Promoting a small island country like Samoa as a tourist destination may seem an easy task to many, but in reality it’s not.
Samoa, compared to its neighbours like Fiji, Tahiti and the Cook Islands, has a smaller budget. Resources are limited.
Tourism is the second biggest revenue earner for Samoa. Since 2007, more than $30 million has been pumped into the industry.
The latest being $2.54 out of a $10 million annual budget to promote Samoa in Australia
Money goes into advertising overseas, creating the advertisements, advertorials, training travel agents, seminars, sales calls, networking with airlines and different meetings.
“In order for us to build awareness it takes awhile. If you look at the target we’ve been given, we’ve achieved those,” says Samoa Tourism Authority CEO, Matatamali’i Sonja Hunter.
In 2007-2009, people use the South Pacific Games as the reason for the increase in visitor arrivals. But the figures actually remained stable for the following year.
These are new people travelling all the time. Then there’s the return of overseas-born Samoans.
Matatamali’i says the Authority is also responsible for the national beautification programme.
Where August to November used to be the “lull time”, the Teuila Festival was created.
In past years, industry representatives travelled overseas to meet with tour wholesalers on a one to one basis. This time, 20 Australian tour wholesalers came to Samoa for the Faasamoa Roadshow, and were urged by the Prime Minister Tuilaepa to increase tourist numbers on our shores. .
“The benefits were that they came here and we were able to captivate our audience,” says the CEO.
The Roadshow took them to visit Samoan properties and see local products and services around the country.
On their return to Australia, the wholesalers will put travel packages of accommodation, transport and airfares together to sell Samoa.
The Authority run a branded campaign, in overseas media, then there are media public relations bouts where prominent journalists are invited to Samoa and write about their experience and why Samoa could be the place to visit.
“The task is to create the interest and for travel wholesalers to educate the retailers and convert sales in a very short period,” says Matatamali’i.
But the niche markets seem to be a lot more promising with the facilities that Samoa has on offer. The key words for tourism success lie in sports tours, corporate tours, groups of specific pools and interest.
“It fits in well with our going forward. We really have to get into the niche market. People are driven by recreational activities,” she says.
The Fa’asamoa Roadshow, left with some wholesalers tour representatives signing contracts with Samoan companies and accommodation for promotion purposes and transport services for tours and airport pi
The impact of their visit should be realized within the next few months, she says.
“Were all small nations and before launching a campaign, we always have to look into what the competition is doing in the market place.”
It’s about how you can position your destination so you are not competing on cost.
“We would like to see Samoa as a premiere destination and for tourists to experience what the Pacific is all about.
AfoaFaleuluMauli, Samoa Hotel Association president says that tourism has been affected by the global financial crisis and the tsunami in 2009.
Then there was the earthquake in Christchurch and flooding in Australia. With those disasters there has been a slow down in tourists and people don’t have money to spend.
Over the years, new hotels have set up and extra rooms added. It’s a reflection that new tourists will come and fill the rooms.
“Government has been doing really well in supporting these activities,” he says. And with the new convention centre to be completed by November, it will drawer a lot more travelling here.
“I’m quite optimistic with this in place. I think tourism is in a better position,” says Afoa
Beach fales in Aleipata have come back stronger and are getting tourists there with better facilities to offer than before the tsunami.
The Samoa Hotel Association has 150 members with its own office provided by the Samoa Tourism Authority. They have a CEO and staff responsible for facilitating the aid programmes and beach fales affected by the tsunami.
Va’aeluaEtiAlesaga, president of Tautua applauds the Government for what they have done to attract tourists to Samoa. He says Samoa needs to look into areas that attract tourists.
“Look at Hawaii and Fiji. See what they have done instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.”
Told that they had bigger budgets, he suggested that one solution would be to reinstate the LA-Apia route with another airline.
He says Samoa is losing out on that market and believes that the potential market for tourists to Samoa is in Southern California. He thinks Samoa could do more to push the tourist market in the United States.
Having spent many years in the U.S.A, he suggests that Samoa look into putting up a promotional billboard on the motorway near the airport or on a main route as he has seen Fiji and Tahiti’s billboards up.
“Samoa is a beautiful destination. Ninety percent have gone back with favourable experiences. I am sure that given the opportunity, they would come back.”
However, he says, visitor figures should be broken down to separate tourists from visitors.
“Then we can really see the true picture.”
