The beginning of a new era

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 29 April 2016, 12:00AM

There is no doubt that Samoa is the place to be this weekend. For there are so many exciting events happening whether you are looking for spiritual sustenance or simply entertainment.

In hindsight, with Cyclone Amos posing a serious threat last weekend, perhaps the Almighty was moved by the prayers of so many people desperate to be spared the devastation of another natural disaster given years of preparations for some of the events happening this weekend, starting today.

And none much bigger than the return of the grand old lady of the South Pacific on Beach Road, the opening of the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel and Bungalows this afternoon.

On that note, we join the Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, the government and the people of Samoa to extend a warm Samoan welcome to the President of French Polynesia, Edouard Fritch, who arrived in the country last night for the occasion.

Mr. Fritch touched down at Faleolo International Airport on an Air Tahiti Nui flight with a high-level delegation of 300 passengers – including senior Cabinet Ministers, senior government officials and business associates. 

Their presence for the historical occasion marks a new era in the relationship between Samoa and French Polynesia as Polynesian brothers. It’s a relationship based on historical ties, mutual respect and forward-thinking.

With the Grey family operating four major Resorts in French Polynesia, the Memorandum of Understanding between Polynesian Airlines and Air Tahiti Nui (A.T.N) signed last year presents many exciting opportunities for tourism in Samoa.

The deal with A.T.N “opens Samoa up to Asia, North America and Europe directly”. It also allows for the possibility of flights to Japan and other countries in Asia. The sky, it seems, is really the limit.

Keep in mind that the Aggie Grey’s as we know it is returning as a Starwood property in the form of a Sheraton five star hotel. This on its own is a tremendous achievement given the multiple efforts over the years to attract a major hotel chain to Samoa.   

Which is indeed a positive step for tourism in Samoa. Here’s the thing we need to remember; when you plan to travel, seasoned travellers will tell you how reassuring it is to know that where you will spend your time away from home is a hotel you know something about. 

It’s true that Aggie’s is the oldest and best-known hotel brand in Samoa. Over the years, it has developed a wonderful reputation among frequent travellers and visitors to this country so that today, it is fair to say it is one of the most famous in the Pacific.

But on the global stage, Starwood is in a different league. As the “world’s largest luxury hotel operator,” Starwood’s family of hotels includes Sheraton, Le Méridien, Four Points by Sheraton, Westin, The Luxury Collection among others. As a matter of fact, it has more than a 1,000 luxury resorts under its watch.

Which means that by becoming a part of the Starwood network of hotels and resorts, Samoa is tapping into a global market with unlimited potential. 

These brands are associated with excellence, luxury and top of the line service. 

The legacy of Aggie Grey is a story that is well known. We hardly need to retell it. Suffice to say, the Aggie’s brand is synonymous with Samoa. It has been a huge part of this country for a vast many years as well as a source of enormous pride for our people.

From humble beginnings in 1933, Aggie’s warm and charming brand of hospitality has drawn guests from all over the world, including Hollywood stars, presidents, royalty and other dignitaries so that today, the hotel has become part of Samoa.

This is why when flooding brought by Cyclone Evan destroyed it in 2012, it wasn’t just the hotel that was hit. A part of Samoa was hit. 

During the past three years in the rebuilding process, a huge part of the fabric that makes the complete Samoa tourism experience has been missing.

Today signals a new beginning. This afternoon, Prime Minister Tuilaepa will usher in a new and vibrant era not just for the revitalised hotel but for Samoa as a tourism destination. 

We’ve known for some time now that there is clearly a need to take the development of tourism to the next level. That speaks of the need to improve the profile of Samoa in all areas – including attracting top global brands who do have the pulling power to make things happen through innovative marketing, reservations and product development. 

Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel is a great start.

But the property is more than that. 

Aggie Grey’s is about love, passion and a determination to succeed. The legacy of the hotel is steeped in Samoan history. With the promotional nous of Starwood, it is without a doubt a winning combination. 

Locally, think of employment opportunities, foreign exchange and the local businesses – including ordinary Samoans – who stand to benefit. 

Indeed, the return of the property today has all the ingredients needed to take Samoa and tourism to the next level. 

Surely a new era has started.

Congratulations to the Grey family, the government and the private business community for their support and everyone else involved in today’s opening. As for the French Polynesian delegation – including President Tagaloa Edouard Fritch, enjoy our slice of paradise. God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 29 April 2016, 12:00AM

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