Samoa as a tourism destination
Editorial by Mata’afa Keni Lesa
We’ve always known that culture and traditions sell Samoa as a tourism destination - whether it’s in Australia, Asia, United States, Europe or wherever.
That’s why most tourists come here.
They want to know about kind of people we are, they are keen to learn our culture, immerse themselves in our traditions, taste our food and discover everything else there is to know about Samoa.
Then they want to see our islands. They visit the beaches; explore the forest, climb our mountains and see all the national attractions.
Suffice to say, it’s the people and the land that gives tourists a genuine Samoan experience. That’s why the fake experience being offered in places like Hawaii and others will never replace the real Samoa.
Add the fact we are considered so remote many of them don’t know we exist, all that makes up the mystery of destination Samoa.
This week, some 19 Travel and Tour agents from the top agencies in Australia and one from New Zealand are here. They have been invited to sample what Samoa has to offer and then when they return, spread the word about us.
Among them is Jamie Strickland who has been promoting Samoa for more than 20 years.
The General Manager of Coral Seas says Samoa has the advantage over tourism giants like Fiji and Tahiti because we provide a “balance between both the modern and traditional experience.”
What he means exactly is difficult to ascertain since both Fiji and Tahiti also have cultures of their own which they obviously use extensively to lure visitors.
Mr Strickland though refers to a 10-night package in Samoa with three nights at the Sinalei Resort, three in Savai’i and then another hotel or resort on Upolu.
“It’s most profitable and its better value for your money,” says Mr Strickland.
We agree. Feedback from a few tourists who have bought the package say it’s fantastic.
Apart from a few gaps – where one tourist found that the agent did not book his vehicle for the ferry to Savai’i - there seems to be a general consensus that the package does work. If all goes according to plan, it should be continued.
But tourists don’t decide to visit a destination purely based on an accommodation package. While the cost is a major factor when tourists weigh up their options, it’s what a destination offers that matters.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is certainly confident.
Says he; “You will find that Samoa can now cater to all ranges of holidays for families, young couples, wedding parties, romantic honeymoons and active tours of rugby, soccer, swimming and lawn bowls. In marine adventure such as surfing, scuba diving and game fishing. We have them all.”
Indeed we do.
It’s a big help that Samoa is only hours away from Australia and New Zealand. The Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) should therefore continue to push these markets.
While we get a few tourists from Asia, Europe and America, Australia and New Zealand are the two markets we should continue to put the pressure on.
Since the arrival of Polynesian Blue, we’ve seen more and more tourists from Australia visit our shores.
The airline – through direct flights and cheaper fares - has been hugely successful in attracting tourists who want to come directly from Sydney to Apia (a five hour flight) for a bit of sun and sand.
The location of hotels like Aggie Grey’s Resort makes their trip more convenient since they walk straight out of the aircraft to a cold Vailima at the pool bar in minimal time.
This is the sort of experience many tourists want. It’s cheaper, convenient and comfortable.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa says Samoa should gun to have around 28,000 visitors from Australia this year. I’d say we should push for more.
There is no reason why we shouldn’t.
SOURCE: Samoa Observer Online