Walking into the entrance lobby of Amoa Resort at Siufaga Savai’i is like walking into a dreamy villa designed especially to take advantage of the sea breeze and the natural light that reflects off the white sands.
There is no need for air conditioning or light lamps.
Greeting Dear Tourist with a welcoming smile is Australian Samoan, Elizabeth Siaosi, who is the project development Manager for Amoa Resort.
She also sits on the board for Savai’i Tourism.
Ms. Siaosi is bursting to tell us about how incredible Savai’i is and how a Sydney born and bred girl came to Savai’i and then never left.
“In 2009, I came back to connect with my dad’s family so that I could say I did it once in my life,” she recalled.
“When I got here though, I just found a way of life that I couldn’t turn my back on. Now that I live here in Savai’i - the most beautiful place on the earth, I find the people here are the most beautiful people that I have ever encountered and I’m raising a family now so of course it’s important that they live in a safe and peaceful place so Savai’i is very special to us.”
Elizabeth has a background in the tourism industry from Australia which came in handy when she crossed paths with the owners of Amoa Resort a couple years ago while she was looking around Samoa for employment.
After just two months on the job, she realised that she was on to something incredible and she has been here ever since.
Elizabeth told Dear Tourist that Savai’i is a fun and developing place that is evolving in the right way because things are still natural and authentic especially within village life, noting that the matai in their decision making are not in a hurry to change or be everything that the outside world is.
“The story that Savai’i has to tell is something that I think the modern world really needs to take notice of,” she said.
“In terms of it not being advanced but still people have a good standard of living. The key to that is living and being content with what you have without wanting expensive things but being able to provide for your families.
“I read the Village Voice a lot and those people that really stand out to me are those that say, yes I have a plantation and I grow food and I sell it or I make the most of what I have, rather than pointing upwards and saying its the government’s responsibility.”
The transition to live in Savai’i was easy for Elizabeth because she had always wanted a life like one in Savai’i and that people here are happy because they don’t count what they don’t have.
“The reason why I live in Savai’i is that I’m genuinely intrigued by my neighbours and the way they live and the way they survive.
“Not necessarily getting up each day and going to work but getting up each day and going to the plantation and the way the fa’asamoa works in the family with the grandparents being there and the adults are cooking with all the kids are helping.”
Living on the big island, Elizabeth says that she has become more conscientious about the environment and learning how to live sustainably has added value to her and family’s life.
“Living in Savai’i, I have learnt how to be more considerate of the environment. So from what I see we still got things to learn in Samoa about caring for the environment but generally the people out in the villages are still living quite sustainably.
“I really commend them for that perhaps in the future that might change but for now the way people live from the plantation and still cooking by fire. There are so many countries who have big policies and emphasize green living but are not actually doing it. Here in Samoa, we’re actually doing it. We’re using what God gave us to survive.”
Even after living in Si’ufaga village for a couple of years, Elizabeth still finds some things a novelty which make her and family’s life even sweeter in Savai’i.
“One of the best things about living in the village for me is seeing all these different foods coming through our door. There are still a lot of gestures every night. The young kids of the village will come and deliver something just because that is the fa’asamoa way
“And you see these beautiful raw fish dishes. You just don’t understand how privileged I feel to live here.”
Being passionate about where she lives makes it easy for her to work with hoteliers from around Savai’i to promote tourism.
And while they cannot compete with their neighbours like Fiji and the Cook Islands who are bigger and commercially advanced, Elizabeth says that this works in their favour.
From what she has seen, tourists who do eventually make it to Savai’i realise that they can discover a place like what Fiji and the Cook Islands was like 20 years ago. They love it.
It’s not just foreigners that Elizabeth wants to reach with their tourism marketing and promotional work, she thinks that there is something to say about local tourism and that Samoans need not look very far for their next holiday destination.
“Our local tourism is really booming,” she said. “There is a lot of potential. I think since the opening of all the big resorts, it’s educated Samoans about how to have a little holiday and so we’re seeing more people doing that.
“We would like more of people from Upolu to come over. Before I moved here, I didn’t know that there was this perception that there was this culture of looking down on Savai’i … but it doesn’t matter because what we know is this, Savai’i is just drop dead gorgeous.
“In comparison to Upolu, Savai’i doesn’t see as many visitors, a lot of people don’t have the knowledge that there is a beautiful island waiting for them over here.
“Sometimes we get guests that just hop over for the day and after they discover us, they say ‘we wish we had of known we would have stayed longer’ If I had a dollar for every time I heard that …” she laughs
Elizabeth predicts that very soon in the future Samoa will see a jump in their population with professionals and also our parents generation returning to a place that is easier than when they left and she is excited about the opportunities that will arise out of that and we need only to realise them.
“Samoa is a really awesome place to be in right now. You don’t need to hop on a plane to go to Hawaii, you just need to hop on a ferry and come to Savai’i.”