He suggested looking into bringing in an American Hotel chain such as the Hilton or Hyatt. He believes America to be the best tourist market in the world. By looking at Australia and New Zealand, Samoa will compete with Rarotonga, Fiji and other neighboring countries.
“I take my hat off to Government for really pushing it with the limited amount of money we have, but he says, that’s his pet project for Parliament this year. To revive the route to L.A.
As for the Samoa Tourism Authority, Matatamali’i says that in comparison to other budgets, we have next to nothing.
Eighty prercent of the budget goes into marketing and the rest to research and statistics division responsible for better planning and implementing.
SOURCE: by Taina Kami Enoka
SOURCE: by Taina Kami Enoka
Samoa as a tourism destination
Editorial by Mata’afa Keni Lesa
We’ve always known that culture and traditions sell Samoa as a tourism destination - whether it’s in Australia, Asia, United States, Europe or wherever.
That’s why most tourists come here.
They want to know about kind of people we are, they are keen to learn our culture, immerse themselves in our traditions, taste our food and discover everything else there is to know about Samoa.
Then they want to see our islands. They visit the beaches; explore the forest, climb our mountains and see all the national attractions.
Suffice to say, it’s the people and the land that gives tourists a genuine Samoan experience. That’s why the fake experience being offered in places like Hawaii and others will never replace the real Samoa.
Add the fact we are considered so remote many of them don’t know we exist, all that makes up the mystery of destination Samoa.
This week, some 19 Travel and Tour agents from the top agencies in Australia and one from New Zealand are here. They have been invited to sample what Samoa has to offer and then when they return, spread the word about us.
Among them is Jamie Strickland who has been promoting Samoa for more than 20 years.
The General Manager of Coral Seas says Samoa has the advantage over tourism giants like Fiji and Tahiti because we provide a “balance between both the modern and traditional experience.”
What he means exactly is difficult to ascertain since both Fiji and Tahiti also have cultures of their own which they obviously use extensively to lure visitors.
Mr Strickland though refers to a 10-night package in Samoa with three nights at the Sinalei Resort, three in Savai’i and then another hotel or resort on Upolu.
“It’s most profitable and its better value for your money,” says Mr Strickland.
We agree. Feedback from a few tourists who have bought the package say it’s fantastic.
Apart from a few gaps – where one tourist found that the agent did not book his vehicle for the ferry to Savai’i - there seems to be a general consensus that the package does work. If all goes according to plan, it should be continued.
But tourists don’t decide to visit a destination purely based on an accommodation package. While the cost is a major factor when tourists weigh up their options, it’s what a destination offers that matters.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is certainly confident.
Says he; “You will find that Samoa can now cater to all ranges of holidays for families, young couples, wedding parties, romantic honeymoons and active tours of rugby, soccer, swimming and lawn bowls. In marine adventure such as surfing, scuba diving and game fishing. We have them all.”
Indeed we do.
It’s a big help that Samoa is only hours away from Australia and New Zealand. The Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) should therefore continue to push these markets.
While we get a few tourists from Asia, Europe and America, Australia and New Zealand are the two markets we should continue to put the pressure on.
Since the arrival of Polynesian Blue, we’ve seen more and more tourists from Australia visit our shores.
The airline – through direct flights and cheaper fares - has been hugely successful in attracting tourists who want to come directly from Sydney to Apia (a five hour flight) for a bit of sun and sand.
The location of hotels like Aggie Grey’s Resort makes their trip more convenient since they walk straight out of the aircraft to a cold Vailima at the pool bar in minimal time.
This is the sort of experience many tourists want. It’s cheaper, convenient and comfortable.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa says Samoa should gun to have around 28,000 visitors from Australia this year. I’d say we should push for more.
There is no reason why we shouldn’t.
SOURCE: Samoa Observer Online23 March, 2011 permalink
By Tupuola Terry Tavita
Some 20 travel and tour agents from all the top travel agencies in Australia are in the country to sample what Samoa has to offer for the Australian holidayer.
The Australian source market has seen a steady climb in recent years, particular with the advent of Polynesian Blue, which now operates five weekly flights to Samoa from Sydney and Brisbane.
According to figures, Australians coming to Samoa has been averaging 23,253 the last five years. That number is expected to increase to around 28,000 this year.
Delivering the keynote address to welcome the Australian participants Monday evening at the STA convention center, Prime Minister and Tourism Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malilegaoi said,
“You will find that Samoa can now cater to all ranges of holidays for families, young couples, wedding parties, romantic honeymoons and active tours of rugby, soccer, swimming and lawn bowls.
