Samoa’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Early in 2020, swift decision making by the government saw Samoa’s borders close to international arrivals, of which, two-thirds were travellers from New Zealand and Australia making up nearly three-quarters (72%) of visitor spend pre-pandemic.
With our national vaccination drive now well underway, just like it is in many other parts of the world, we’re getting ready and excited to welcome back tourists to our beautiful island nation once again. But, with Samoa being spared from the health impacts of COVID-19 right throughout the pandemic, we know that reopening to tourism must be done diligently and responsibly.
To prepare for the long-anticipated revival of Samoa’s tourism industry, much is being done to ensure the safety of our guests and communities alongside vaccination. At the same time, we want to be able to guarantee that our visitors’ experiences will live up to all the hopes and expectations they’ve been looking forward to, while our economy and people’s livelihoods stand the best chance of a full and proper recovery.
Samoa’s Travel Ready Toolkit is critical to our efforts to welcome back visitors safely and is designed around six key pillars including vaccination, contact tracing, operator training, product maintenance, destination marketing, and product marketing.
Having secured enough vaccine doses for the population, Samoa is on target for a fully vaccinated eligible population by the end of the year. But as our nation proceeds with cautious optimism, we’re not expecting to see an immediate ‘snap back’ to pre-COVID travel conditions. With travel bubbles already in place in the Pacific region, it’s hoped that there could be a staged approach to welcoming back visitors to Samoa, starting with fully vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries. The Samoa National Emergency Operations Centre now mandates that all visitors to Samoa must be fully vaccinated prior to arrival.
Samoa Travel Tracer App. The Samoa Travel Tracer App has been developed as part of a joint initiative with the Samoa Tourism Authority and Ministry of Health. Using Bluetooth capabilities to assist with tracking COVID-19 positive cases and their close contacts, the app will be used to ensure there is an advanced and widespread contact tracing system among both locals and travellers to safeguard against the spread of infection.
Improving hygiene by training our workforce. We know that maintaining high standards of health and safety among Samoa’s tourism operators will be key to safely re-opening our borders to international arrivals. The Samoa Tourism Authority has already delivered the first round of Health, Safety, and Disinfectant training to upskill employees in our tourism sector around the necessary hygiene measures and protocols for COVID-19. While training is set to continue this year, Samoa will also be supported by the New Zealand government through the provision of cleaning supplies and PPE.
Developing robust COVID-19 testing capabilities. The Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa has recently boosted the nation’s testing capabilities. Access to COVID-19 testing will help to quickly identify positive cases and curb the spread of infection.
National COVID-19 response plan. The Samoa National Emergency Operations Centre (SNEOC) has developed a comprehensive National Preparedness and Response plan for dealing with outbreaks of COVID-19. Made up of four levels of alert ranging from zero COVID-19 cases in the community to more than 10, the plan outlines in detail the actions, restrictions and procedures that will be triggered by the SNEOC at each level of risk.
Existing and future travel bubble arrangements between Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific Island nations will create stiff competition for travellers in the region. As our international neighbours look forward to exploring new cultures again, the Samoan Tourism Authority is preparing to inspire and influence future travel by implementing a long-term targeted marketing programme. Our five-year programme running between 2020 and 2025 will immediately focus on the pent-up VFR market looking to reunite with friends and family before expanding our reach to families, retirees, couples and honeymooners, young adventurers, and business events and weddings.
Before the pandemic, there were direct travel connections to Samoa from Auckland, Sydney, Brisbane, Nadi, Honolulu, and Pago Pago. Most of the airlift came from New Zealand, Australia, and Fiji, with Nadi providing an important gateway for travellers from America and Asia. We understand that re-establishing these travel connections will be critical to restarting tourism in Samoa and revitalising our nation’s economy post-pandemic. Because of this, the Samoa Tourism Authority is continuing to engage with all the airlines that operated in Samoa pre-COVID to ensure they have all the information and updates they need to re-establish connections as soon as those opportunities arise.
From our experience and extensive market research, we know Samoa has a unique visitor proposition which sets us apart from other Pacific nations. The Samoa Tourism Authority is continuing to work with operators during this period to help them enhance and promote their experiences and attractions – ensuring they’re aligned with our market’s needs and aspirations and are ready to go once the time is right. Our ongoing ‘experience development’ programme for sites and attractions is led by the Planning & Development team at the Samoa Tourism Authority with key strategies including product reviews and mentoring and training (such as enhancing tour guiding capabilities, for example).
It’s all about the anticipation. Samoa’s preparations for reopening borders and welcoming tourists again are well underway. Each step we take now plays an important part in giving confidence to our people, operators, and visitors in a post-COVID world, and ultimately, setting our nation on the path to economic recovery.