Sliding rocks incident should be used as constructive feedback

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Here is the thing folks. There are two ways the relevant authorities can view the incident at the Papaseea Sliding Rocks last week, where a kiwi tourist has decided to speak out after she was injured.

They can become defensive and downplay what’s been said as just a one off incident or they can do the responsible thing, take what’s been said and use it to avoid a repeat incident.

We’d prefer that they take the second option. We say this because it could save a life. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be that of a tourist; it could be a loved one, a relative or a dear friend. Folks, when we are in the business of dealing with lives, we cannot afford to take any chances whatsoever.

Besides, in Samoa, we all know, and as many tourists have continued to highlight, one of the biggest problems is the lack of signage. Anywhere. Maybe because we are small country we naturally assume that people know things that they should. But it doesn’t happen that way.

This is why signs are so critical. They exist to warn and direct people. In many cases, they save lives.

In the case in question, it was up at the Papaseea Sliding Rocks. From local knowledge, we can tell you that the Sliding Rocks is a challenging place to get to even when the conditions are fine. And even the fittest of people would struggle to get down and have the energy to climb back up. The stairways can feel like forever. 

And yet there is nothing anywhere – or anyone – who is there to warn visitors about the fact. In many cases, people have had to find out the hard way and it is a miracle that we don’t hear too many incidents like the story of Helen Gebel, who is lucky to be alive.

Now concerned about others, Ms. Gebel has sounded the alarm bells. Asked if she was advised by the Sliding Rocks operators of the dangers of the site, Ms. Gebel explained: “All they told us was to be careful with the bags, there was no advice at all about the current, and it was only to look after the belongings.

“If I also knew that people get hurt there, I would have spoken to some locals first because when they asked me where I had injured myself, and I told them Papaseea, they said it was not a safe place.

“Papaseea should not be open as they are. It is dangerous and life threatening, as well as difficult to access in emergencies.

“It might be better during certain seasons and depending on the weather, but the current is so strong at the moment because of all the rain and it should be closed for now.

“They should also only open if the current is not too strong. The large falls need to be clearly labelled as dangerous and should be fenced off.”

The point she makes here is absolutely critical. When the weather is bad and after heavy flooding, someone needs to make a decision that the place is not safe.

And that message needs to be communicated to unsuspecting visitors – like Ms. Gebel – who would have only read the fantastic reviews about the place, when the weather is fine. Things change dramatically up there after a day of heavy rainfall.

These are the little things that could make a big difference to Samoa as a tourism destination. 

Speaking of the tourism, we acknowledge the Samoa Tourism Authority for taking the time to check on Ms. Gebel. 

Public Relations Officer, Su’a Hesed Ieremia, they would also consider Ms. Gebel’s recommendations on how to make the site safe for people and to help them with future plans for the tourism industry.

“We also work with the New Zealand Government in terms of improving Samoa’s tourism industry, so we will definitely look into putting more sign boards and warnings and making the place safe for visitors, with the recent accident in mind, we will definitely use it to develop the site,” Su’a said.

“Papaseea is safe for tourists and locals, people need to be aware of the safe place to slide and where not to, I guess that’s where we will need to work on.”

Well there is a great attitude to have. We can use these incidents constructively to improve our country. At the end of the day, it is about us looking after our visitors so that they return home safe and sound with lots of fantastic memories so they can encourage more people to visit our little slice of paradise.

Have a fabulous week Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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