When the govt. thinks China is all we need to solve our problems

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

This much we know. The idea of direct flights between Samoa and China has been talked about time and time again. 

It is not a new idea. In fact it has been a point of keen discussions as far back as ten years ago or more when the government was negotiating a number of tourism-related developments. 

Suffice to say; today they have amounted to absolutely nothing. Zilch.

Still we continue to talk.  

Which is why it is interesting that at the start of 2018, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s government has revisited the idea once more, believing it is the one solution that could solve all our tourism-related problems.

At least that’s the impression we are getting anyway.

It surfaced last week in a story titled “Samoa hopes for Chinese airline service” which came from an interview between the Prime Minister and the Samoa Observer.

According to the story, the government is looking for an airline from China to invest in Samoa – and possibly fly the route. When it happens – if it happens – it will be the realisation of a long time dream for the government.

“The government has been longing for a Chinese Airline to invest in Samoa,” Tuilaepa said. “When the time does permit for a Chinese airline to enter Samoa, we will share a huge visitors market. Now, that it is our hope for a Chinese airline to invest in Samoa.”

Now why should a Chinese Airline be interested in investing in Samoa? 

Perhaps Prime Minister Tuilaepa should elaborate on that a bit more. 

We say this because Samoa is going to need a pretty solid business case for a Chinese Airline to fly all the way from China to a small isolated location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Keep in mind there are more popular tourism destinations in the Pacific like Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Fiji and a few others.

Why Samoa then?

Don’t get us wrong, if it happens, there will be tremendous benefits for Samoa.

With the world’s biggest population, we only need a drop of the Chinese tourism market to fill the number of hotel rooms available here.

But it’s easier said than done. 

You see no airline in the world will just get up and fly to Samoa – especially from Beijing – without a solid business case. Which is perhaps why after all these years, the talks about China and Samoa flights have remained just that.

Getting back to the Prime Minister, he said the government is a keen observer on the development where a Chinese Group has bought the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel in Apia.

 “That is why the investment made by a Chinese business woman who recently purchased the Sheraton Aggie Grey Hotel,” 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.”

And what does this have to do with an airline and direct flights from China?” 

 “There are other ways to do these things,” Tuilaepa said, “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 people fly back. That’s the idea behind chartering.” 

“Once that happens we will have a booming economy. This will alleviate the concern by hoteliers that there are not enough tourists.”

Isn’t that fantastic? 

And isn’t it great that the Prime Minister and the government think that all we need in Samoa are Chinese tourists and all our problems will be solved with a booming economy? Who would say no to that?

But here’s the thing, we’ve been talking about it for far too long.

We need to see it happen in this lifetime.

But don’t put your last tala on it, it might not happen in this lifetime.

Let’s just hope they can prove us wrong. What do you think?

Have wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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