The lad from Austria came to Samoa 15 years ago as part of an invitation by the Samoa Tourism Association for a week’s programme. He however, stayed for a month.
“I stayed longer because I really liked it here. I always try to extend my stay to go by myself to experience, talk and meet people and to take pictures,” he shared with the Dear Tourist team.
“It is a good place here and I really like it. I have some friends, so that is the most important thing why I came back.”
Mr. Weitlaner has been to 100 countries and somehow finds himself again in Samoa. He noted some changes since he last came.
“The biggest change is actually the mobile phone. I did not have a mobile phone 15 years ago and no one here did. We got internet in the cafes. The photos have only been on the roles of film.
“That change is quite rapid and sustainable. The biggest change was definitely on the main island here in Upolu. Savai’i is actually almost the same,” Mr. Weitlaner said.
He hired a car and has been to Savai’i for three nights and drove around there.
“I love Savai’i, but I would not mess with Lalomanu that is my favourite spot. That was the best place that I stayed 15 years ago,” he said.
“I know there has been a tsunami in 2009. It was completely damaged and I really like how they did it now, they kept the spirit. The next door neighbours did not because there is a modern resort.
The way that tourism influences the islands is important.
“Savai’i, for example, is a perfect unique destination. It is perfect for those who want to experience the culture and how it really is.
“Please no resorts on Savai’i, because if you spoil the country once there is no way back. Now it is kept real, it gets it mark.
“I think the most important thing and that is why I am against the resorts or private accommodations is that tourism should actually help the local people with some income on that.
“What I could imagine would be good for the Samoan Tourism is to have an overseas representative or a public relation who is taking care of the advertising overseas,” he shared with Dear Tourist.
Mr. Weitlaner sees potential and areas that the local tourism industry can improve on.
“Here there is one important thing missing, it would not take a lot of money to have some signs to show you where to go,” he said.
“It would be very smart to have, for example, green signs for roads and distances and blue signs for tourist spots.”
The information of the costs would make it easier for locals and tourists to have a comfortable stay on the island.
“I do not have a problem to pay when I go to a tourist sight, but I have a problem when I park my car and someone is running over and want to have $20. If I would know it before, then I could make a decision before. Make it clear how much it actually is. At the black sand beach they have a sign there, $10 for the entry, no problem with that,” he said.
Mr. Weitlaner also sees the difference between just stopping by the attraction and actually staying there for a longer time, which in his opinion should be charged differently.
“Some places become more filled with rubbish; they have to work on that. That is a very big issue, especially behind bushes, when you get out the car and you have a beautiful spot, they should keep it clean.
“At the Papapapaitai Falls on the Cross Island Road, that was horrible, it is just a garbage place, really bad. It would be a beautiful spot though. It could be cleaned by putting some bins there.”
But he still loves Samoa. “The destination is fantastic I have to say that. The people are hearty and gorgeous. What attracts me here is the different expression of music and dances, they are unique,” Mr. Weitlaner said.
“The tradition and culture is outstanding, what is really important. That should be kept. I love it here, the country, people and the nature.”
He added: “Please restore the Court building in town because it would be gone in less than two years.”