“In marine adventure such as surfing, scuba diving and game fishing. We have them all.”
The opening of an 800-seat state-of-the-art convention center in the heart of Apia in November, the Prime Minister said, “will add another exciting facet to tourism in Samoa, targeting regional and international meetings, conventions and exhibitions.”
All of the Australian participants – bar two – have never been to Samoa before. But they all agree Samoa has much to offer the Australian holidayer.
“It’s certainly an exciting destination with a growing dynamism,” said Kathryn Wilson of Travelocity.
“We’re certainly looking forward to exploring what Samoa has to offer and how we can further market this growing Samoan product in the Australian market.”
The three-day roadshow will include a visit to Savaii.
Australian agencies represented are as follows,
SOURCE: SAVALI NEWSPAPER ONLINE
Sun, sand, spectacular water and a wonderfully welcoming attitude - Samoa is where nature and culture come together perfectly, writes Flip Byrnes.
I'M STANDING on the precipice of a waterfall in a garden of Eden. Dappled sunlight filters through the jungle canopy to the pool below. The jump is high; high enough that I've dared someone else to go first and, as my companion surfaces giving the all-clear, I take a flying leap into the pool, into Samoa, one of the most beautiful islands in the world.
Beautiful but boring? I admit I approach Samoa, a group of 10 islands in the South Pacific, with a drop of trepidation. I'm the type who likes a shot of action in my holiday cocktail. Little did I know I'd find more hiking, swimming and adventure here, set against a backdrop of azure water and palm-tree perfection, than expected. All enhanced by Fa'a Samoa, the Samoan way of life.
The Polynesians can be traced back to Samoa some 3000 years ago. Not much is said to have changed until missionaries arrived in the 1800s. Devout Christianity replaced cannibalism (island-wide curfews exist for prayer between 6pm and 7pm), before Germans arrived, followed by New Zealanders and, finally, independence in 1962.
The Christian pull is omnipresent. The chief executive of the Samoa Tourism Authority, Sonja Hunter, says Samoa operates on a strict hierarchal system, consisting of family units within villages, based on the Christian principles of integrity, honesty and respect, all stemming from love. ''Love for yourself, your neighbour and the environment,'' Hunter says. ''Just watch, in a few days, you'll feel this yourself.'' I'm ready to feel the love and the first port of call is a hike up Mount Vaea, 15 minutes outside the capital, Apia. At the mountain's base is nestled the residence, now museum, of Samoa's most famous former resident, Robert Louis Stevenson.
The Scottish author of Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde lived here for almost five years, penning 13 books in his airy plantation house. Samoans adored ''Tusitala'' (the teller of stories) and the love was reciprocated. Stevenson chose to be buried in Samoa, still in his boots so as to carry Samoan soil to the next life. And so his coffin was passed hand to hand in a human chain to the summit of Mount Vaea in what has become known as the Road of Loving Hearts.
For us it's not so much the road of loving but beating hearts. Entering the humid jungle the ascent begins - quickly. It's muddy, steep and 45 minutes later the reward is a scenic view to the coast, a white line of surf breaking on surrounding reefs and a patchwork of fertile green below.
But the scene stealer (for me) is not the view, nor Stevenson's grave with his self-penned epitaph but that of his wife, inscribed: ''Teacher, tender comrade, wife/A fellow-farer true through life/Heart whole and soul free/The August Father gave to me.''
It's an emotional echo, a glimpse into sentiments that endure in stone long after the bearers have passed. It's a poignant place and we pause, to the delight of the mosquitoes, before descending, leaving Stevenson eternally facing Edinburgh, interred in his beloved Samoan soil.
We cool down nearby at Fatumea Pool, where fresh spring water flows from the mountains, exiting via a cave beneath a Methodist church. Separated from the ocean by a rock wall, it is alive with fish plumbing the transparent depths. But the real allure is the cave and its mystical powers.
Or so I think, swimming behind a local into the cave's depths. Sounds echo off rock walls and limbs seem to turn an Avatar blue in the subterranean grotto before he sinks and disappears. I look around frantically; it's haunting in the dark, confined space. Submerging, I spy feet kicking wildly through an underwater tunnel towards sunlight and an interconnected lagoon.
