Just along from a group of laughing visitors from New Zealand and Australia being schooled in the art of weaving at the stunning Taumeasina Island Resort, sat Ruth Wiltshire from Lower Hutt, New Zealand.
Reclining on a poolside seat, Ruth was relaxing and enjoying what turned out to be her very first day in Samoa.
“I’m a contractor and I took two weeks off between contracts,” she said.
“I do Policy Analysis quite a lot in the Health sector but just recently, I finished a contract for Environmental Protection Agency.”
Her brief to her travel agent for this holiday, was for somewhere warm – maybe either Samoa or Rarotonga.
“We took quite a bit of time to look and this (Samoa) just looked like paradise – unbelievable!”
“I’m here for six nights so I just want to spend the first couple of days getting over myself and relaxing and then I’ll start exploring.”
“I am looking forward to learning kayaking here at Taumeasina.”
As for other sights she is keen to see, “On the way here I passed a lot of beautiful churches and I know there are a lot of lovely waterfalls to look at and maybe I’ll take the ferry across and see the other island.”
Having previously been to two other Pacific islands, Ruth said her expectations of Samoa have been met “and more!”
“I’ve been to Vanuatu and Fiji and Samoa, it looks wealthier, it’s got better infrastructure, housing is much better unlike most of Fiji,” she said frankly.
“I’m fascinated by all the pillared rooms, the malae in the villages that we saw as we drove along.”
Ruth said she could see how suitable they are for the climate – “just brilliant”.
However she showed that she had been very observant in the drive from the airport as she spelled out a warning regarding our tourism development.
“I think Samoa needs to be careful, that you retain the unique culture and feel of Samoa and not turn it into a concrete jungle because obviously there is a lot of new investment coming in.
I stayed in Fiji at a basic resort off island and that was very authentic and I loved it. I also spent a couple of days at Denerau and truly I could have been anywhere in the world except for the Fijians serving and we were completely cut off from the culture. It was a gated community and the gate was between the haves and the have nots.”
“Places like Taumeasina, you are really well cared for and it’s family-friendly so you can genuinely relax.”
“I would be really disappointed if Samoa built a wall between the tourists and the locals. I would be really disappointed at that.”
“I think Samoa also has to keep itself unique so that you don’t have huge numbers a year and they just take over.”
“Other places like Greece etc are just over run by tourism and they are ugly.”
“I think Samoa is so unique, so beautiful it shouldn’t be all numbers, it should be quality.”
“One of the choices Samoa has to make, is to pitch itself at the right level but they should be mindful to ensure quality of tourism over quantity.”