Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has confirmed his government’s wish for a possible direct flight from China to Samoa, as part of the government’s plans to develop the tourism industry.
Tuilaepa confirmed this during an interview with the Samoa Observer yesterday.
“The government has been longing for a Chinese Airline to invest in Samoa,” Tuilaepa said.
“So when the time does permit for a Chinese airline to enter Samoa, we will get a share of a huge tourism market.”
Tuilaepa said nothing has been finalised.
“Now, that it is our hope for a Chinese Airline to invest in Samoa,” he said.
Tuilaepa said the government is looking at the recent investment by a Chinese group who have purchased the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel on Beach Road.
He said the transaction presents a huge opportunity for Samoa.
Besides, the talks about flights from China have been in the works for a very long time, he said.
“We must also remember that these people are great business people in a sense that they will only invest in this avenue once they know that it’s profitable,” he said of the Chinese.
“There are other ways to do these things, such as chartering, this is the idea that’s been floating around for a long time and I’m certain it will work.
“What I mean is, you charter the plane and fly over 400 passengers, the plane returns and gets another 400 and then on the way back the first 400 fly back, that’s the idea behind chartering.
“Once that happens we will have a booming economy,” said Tuilaepa.
“This will alleviate the concern by hoteliers that there are not enough tourists. This is why we are trying to promote Samoa overseas.
“And that is why we have the open sky policy with the intention this will attract more airlines, but so far that hasn’t happened.”
These are all commercial decisions, said Tuilaepa.
Asked when the government anticipates this will happen, Tuilaepa said “it can happen anytime.
“There are business people who are prepared to take the risk and those are the types of businesses that we can only pray will come and invest in Samoa.”
He says Samoa has so much to offer the tourism industry.
“Our biggest asset is the fact that we are Samoans.
“Our genuineness and friendliness is what makes us unique.”
Tuilaepa also emphasized why it’s important to keep Samoa clean.
“Whenever an investor wants to visit, we ask them to come because once they land here their perception of Samoa will completely change.
“They will be completely overwhelmed, especially driving from Faleolo, it’s the ocean on your left and the beautiful villages on your right, with the mountains in the background.
“They will see the beauty and greenish of our landscape.
“They would say this is the best drive ever.
“When they see how beautiful our villages are and that is why it’s vital for the village councils to continue with the beautification of their villages as it attracts tourists,” he said.
In October 2016, China and Samoa signed off on an Air Service Agreement (A.S.A.) for direct flights between Beijing and Faleolo.
The agreement was signed by the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’itele Niko Lee Hang and the Ambassador of China to Samoa, Wang Xuefeng at the T.A.T.T.E Building.
The deal opens the door for any carrier interested in servicing the route. But it’s not just China that the government is looking to. Singapore is also on the list.
Minister Papali’i said there were airlines that had showed interest in servicing the route, but the A.S.A. had to be signed first.
“There are companies who have showed interest to come to Samoa, not only from China, but also other investors who are in partnerships with people in China,” he said.
“And now that we have signed the agreement, we are now open for market to whoever is interested. The market is now open. If Chinese airlines want to start coming in now then we are now opening it up for them.”