“Tourism industry is struggling”
Some local hotel owners are struggling due to stagnant growth in the tourism industry, says Samoa Hotels Association President, Tupa’i Saleimoa Va’ai.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Tupa’i said general consensus among hoteliers is that there is not enough done to market Samoa as a destination, compared to other Pacific Islands tourist destinations.
“With the newer hotels coming up, the market is not growing enough, the share of the pie is not big enough, which is why some of the smaller properties are struggling to make ends meet,” he said.
“There’s been an increase in terms of product offerings out here in Samoa, even with the amount of accommodation providers and it is still increasing, as we can see the Digicel hotel coming up, even though the numbers are increasing, it’s not increasing enough compared to the increasing stock and properties. It’s not enough to keep everybody happy.
“It’s doing small increments, but with the amount of increase of stock, properties, it’s not making enough headways, so it’s either going to the newer hotels and leaving the older hotels behind, and that’s always been the call from the industry, there needs to be more marketing budget.”
Tupa’i said access to Samoa has been made easier with Samoa’s partnership with Fiji Airways, and this is a great benefit for the local tourism industry.
“The amounts of rooms and properties that are developing, like any small property, we want to develop it to make it a bit bigger, more people to come.
“Samoa Airways is making great headways in terms of our marketing and making it cheaper to fly. We need more exposure; we need more people to decide to choose Samoa as a destination.” He added there is a need to stop “lip servicing” that tourism is the backbone of the economy, but invest more in the industry.
“From my perspective, there’s not enough being spent on marketing. We need a good marketing committee that ensures the money and resources are spent in the right place.
“Comparable to other Pacific Islands in terms of what they spend on their marketing, we spend peanuts on our marketing, and we need that to change. There’s been big assistance to the industry itself, but now there needs to be a bigger assistance to our marketing itself.
“Like anywhere in the Pacific, we’ve got a beautiful country, our culture is very alive, very thriving; we just haven’t got the numbers like everybody else. I guess with any kind of effort, budget constraints are always the biggest issue. If you got the budget to do what you need to do, then you got more exposure.”
A hotelier himself, owning Vaimoana Seaside Lodge in Savai’i, Tupa’i said Savai’i does not get as many tourists like Upolu, and that needs to change.
“As Savaiians we are tired of hearing it, we want action. The industry needs something to change. It can’t continue to go on like this,” he said.
“We don’t get much tourists like you do here in Upolu and that is something that the association that side is working on, a lot of the people that come to us, to Savai’i tend to say that if they knew more about Savai’i, they would spend more time here.”
Tupa’i said Samoa is very visible in terms of tourism industry and tourism body overseas.
“The industry has grown organically for a while. It’s never our intentions to halt progress and developments, but we would like to at least see the numbers catch up to that development.”
The association has a total of 122 members.