Sili advocates for ‘other voices’ in tourism
The Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti believes that strengthening ties and relationships with the community is vital if we want to develop the tourist industry.
“Obviously there is lots of work to be done,” he said.
“It’s really for the industry to partner with the community so when the tourists come they can go fishing with locals, they see how they do their umus, how they live, maybe have a sort of family visit where they can go and spend the night.
“It’s also trying to encourage some of our communities who live near a very popular spot of like the blow holes and lava fields.
“I think the hoteliers own the tourism industry but they need to bring in other voices and other people to make sure that if tourists go out to the community, they feel part of the community and that will be the only experience.
He went on to say that “It’s not just the weather, not just the beaches, but the friendliness of the people and going to the ma’umaga with the people, seeing how they plant taro, how they make their umu and other things.
“I think tourism is good, but we also need to make sure that we put in controls; obviously we need to be selective now.
Sili added “We need to improve the quality of our services, our people are very friendly but they are very shy to talk to the tourists.”
“Unlike Fiji when you go into the plane, you are already in Fiji all these ‘bulas’, the food, and when you go through immigration, whatever time of day, everyone is welcoming you.
“We also need to look at the quality and the pricing of our facilities, sometimes it’s cheaper for our people to go to Fiji, to Denarau and spend a week there than to spend the week here.”
He said that Samoa must have its own, unique development of tourism.
“Yes, we all know that people are always looking for a Samoan experience when they come here and going to the beach.
“They can go to Denarau, go to Rarotonga, and they all have the same thing.
“So it’s really looking at what makes us different.
“But we also really need to be inclusive, bringing in the community to work with problems.
Moreover, Sili believes that tourism has become an important sector that has an impact on development of country economy.
“Tourism create jobs, great foreign exchange, and really apart from tourism, fisheries our industries and our agriculture, it adds to the diversification of our economic base,” Sili said.
“I think the development of tourism is important. You know for many years, we didn’t really embrace tourism as an industry because we were all sort of concerned about how tourism would impact on our culture and our traditions.
“But that’s not so relevant now because everybody watches TV, our people travel, and I think this is sort of conservative in the development of our tourism.
“As I’ve mentioned, going forward, that’s clearly one of our key drivers of our economic growth.”