17 August, 2013
Samoa resorts and hotels bounce back
IT'S been a tough few years for tourism in Samoa.
Just as the island nation was starting to get back on its feet after the devastating 2009 tsunami, it was hit by tropical Cyclone Evan last December.
Many resorts, which were nearing completion, were badly damaged in the cyclone and work had to start afresh. But with the fourth anniversary of the tsunami next month, Samoa has plenty to look forward to with several new resorts and refurbishments planned.
Last week Starwood Hotels and Resorts signed a deal to rebrand the iconic Aggie Grey's Hotel in the capital, Apia, and Aggie Grey's Beach Resort and Spa, near the airport. The properties will be renamed Sheraton and upgraded to bring them in line with the hotel group's standards.
"It's big news and everyone is very excited about it," Samoa Tourism Authority spokesman Peter Sereno says. "For us it shows that these guys have got their eyes on Samoa as an emerging destination."
Much of the original Aggie Grey's, which was the first hotel in Samoa, was bulldozed after the river burst its banks during the cyclone. It is being rebuilt in a similar colonial style and due to reopen in August next year.
As well as plans for the $60 million Taumeasina Island Resort, which is being built on a man-made island near Apia, several resorts are in the pipeline for the south coast of the largest island, Upolu.
Aga Reef Resort, which caters mostly to couples, opened in July and the family- friendly Saletoga Sands Resort is scheduled to open in April. The latter is a 30-minute drive from the beautiful Lalomanu Beach (often voted one of the world's best) which was one of the worst-hit areas in the tsunami.
Another resort is set to open at Lefaga next year on the site where the 1953 Gary Cooper film Return to Paradise was filmed. It will, naturally, be called Return to Paradise Resort and Spa.
"Nothing has been built on that beach for generations," Mr Sereno says. "It will be one of the biggest resorts on that side of the island with 60 to 70 rooms."
The popular Coconuts Beach Club Resort and Spa also reopened in July, seven months late due to the cyclone.
Mr Sereno says Samoa is a great destination for travellers who want a quieter alternative to Fiji with pristine beaches, rock waterslides, swimming holes, great surfing, Polynesian culture and history.
"There are some really good deals out there in the market at the moment," he says. "You can get seven-day land and flight packages for as low as $1100.
"If people want to try a traditional Samoan experience, they can stay at a fale and pay as little as $35 a night for a bed with dinner and breakfast included."
By Angela Saurine