series of works, first an idea or concept will resonate with her. Then through researching the themes, reflecting and exploring the subject matter the images are put together in a way that works for her.

“I’m always trying to push the boundaries by doing something new each time, for example this series I have inserted print of the photos I took during my visit to the mangrove” Vanya continues.

The main pieces of the xxx Series are composite pictures, which are paintings done on different size canvases that are hung together to represent one whole picture. These were a particular hit with the opening function guests,

“I just love how the different paintings fit together, but I can also see how they can be put a different way say along a stairway wall, or on different walls in one room, they are just lovely” exclaims another guest.

The future plans for the gallery is to be open a few days a week for visits, but also available for other Artists to show their work. There has been interest shown already from Artists in Samoa and from overseas to make use of this space.

“Networking is another aim of ours, providing a venue for young and emerging Samoan artists who are serious about their work, as well as for Artists overseas to see Samoa as a viable place to bring their work to show,” Vanya further explains.

Networks have already been established, with artists in New Caledonia, Cook Island, USA and Africa contacting Vanya contact through Facebook and the gallery web page.

The future looks bright for the newest art gallery in Samoa and hopefully we will see many more artists both local and overseas making use of this wonderful space so that the general population of Samoa, are able to visit, be moved and inspired through our Artists work.

For appointments to the Vanya Taulealo Gallery please call +685 772 9993, or +685 21488.

Source: Samoa Observer
  14 February, 2011     

Sydney fashion scene gripped by Samoa fever

South Pacific fever is set to hit Sydney when Samoan label Mena launches their inaugural swimwear range in Australia in March. Making their debut at Fashion Exposed in Sydney on 6-8 March, Mena will also be showcasing their Resort 2011/12 collection.

Mena is the brainchild of Samoan sisters Agnes, Jackie, Gina and Charlene Loheni, created in 2002 after growing up learning about designing and dress making from their mother Mena (whom the label is named after).

Mena has a strong focus on the family’s Samoan heritage – the last bastion of Polynesian culture - executed through colour and bold prints.

Their 2010/2011 Resort range draws inspiration from the vibrant hues of the Samoan land and seascape, as well as using prints inspired by local flora such as bread fruit leaves and frangipani blossoms.

Maxi dresses utilize floaty chiffon and structured cotton to celebrate the curves and shape of a woman’s body. Shorter, flirtier party dresses are a flutter of frills, exotic shapes and bold colours that promise to be sure staples in your summer beach party wardrobe.

Daring separates are a sure stand out in the collection and make for a refreshing addition to summer corporate ensembles.  Each piece of the Resort collection from Mena embodies the soul of Polynesia, alluding to the exotic treasure islands of the South Pacific.

“We are very excited to be launching our inaugural swimwear collection in Australia” says Agnes Loheni.

“Mena has been doing very well in the South Pacific as well as Japan, so infiltrating the Australian market is the next step for us.  Australians have a love affair with the South Pacific and with the romance and exoticism associated with Samoa, we hope the label will do well in this market.”

Samoa Tourism Authority welcomes Mena to Australia.

“Mena embodies the spirit of Samoa and we are excited to have Mena provide Australians a slice of Samoa through their beautiful clothing” says Peter Sereno from Samoa Tourism Authority’s Australian office.

“As a family-run business, Mena is a shining example of the Fa’a Samoa principle which embodies all that it means to be Samoan – that is, through family and by working together you can produce the most beautiful things.”

Fashion Exposed is on the 6-8 March at the Sydney Exhibition Centre.  Mena will be on display at stand 3116.   08 February, 2011     

Record November 2010 Visitor Arrivals Increase

Visitor arrivals for November 2010 increased to a record 9,890 from 8,950 in November 2009.  This strong growth was caused largely by very strong increases in visitors from New Zealand (13.7%) and Australia (30.8%).  Over 75% of all visitors were VFR and holiday-makers.

Earlier in the year, the Samoa Tourism Authority signalled a strategic change in the lucrative Australian market.  The months of significant ground-work, research, and collaboration which followed on the back of conditions promoting outbound travel, have been highlighted by the National Tourism Office as key to driving this strong growth.

In New Zealand, Samoa continues to perform strongly and has grown to become a preferred destination.