A positive step for Samoa

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

The signing of the Air Service Agreement between Samoa and China is an exciting development for this country. 

It’s the sort of development we want to see more of especially with the government investing so much aid money into the multi-million-tala airport infrastructure at Faleolo. 

The fact is with such an expensive facility, it would need to self-generate enough revenues to sustain it. Which is why deals such as the A.S.A with China is a step in the right direction.  Implemented well and with a proper business plan to guide it, this has tremendous potential to benefit our people.

We need more airlines to be flying to Samoa for a number of reasons.

Now, for the uninitiated, under the Air Services Agreement signed on Monday, any designated airline will be able to fly between the two countries as well as to any third country. According to a statement about the agreement, there are no restrictions on capacity, frequency and aircraft type. Which means the door is now wide open for any airline to come in and take up the route.

 “This agreement will not only create better connectivity between the two States but will also have the added benefit of increasing trade and tourism. In the foreseeable future, this should create more opportunities for our local entrepreneurs and tourist service operators,” a statement about the signing said.

The agreement was signed by the Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, Papali’itele Niko Lee Hang and the Ambassador of China to Samoa, Wang Xuefeng.

Naturally, Minister Papali’i said this is an exciting time for the Aviation industry. In fact, he revealed that some airlines have already expressed interest to service the route.

“There are companies who have showed interest to come to Samoa, not only from China but also other investors who are in partnerships with people in China,” he said. “And now that we have signed the agreement, we have now opened the market to whoever is interested. If Chinese airlines want to start coming in now then we are now opening it up for them.”

But it’s not just China. Papali’i confirmed that Singapore is also on the radar.

“We will sign a similar agreement with Singapore. They’ve already agreed as well to have flights from Singapore to Samoa but we are also waiting for the agreement to be signed probably next week.”

There is another dimension to all this. With the A.S.A and the pending deal with Singapore, the potential to boost the development of tourism in Samoa is enormous.

All in good timing too.

“The rebuilding of our international airport is progressing really well, we need to have more airplanes to come to Samoa once our international airport is opened.”

Well that’s a fantastic plan, isn’t it? Who doesn’t get excited about that stuff?

After all, we truly believe we have a slice paradise visitors would love to get a piece of. But they need to get here first and that’s why we need more airlines to come to Samoa. The more the merrier. Besides, think about the possibility of lower airfares for our travelling public. 

Now away from the A.S.A, Minister Papali’i also touched upon the future of the joint venture between Virgin Australia and Samoa. 

While he was coy about the state of the review, the future of the joing venture seems uncertain.

 “We’ve noticed that a lot of benefits are not coming straight to us,” he said. 

“So that’s why our government is now looking at finding our own airline.” 

“We now have a committee working on finding us a new airline to carry our flag. There is a great need to have our own airline.”

We respectfully disagree of course. Firstly, we already have our airline.  It’s called Polynesian Airlines. 

But Polynesian Airlines has a very interesting history. The last time the government tried to run such a huge commercial operation with Polynesian Airlines, it nearly bankrupted the country.

We don’t want to go back to those sad days. Which is perhaps why Minister Papali’i and the government has to be extra cautious in terms of moving forward with a new airline.

When it comes to Virgin Samoa, at least it has constantly produced a profit for Samoa. This is something Polynesian Airlines was never able to do before Virgin Australia came on board. It’s worth keeping that in mind.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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