The Samoa Tourism Authority (S.T.A.) believes the more access travellers have to Samoa through different airline carriers, the better.
In an interview with the Samoa Observer, C.E.O. of Samoa Tourism Authority, Papalii Matatamalii Sonja Hunter, remarked that it’s vital for the benefit of Samoa that tourists have as many inroads to our country as possible, and that we need to focus on our own efforts to improve our transport infrastructure.
She also says we should not forget about the wider Samoan diaspora when it comes to promoting tourism.
Responding to questions about her views on recent claims that Air New Zealand was trying to undercut our national airline by reducing their airfares and increasing the frequency of their flights, Papalii said: “We can’t see it from that point of view because any access is access for us. But we must also protect our own national carrier, by ensuring that they are intelligent with their strategic marketing for example in how you sell your packages.
“Now all these other airlines have been there a long time, but this is where we can actually look at the different market segments and how we reach out to them.”
Papalii added the figures from last year showed that there was a marked improvement in the tourist figures since the launch of the national aircraft and that there was still more improvement needed.
“For the past five years, we averaged 145,000 visitors every year up to 2016. The last year (2017) we broke through the 150,000 mark because of the Samoa Airways aircraft. We are breaking through and we are a destination that can do better.”
Papalii points out that we need to look at those market segments very differently particularly when it comes to catering to the many thousands of Samoans abroad who make a significant chunk of the incoming “visitors” from New Zealand and Australia.
“This is the thing in Samoa; we have not appreciated our diaspora, our overseas-born Samoans who are so easy to market to.
“We are a country, that if compared to all the other Pacific Islanders, we attract a visit from friends and relatives, whenever we are out there promoting to tourists, they come to because they are enthused about coming to Samoa. They look like us, but they are not us.”
She applauded Taumeasina Island Resort’s “Aiga” package as an effective marketing strategy because they recognized the value of catering to the overseas-based Samoans and as a result changed the landscape of tourists in Samoa.
“So the thing is that one; we are promoting to the tourists, our diaspora also sees this and lo and behold – they have disposable income. So why should we stop them from coming? They come over here and spend so much money on weddings for example.
“You take the Taumeasina strategy they put up an Aiga package, why did they hone in on the Aiga package? Because according to the owner, their directors were interested in finding out where all the overseas Samoans are based. Finding that there are 160,000 in New Zealand and close to 100,000 in Australia, Taumeasina wanted them. ”
According to Papalii, the S.T.A. supported their efforts to reach that market by providing the intel needed because they recognized the sound marketing science behind it.
“All overseas-based Samoans know what ‘aiga’ is and his idea was if they were going to do the Aiga package, they are going to bring everybody home to visit their relatives and stay in a hotel.
“The idea behind this is they’re going to come home and visit their families and stay in a hotel. They will bring the families to the hotel and they will eat the restaurant empty and drink the bar dry. They changed the landscape of tourists in Samoa.”