I'm not quite ready to see the light at the end of the tunnel, if you know what I mean. I prefer heights to depths but, heading a few minutes down the road to the next waterhole, the adage ''be careful what you wish for'' rings true. We're coming face to face with the To-sua Trench. Or, more specifically, the ladder of the Trench.
Samoa does water well. Any way you want it. From salty ocean spanning the blue colour wheel, to fresh springs and pools ringed by waterfalls guaranteed to release the inner child. But the star of this water-world is, hands down, the Trench.
Near Lotofaga village, it is, in essence, a big hole reached by a 35-rung vertigo-inducing ladder. At the top of the ladder, we are city slickers trying to shrug off quotidian cares. Ten seconds later, following a herculean leap, we're part of the postcard, floating nymphs softly buffeted by invisible waves sweeping through underwater tunnels from the ocean beyond. I'm having my adventure, while being gently wound down like an ageing grandfather clock.
But, continuing onto Lalomanu, we are about to learn all has not always been so idyllic in Samoa, voted No.7 beach paradise in the world by Lonely Planet. If this is No.7, I'd like to see the rest.
Lalomanu ticks every cliche box: white sand, water that merges with a cloudless sky, an offshore island, reef break beckoning surfers and charming beach huts. The only dilemma is: eat or swim? A restaurant prepares fresh tuna sashimi, encouraging us to wait by cooling off in the shallows.
The most remarkable element of this setting is there's no one else here (25,000 Australians contribute to Samoa's annual 122,000 visitors). True, it's off season - during peak season bookings are recommended - but we feel we've made a gargantuan travel discovery.
So it's difficult to imagine this area was hardest hit by a tsunami in 2009. Backed by a sheer rock wall, there was no escape for villagers, about 60 of whom perished. The beach was once lined with huts, now there are three operations. But there is no sense of lingering malice; the rebuilding resembles an emerging tranquil gem on the up, rather than a place in recovery. No tsunami could ever steal the natural beauty of this wondrous place.
On the south coast, Sinalei Resort, one of few luxury hotels in Samoa, was partially hit by the tsunami and proudly show its Randwick TAFE volunteer-built water-sports shack. ''They arrived with their surfboards, got stuck in and now they're returning to the local village,'' the owner Joe Annandale ays. In his opinion, along with walls of water, the tsunami unleashed human kindness - and in Samoa, where kindness is king, the students are considered extended family.
We leave Upolu for the ferry to Savai'i, the largest Samoan island. This is where Samoans come to relax (because Upolu is so stressful?). How much slower can life become?
The slogan for Samoa, nestled by the date line, is ''we're so relaxed it's yesterday''. In which case Savai'i is last millennium. We pass the sole traffic light (broken), horses graze in spotless front yards, buses christened ''Queen Maggie'' and ''Skippy Express'' and painted in rainbow-colours stop when flagged - there are no bus stops on Savai'i.
We're excited to be staying Samoan-style in beach fales, traditional huts. Arriving at Stevenson's (Robert Louis clearly got around), I score the hut named Maria, nestled beneath palm trees. Maria is open-air, apart from woven blinds, boasting a wooden platform with a bed, mosquito net, a light and en suite bathroom with cold running water. But nothing beats the 18 footsteps to the water's edge for a natural - though salty - shower.
We're making ourselves presentable to meet Craterman, an island legend, the custodian of the crater of Mount Matavanu. Between 1905 and 1911 the volcano spewed rivers of molten lava, tearing swathes to the coast 13 kilometres away. Nowadays it is a jungle oasis with island-wide views.
Energetic hikers take four hours from the village of Safotu to the crater's rim.
The not-so-energetic take a four-wheel-drive to Craterman's hut before a 45-minute stroll. We arrive at a blue fale, where we find our guide sporting a face-splitting grin. Just in case we are in any doubt as to his identity, he announces ''Hello! I am the world-famous Craterman!''
It's a big call but true. In his pocket rests a guest book, signed by people representing 121 countries in 11 years. We commence hiking to the crater, on a velvet-soft grass track reclaimed from the jungle. This is Craterman's doing. He spends four hours a day, dawn and dusk, with his whipper-snipper, taming the green carpet he lays out for guests all the way to the crater's edge.
Craterman is quite the entrepreneur. Wooden signs, transcribed from guests' notes (for a small fee), dot the path, featuring impressive spelling efficiency. ''Cr8erman! Fan q 4 da best trip eva!''
My favourite, however, is by Italian honeymooners. ''Ritornermo fra 50 anni, sempre piu innamorati''. We shall return in 50 years, even more in love.
