28 January, 2010
Aussie travellers returning to Samoa
January 28, 2010 - 8:09AM
Samoa is back on the radar among Aussie travellers just four months after a devastating tsunami claimed the lives of 143 people, Sydney-based travel agent Jamie Strickland says.
While official numbers from the Samoan Tourism Authority (STA) aren't due until next week, the managing director of Coral Seas Travel said interest in the island has picked up post-Christmas.
"The booking profiles are certainly going back, not quite to the same levels they were pre-tsunami... but certainly the profile is starting to pick back up again," Strickland said on Wednesday.
A dozen tourists, including five Australians, died in the September 29 disaster, which also claimed 11 resorts.
Strickland said it was hard to compare figures from the previous year as recent economic troubles forced potential travellers to tighten purse strings.
"But considering what the country's been through it's actually quite surprising how quickly it's bounced back," he said.
While Fiji and Vanuatu are South Pacific favourites among Australians, Strickland said Samoa is "becoming a bit of an alternative".
"You are finding people that have been to Fiji, they've been to Vanuatu, they like the South Pacific so Samoa tends to be the next one they tick off and get the stamp in their passport."
A spokeswoman for the STA said the nation experienced a "huge increase" in visitors in the weeks following the tsunami but, "a majority of those people were her on relief work".
The number of Aussie tourists fell by almost a quarter in November and the authority aren't sure what to expect when the December figures are revealed next week.
"I can't really say at the moment, I will have to wait to see when the numbers come through, at the moment we're not really sure."
SOURCE: The Sydney Morning Herald (www.smh.com.au)