Small hotels in Samoa are having a hard time, according to Luna Marsters-Paul, Director of Le Manumea Hotel in Apia.
Le Manumea is approximately 10 minutes up Cross Island Road from Apia with panoramic surroundings and close to the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum.
With 12 comfortable deluxe suites, the hotel has a very ‘at home’ atmosphere, almost like being part of a big family where of course everyone knows everyone.
Luna rates her business as a pretty good hotel but at this time, the middle of the so-called high season, it is hard to get bookings, she says.
The reason for this she says is the competition from the big hotels in town since they are running specials with the airlines, which allow them to offer better packages to tourists even if the room rates themselves are much higher than those in the small hotels.
“This is a real big advantage for the big hotels” said Luna. “We can’t really afford the airlines to take rooms of our hotel for very low prices.”
This would mean the operation costs of hotel are not covered which would affect the overall financial situation of the business.
Besides this, the hotels miss out on lots of guests from Europe in the high season since the European guests prefer to travel between October and January during their winter months.
Even if the signs are not so good, Luna says she tries to stay positive and not be too worried although this is sometimes hard.
But she believes in God and leaves it to the Lord. And she knows that the C.E.O. of the hotel works on a full destination plan and has some plans in place.
“We should aim high, anything is possible,” is one of Luna’s mottos.
“I would like to see everyone improve.” Even the people in the promotional marketing area of Samoa Tourism could say, "We could be bigger on the market, we need to reach out, to get through.”
The main tourists who come to Le Manumea are from New Zealand but there are also guests from countries in Europe like Spain, Sweden, Germany and Finland, however these are in the minority.
Luna believes, that one should also additionally think about other possibilities to enter into the market within the tourism sector and to therefore increase the number of guests. She is quite sure that there may be other options which so far have not been considered.
One opportunity, for example to increase guest numbers in small hotels could be by hosting volunteers who are coming to Samoa to support various projects.
Of course, this could not be the solution for the high season but definitely in the low season. And it would mean mutual cooperation with those organizations which are offering those volunteering projects in Samoa.
As for the actual promotional activities of Le Manumea Hotel, the Director mentioned that they use their own website with various postings by advisers and with some cooperation with travel agencies, and of course, predominantly social media.
The use of travel agents, is being replaced more and more by the online tools due to the high progress in technology, she said.
Furthermore, every Thursday evening, Le Manumea Hotel hosts a very popular Fiafia Night. While this is a celebration of Samoan culture with traditional food and entertainment including beautiful songs, graceful dances and a spectacular fire knife dance, guests also get a taste of the music and dance from around the Pacific.
Most of Le Manumea’s bookings are done by the internet or directly from guests.
Last month, they were fully booked till the end of August due to the presence of a New Zealand sports group who were taking part in the Alopaopao Regatta.
In July, the occupancy rate was down to 50% while predictions for September are below 50%, but pick up towards the end of the month.
However, she admits that the bookings overall in 2016 are a little better in comparison to 2015.
But more needs to be done by the Samoa Tourism Authority to increase Samoan tourism in general, she said.
Samoa has to be shown to be more attractive in comparison to other Pacific countries, for example Fiji.
More focus should be put directed to Samoa so that long-distance travellers from other countries are interested, become curious and would like to visit Samoa.
And while it could be said that all the Pacific islands offer much the same to visitors, Samoa needs to have a point of difference that sets it apart from the others, says Luna.