On matters of love (Samoa's recurrent theme), Craterman needs a crater princess. Staring towards the coast, a sign catches my eye. ''Cr8erman needs da cr8ter princess! Must like jungle treks, cooking and cr8ters!''
It was commissioned by an English couple, who've assumed it's lonely sleeping with only whipper-snippers for company.
But as far as he's concerned, he's one of the luckiest men in the world.
We retreat to Le Lagoto resort near Stevenson's, discussing dating candidates for Craterman. Le Legato aptly translates as ''sunset'' and we arrive at that golden time of day when shadows meld with twilight. Locals loiter in the shallows, silhouettes beneath a palette of apricot and dusky hues, the sun a dying orb sending out slivers of rays.
The final country before the dateline, this is the world's last sunset. Sunsets around the globe have simply been practice runs and the best has been saved for last. When the sun sinks in Samoa, it is with the panache of a stage full of showgirls performing the final number in a dazzling cabaret show.
That night before bed I leave Maria, slipping oceanwards, towel in hand, to find my companions already immersed, an unplanned midnight rendezvous in the 28-degree water. Beneath the star-studded sky we agree it's preferable not to stay five-star when you can sleep under a billion.
There is so much more to tell of Samoa. Of the colourful Sunday church services where villagers mingle before the to'onai (all-day Sunday brunch cooked by menfolk); of dozens of leap-enticing waterfalls; of blowholes roaring like 747s and the island of Manono (which received electricity only four years ago), where school kids play on palm trees instead of PlayStations.
But it is, as Sonja promised, the sense of hospitality that lingers. Out jogging, I would be stopped frequently by locals asking ''Where are you going?''. It's their way of greeting. ''Samoa,'' I'd joke. They would grin in reply, already knowing what tourists are learning. That there is nowhere else to go; if you're after a tropical paradise with adventure and culture, the buck starts and stops in Samoa.
The writer was a guest of Samoa Tourism .
Polynesian Blue has three direct flights from Sydney to Samoa weekly
Tickets for the hour long Upolu-Savai'i ferry cost from 12 talas ($5) for adults. Be prepared to join the scrum at the ferry wharf ticket window or head to the separate business-class window (from 50 talas a person).
Upolu: Family-owned Sinalei Reef Resort and Spa. +685 25191, sinalei.com.
Apia: Aggie Grey's: an institution since entertaining WWII sailors. +685 22880, aggiegreys.com.
Airport: Aggie Grey's Lagoon Beach Resort & Spa. +685 45611, aggiegreys.com.
Savaii: Stevenson's at Manase, (fales and rooms available. +685 58219 or 54357 samoa.travel.
Samoa is perfect for independent travellers. There are more than 20 rental companies to choose from (samoa.travel) so grab a map, a car and travel the easily navigable islands. Otherwise, if time is your friend, jump on a local bus. There are no bus stops, so flag a bus and pay as you leave.
See + do
Mount Vaea, just outside Apia, can be hiked solo from Robert Louis Stevenson's Museum. +685 20798, robert-louis-stevenson.org. Admission to the museum is 15 talas for adults and 5 talas for children.
Admission to Fatumea Pool (also known as Piula Cave Pool) is through the Methodist Theological College, 5 talas, open Monday-Saturday.
Access to To-sua Trench costs 5 talas. Both are about an hour's drive from Apia.
Many waterfalls and pools on the island can be found by visiting the Samoa Tourism Office in Apia or samoa.travel.
Need to know
There is an island-wide curfew for prayer between 6pm and 7pm, during this time activities such as jogging are not recommended. Likewise, Sunday is a day of rest.
Samoa’s Tourism Authority says it is working with Air New Zealand to try to maintain fares, after the carrier pulled out of the Los Angeles to Apia route.
It was announced the Tonga-Samoa-Los Angeles route would end late last year, with the final flight at the end of January.
Tourism operators in Apia say the decision is already hurting the industry.
The Tourism Authority’s Dwayne Bentley says it is definitely having an impact.
“The preference is always to go non-stop and to go direct. People are time poor these days, we understand that. The flight’s gone, we’re moving on from that, and we are working closely with Air New Zealand to look at other options. What we’re very pleased to know is that the airline is working on maintaining fares between to two ports, so that people can travel through Auckland, basically on the same fare.”
Source: Radio New Zealand International
10 March, 2011 permalink