Wonderful constructive criticisms

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

In promoting Samoa as the ultimate tourism destination, we agree we all have a role to play. A key part of that is to listen for tips and pieces of valuable and constructive advice to help us move forward. 

In other words, if we want more tourists to come to Samoa, we should listen to what they have to say. The reason is pretty simple. They are tourists, they know best and we want them to keep coming back. 

Which means that if they tell us we need to improve the way we do certain things, we should. That brings us to a wonderful letter we received from the email last week. Written by Dr. Bill Hamblin, of New Zealand, it contained a number of great constructive feedbacks ought to be taken seriously. 

For instance, he identified an issue we’ve been talking about for years with the disappearing of traditional landmark structures from town.

“The old trees that lined Beach Road have not been replaced and, as such, much of the natural beauty and charm of Apia has been lost. The shady street is no more and has been replaced with glass shop fronts that are typical of rushed development in the Pacific,” he writes.

On the streets of Apia, he identified another issue. It involves the heavy presence of L.T.A and Police officers.

“This instills a feeling of disquiet in tourist and local drivers alike who seem to be randomly picked off as they turn left on red lights,” the letter says.

“The presence of police and L.T.A. is a complete overkill and a waste of resources and is simply off-putting to tourists who want to relax.   

“Police could be better utilised chasing drug suppliers, attending to domestic violence matters and guarding the jail.”

Well we couldn’t agree more. 

As a matter of fact, we didn’t need a tourist to tell us about this. We see it everyday. It’s mind boggling why sometimes there are two or three Police officers at one set of traffic lights. Is that really necessary? Don’t they have better things to do?

Lastly, the letter writer referred to what he described as a “chicken and egg situation regarding flights to Samoa” and the question of whether more tourists will come if there are more flights.

“One option to address this issue is the P.N.G. solution where charter flights are organised and aircraft filled for low cost package holidays e.g. Cairns to Milne Bay and East New Britain,” he wrote.  

“If Samoa wants to tap into the Chinese or Japanese tourist market then it needs to get tour operators to Samoa to sample the delights and get direct charter flights organised.  No tourist is going to fly to Australia from China or Japan and then on to Samoa via the Pacific milk run through New Zealand or alternatively wait till Saturday in Brisbane to catch a direct flight to Apia.

“I raise the issue of total holiday cost as Samoa is surprisingly not a low cost destination for the middle-aged visitor like myself. Sure you can stay in a fale, which is a good adventure for the young at low cost. But I am past lying on mats on the floor.  The old bones need something that is softer.

“Hotel accommodation is comparatively more expensive than Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu. Added to that cost is the high cost of car hire in Samoa.  

“The cost is over 2.5 times higher than Brisbane for example and the quality of vehicles while improving is still generally poor.  

“Cost of car hire approximates the cost of accommodation for a holiday in Samoa.  Car hire costs need to be reduced.  

 “As explained air fares from China or Japan are also prohibitive.  I suggest that the Samoa Tourism Authority needs to be a bit more inventive in its marketing strategy and undertake a cost analysis to ensure that Samoa rates favourably against other Pacific destinations and put strategies in place to address issues where Samoa is at a disadvantage.

“The above is provided as constructive comment on Samoan development and hopefully will assist planners.  The matters are small but the impact could be considerable.  In any case nothing will deter me from recommending Samoa as a holiday destination.”

Thank you Dr. Hamblin. 

Rest assured that your valuable feedback – and the fact you have taken the time to recommend a number of ways this country can help herself - is appreciated.

With this year’s Teuila Festival still fresh on our memories, it’s important for us as a country to take a long, hard look at ourselves to find out what we need to do to help develop tourism. 

After all, tourism is not just about the Samoa Tourism Authority (S.T.A) and the government. It’s about attracting those tourist dollars so that everyone can share the benefits.

What we need to remember is that for many of these tourists, just getting to Samoa is already expensive enough. 

We want these tourists to spread the good word to their friends, families and everyone they come in contact with. As a country banking on tourism as the mainstay of the economy, we want to make them feel so happy about their experience in Samoa they will find it difficult not to tell others.

We believe there is no better way to promote a destination than through word of mouth. You can spend millions on advertising campaigns and you’ll probably get some results. 

But happy tourists going back to their countries with happy memories about a place can go a long way to attract many more. 

What’s good about word of mouth promotion is that it’s proven experience and it costs us nothing. It’s not that simple though.  The catch is that we have to do everything that’s possible to ensure their time in Samoa is enjoyable. And that requires a community effort where everyone has a role to play.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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