The way forward for Samoa

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Dear Editor,

Re: Samoa eyes China flight  

China is not the answer to all of Samoa’s challenges. New Chinese supermarkets have flooded Samoa with cheap, low quality and inferior goods that really do not reduce the cost of living, particularly if you take into account the negative impact on Samoan small businesses.

Chinese “investment” is to loan money for projects that in most cases have little positive impact on the Samoan economy, offering a poor return on investment and a mounting debt that is increasingly difficult to service. 

Recent reports of taking on more debt to finance bridges and a regional airport sounds like a foolish gambler doubling down on a run of losses at the Casino.

Chinese tourism may be a way to reverse the falling tourist numbers, but will only benefit a small number of operators that sell out to this market. The new tourists will be lining the pockets of plenty of overseas-based companies and the bulk of Samoan operations will suffer. 

Take for instance the current beauty of Samoa with not too many tourists tripping over each other at landmarks like To Sua, Afu Aau’u or Lalomanu beach and compare that with a fleet of buses full of Chinese tourists descending on these places on a daily basis. Maybe not so serene and a beautiful Samoan experience.  There is a place for all additional tourism, but it always seems that the strategy hinges on a single opportunity ands lacks balance to build a solid foundation for sustainable growth.

The focus of the past 18 months has firmly been on filling the 5 star hotels with people that should spend alot more than those visiting beach fales and other mid range resorts. This seems to have been moderately successful with good numbers of booking going through these top end establishments, but at what price? Big discounts on rooms and sweet packages with Airlines music be seriously eroding the profit margins of their overseas shareholders and at the same time the limited seats on flights coming into samoa, which is why the low to mid range operators are hurting so badly right now.

Samoa needs to add as many new markets to the tourism mix and build Samoan tourism like an incoming tide, where all boats rise together, not just focus on this year’s favourite to their benefit and to the disadvantage of others in this important market.

 

S.P.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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