Tourism operators are trying to attract holidaymakers back to Samoa to earn much-needed money for the tsunami-stricken nation.
The Samoa Tourism Authority will tomorrow start a newspaper and television campaign promoting the nation.
"It's a great time to visit Samoa," said NZ marketing manager Fasitau Ula. "The sunshine is still here, the waterfalls and blow-holes are still here, the smiling faces are still here.
"The only thing that's not here is you'."
Mr Ula said only 15 to 20 per cent of homes had been affected by the tsunami. "The other 80 per cent is business as usual.
"Instead of people sending money across to help the fundraising activities, why don't they come and enjoy their holiday, and at the same time their tourism dollar is helping rebuild the country and the damaged infrastructures."
Tourism in other Pacific nations was not affected. Chris Ingram of the Cook Islands Tourism Authority said the number of holiday-makers had risen 10 per cent since the tsunami.
"We've definitely fielded a lot more calls expressing interest."
Political turmoil in Fiji had also led to business moving to the Cook Islands, Mr Ingram said.
At the time of the tsunami, Pacific Blue Airlines was already running a "Samoa for Lowa" campaign promoting inexpensive trips.
The airline put on cheap flights and increased baggage allowances immediately after the tsunami to enable Samoans living in New Zealand and Australia to support family members and assist in the clean-up.
"What we've seen is there were a number of cancellations but bookings are building again," spokesman Phil Boeyen said.
" I think New Zealanders understand the country is still open. The message is getting through already that one of the best ways to support Samoa is to continue to go on holiday."
House of Travel sales director Brent Thomas said this time of year - after the school holidays and before Christmas - tended to be quiet anyway so it was hard to gauge how many New Zealanders had decided against travelling to Samoa.
SOURCE: NEW ZEALAND HERALD ONLINE
By Alanah May Eriksen