With today’s growing competitive travel and tourism markets, establishing well profound connections is vital, especially when it comes to marketing an island like Samoa in continental Europe.
Alison Cryer, the Managing Director of the Samoa Tourism Authority Europe Office, gave an insight as to what her team has been carrying out in terms of selling the local products to countries in Europe.
“We are very much focusing on the high end luxury because it is an expensive journey, and when you get here you want to have the absolute best,” Ms. Cryer said.
“So our focus is very much the luxury end market across Europe including weddings, family travel as well because there are high end family travels.
“But behind our main focus, we are obviously also maintaining the responsible travel, sustainable travel because luxury isn’t just experiencing the five star, four star hotels, it’s also about the experience. You can have a luxury experience in a smaller property. So we are kind of focusing on all those areas.”
Ms. Cryer is in Samoa for the three-day Samoa Tourism Exchange (S.T.E.), which ended yesterday, together with travel agency representatives from some countries across Europe.
“This is also the first year we’ve brought in a broad cross section, last year we brought only representatives from U.K. and Germany, also the previous year. This year we’ve got one person from the U.K., two from France, two from Italy, one from Sweden, one from the Czech Republic and one from Holland. So we’ve really expanded.
“I’ve been with them all week and we’ve been visiting different hotels, resorts, different attraction sites and they have been all very excited. It’s something they really didn’t know until now. There’s so much potential there.”
Ms. Cryer noted the importance of connection and having access to the products being advertised.
“We started off in the United Kingdom and then expanded into Germany because U.K. has connections with Germany historically and both countries are growing markets.
“With the new airline (Samoa Airways) as well, that’s going to make a huge difference in terms of connections because we’ve found it hard to connect through other flights. Virgin Airline is now connecting well with Singapore Airways, Fiji Airways connects well with Hong Kong, Singapore, so all the connections are getting better and I think we can grow the market even bigger.”
Being in the tourism marketing business for 30 years, having worked for the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (S.P.T.O.) for 20 years and for the Samoa Tourism Authority for eight years, Ms. Cryer knows the importance of getting the message out there to consumers.
“With limited budgets, we do a lot of sales calls, a lot of one on one meeting with tour operators, convincing the tour operators because first of all you need to get the tour operators to programme because it is quite a long way,” she said.
“Samoa is outside of the world. A lot of tour operators here will use the Destination Management Company (D.M.C.) here or ground operators as we call them, so we’ve got a collection of D.M.C.s here and we’ve got now island hopper moving in as well, which is good, because that gives us another alternative.
“So we’ve talked to the tour operators and once we get the programmes in the tour operators’ brochures, we then work with tour operators to get the travel agents excited, so the travel agents are then trained and learn about the destination and they get motivated to sell it.
“But then at the same time, we’ve got to get the consumer to think about coming to Samoa because there’s no point for the tour operator to convince the consumer to come to Samoa when they could rather settle for Fiji, so we do PR, advertisements in the media.”
Ms. Cryer added: “We recently brought the editor/owner of family travel, which is the biggest family travel magazine, really high end glossy magazine in the U.K., Germany, and U.S.A. He loved it, so he’s going to do editorials, digital campaign.
“In the previous years we’ve used expedia to promote the expedia product and that’s worked very well and now we can see the results coming through.
“We’ve worked with the S.P.T.O, we do their roadshows, we do ITB, WTN, small roadshows in Europe, and we go to some tour operators consumer shows in Europe and also social media. We’re very busy.”
She explained while Australia and New Zealand remain Samoa’s biggest markets, it is their aim to increase the number of Europeans setting foot on Samoa’s shores.
“Australia and New Zealand will always be your main markets. It’s a little bit like looking at us; U.K. is the biggest market for Spain, now Spain doesn’t get that many Australians and New Zealand people as we do the British people because they are on the other side of the world. So we have to be realistic about what we can achieve, we just want to make sure we really keep increasing the traffic to Samoa.
“The products every time I come, the hotels are getting better and better, the restaurants and the attractions, the whole product is improving every time, so it’s a great time for people to invest in it.”
Ms. Cryer also highlighted access and limited budget as two main challenges they encounter.
“The biggest challenge is always access and the fact that for the Europe and U.K. market, it’s a long way. However, that can also be a strength because it’s a journey of a lifetime. So people plan it, they invest in it. It’s something that’s very special. And Samoa’s hospitality, the people in Samoa make half the experience and they make the travel really special.
“Budget, because you’re competing with destinations like the Cook Islands and Fiji, but we make do with what we have and we always try to share budget with tour operators. When you compare us to Cook Islands and Fiji, they’ve got vast budgets, so that is a challenge but we can rise to the challenge.”
Moving forward, Ms. Cryer says the plan is to be a bit more innovative.
“We want to be much more digital because that is the world, everything is digital, to promote more products coming out. Keep on doing what we’re doing because it’s working.”
Melanie Kar, representing Les Maisons du Voyage, one of France’s biggest travel agencies, told the Samoa Observer she is here to discover the island and meet people.
“I’m a seller for the Oceania region and I am not really familiar with Samoa because our clients don’t know where it is. So that’s why we are here to discover the island, meet some people,” Ms. Kar said.
“There are so many little boutique hotels, I would like to work with them. It’s very different, I don’t know about Fiji and Cook Islands, but to me, it’s very different, you’re very cultural and authentic and we need to sell Samoa.
“I hope Samoa stays the way it is. I don’t think it’s a good idea for Samoa to expand and grow their tourism industry.
“I would definitely market Samoa and sell this island because we have a lot of clients who want the authentic, cultural islands for example they love Polynesia for their culture. You can’t find similar things elsewhere.”
Suzanne Bjorklund of Tour Pacific in Sweden echoed similar sentiments saying they intend to broaden and increase their programmes to Samoa.
“We will add more hotels to our website; we will also do combinations of the two islands and also sell the packages. We do mainly at the moment Samoa in combination with Australia and New Zealand, but since I am here, we learn more about what you offer, we can make people extend their stay and our main aim coming here is to make more interesting packages to Samoa,” Ms. Bjorklund shared.
“Samoa is a really authentic destination, you don’t want to come from the other side of the world to find a new Miami; you really want that local feel to it. We’re not looking for international hotel chains, we want local authentic experience. So from us it is important that we stay with the local people, the local operators.
“I think the authenticity, to be honest it’s a long travel but your beautiful beaches are unspoiled and we do our best to promote 100 percent the destination. People really want to experience the culture as well and the nature. I think Samoa has everything.
“We do offer Mauritius, Maldives and Seychelles because they’re closer to us, and of course beaches are everywhere across the world, but the South Pacific offers genuine culture that you can’t find anywhere else.”
Ms. Bjorklund explained: “It’s my first time to Samoa, but our company has been selling it for 25 years. Honestly speaking, Samoa is not our most volume destination but that’s why we are here, invited by the tourist board to learn more and experience the destination. So we can be better in promoting it.
“I’ve just been here for 48 hours, and to me it looks like an amazing destination. The nature, the landscape, the people, the still beautiful resorts, and it seem Samoa has a lot of nice things to offer.
“Samoa is absolutely authentic, it seems very easy to move around, drive and hire cars, which makes it easier for guests not to be guided all the time, but we do work with both individuals as well as group.
“We have a group coming here in October, they will visit five destinations in the Pacific, but they will only be staying for three days in Samoa. They will have an interesting programme, doing cultural visits, swimming in the waterfalls and all interesting things here.”