31 March, 2011

Tourism moves up

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

ck ups.

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

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