The man entrusted with the task of selling Samoa as a tourism destination to the world, Dwayne Bentley, remains upbeat.
Despite the negative publicity since the 60 Minutes coverage of the rape of an Australian tourist, which has inevitably tarnished the image of Samoa as a tourism destination, the Samoa Tourism Authority’s Marketing and Promotions Manager’s message to the world is crystal clear.
That is “Beautiful Samoa” is the place to visit.
“The Samoa Tourism Authority expresses its support towards the Australian couple who were attacked back in 2015,” Mr. Bentley said during an interview with the Samoa Observer.
“We wish them comfort and closure on what we understand is a very difficult issue for them.”
Mr. Bentley said what happened at the Lupesina Treesort was unfortunate and he understands the anger and the outrage, which the incident has caused.
“There is simply no excuse for what happened. We understand that the accused has pleaded guilty to the charges and will be sentenced on the 22nd of July.”
But the attack is a reminder that there is no place for complacency when it comes to issues of security and safety.
“Major changes have been made and will continue to be implemented by various government agencies which were clarified in great detail by the Office of the Press Secretariat yesterday afternoon.
“All these measure will not only go towards the safety of our locals but also our overseas guests that visit Samoa.”
According to Mr. Bentley, Australia is Samoa’s second highest tourism market. He admits that the negative publicity will have an impact but he is hopeful.
“Australia is a key source market for us,” he said.
“In fact they are number two behind New Zealand; it’s a market that has grown quite significantly over the past five years and we see a lot of potential in the Australian Market.
“Unfortunately this is an obstacle in our efforts to continue to grow in the Australian Market but it’s not going to stop us from continuing to get more Australians to come to Samoa.
“The incident has highlighted a key message that we have been driving for many years; and that is that tourism is everyone’s business.”
So much so a campaign is underway to improve security for visitors and locals alike.
“The honorable Sala Fata Pinati who is the Minister of Police and has also been recently appointed as the Minister of Tourism has pledged that the Police and Tourism Office will work closely together to promote the Safe Samoa Campaign.”
As for the damage that has been done, Mr. Bentley is realistic enough.
“All the negative publicity is already out there on social media,” he said.
“That is something that we cannot take back; we have also been in touch with our key stakeholders and the tourism businesses who are very much at the centre of all of this on what we can do to counter some of the publicity.
“This is going to make our job difficult but it won’t stop us from continuing the work we do on a collaborative basis with our partners here as well as overseas.
“We will continue to promote the beautiful Samoa and continue to emphasize that despite what happened, Samoa remains as a safe and peaceful destination.”