Learn to say thank you

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Dear Editor,

Re: P.M understands business quite well 

Whilst you’re swimming around in that beautiful sea of facts, I wish to also jump in and join you in the enabling environment that was created from 2000 onwards which resulted in this massive growth in Tourism.

The statistics show that the number of visitors (including tourists) to Samoa rose exponentially over that time period. Samoa’s GDP was regularly recording huge growth of 5-6% annually until the tsunami and the global financial crisis hit in 2008-2009.

Four key things happened:

1) The Companies Act 2001 created sole-person companies which allowed more smaller businesses to enter the tourism market (eg: Beach Fale operations). You’ll notice that Beach Fale accomodation practically exploded after 2001 as opposed to pre-2000 when there was hardly any around.

2) The joint deal with Virgin Australia created Polynesian Blue which offered (at that time) lower cost airfares in line with the Budget Airline business model the venture followed (at that time). This made airfares cheaper and people flocked to fly the airline. Especially newer tourists on a budget. This has since changed ever since Virgin Australia did the dirty deal with Air New Zealand a few years ago but the numbers of tourists has been steady and is now bouncing back to pre-2009 levels. 2016 was the best year in a decade. Don’t forget that the Samoan Government still owns 49% of Virgin Samoa (and previously, Polynesian Blue). Grey Investment Group owns 2%. So Samoa in total has owned 51% of this venture ever since 2005 and every single year, the airline has recorded a profit.

3) The deregulation of the telecommunications industry allowed competition into the Samoan market. Digicel came in and revolutionised telecommunications in Samoa. Prices were slashed. Samoatel was then privatised as the next step and Bluesky entered the market. We now have genuine competition between Digicel and Bluesky and 90% of Samoans have cell phones. The effect on tourism was indirect but quite important. Digicel and Bluesky added their financial investment into infrastructure that supports tourism eg: extending the cellphone coverage to 95% of Samoa. Manu Samoa has been funded almost exclusively by either Digicel or Bluesky for over a decade now. That money has allowed Manu Samoa to front the world and promote Samoa - especially the world champion 7s team in 2010. SIFA has also been another cash cow for Manu Samoa. So thanks to Digicel, Bluesky and SIFA, Manu Samoa has continued to promote Samoa overseas. It has always been either SIFA.WS or DIGICEL or BLUESKY on their playing jerseys as the major sponsor.

4) Grey Investment Group has had massive influence in the tourism industry and the government has fully supported anything the Grey Empire has required. They wanted casino licences, they got it. Has the world fallen apart? No. However, Sheraton has now seen fit to enter the Samoan market because they are comfortable that Samoa is a good place to do business and because of the belief that they have in the Grey Investment Group. Lamana Investment Group also entered the market on government support. The mostly Samoan consortium that owns Return to Paradise resort in Lefaga also had full government support. Sheraton coming into Samoa is a massive massive deal for Samoa. The worldwide resources of the Starwood Group is a massive bonus for the tourism industry.

So thanks Stui. Your administration has done good. It has created a superb enabling environment for investment to flow in and allow the tourism industry to grow. Never has there been so many hotels, motels, and beach accomodation providers in Samoan history. Never have the numbers of tourists to Samoa ever been at such high levels.

Now, with further investment in the airport and the fibre optic cable coming to Samoa this year as well as the Apia waterfront development, we look forward to more growth. So much growth that I am reminded of that famous song: “love is all around us”. 

 

PS Jeffrey 

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