Hotelier raises key questions
A prominent hotelier has asked for better coordination in terms of Samoa’s tourism drive.
Tuala Oli Ah Him raised the points during the Samoa Tourism Forum held at the T.A.T.T.E Building last week, which was opened by Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.
Speaking during the Forum’s “Road to Excellence” Q&A session, Tuala said there has got to be better planning among industry members.
“After all these years, I believe that the time for data collection is over, now we need action,” Tuala said.
“We speak about the Road to Excellence but we don’t put actions towards it. In order to achieve excellence, we need to address everyone involved with tourism.”
Tuala said there must be better coordination between the government bodies in relaying what is happening in Samoa to the outside world. Take for example, the recent Zika virus.
“The Ministry of Health during the Zika virus issue affected the number of visitors in the country because they were blasting that we had an outbreak everywhere,” Tuala said.
“We never had an outbreak and yet the Ministry did little to spread the word and by then, we already had a few visitors cancelling their trips.”
Tuala then turned his attention to the treatment of local workers.
“If we continue to follow the minimum wage of about 3 tala an hour then that is the level of service you will receive,” Tuala said.
“We can always smile and wave at the cleaners but that can only take us so far. We pay $3tala an hour and we will get the value of $3tala an hour work from them.”
The owner of Hotel Millenia also questioned the law that requires all visitors to obtain temporary licenses to allow them to drive in Samoa.
“Our tourists find it a hassle that they are being forced to get a temporary license to drive. That’s one thing that could annoy our guests and put them off from returning,” Tuala said.
“With my little Samoa license, I can go to New Zealand and drive for a year without any trouble. But people come here and they can’t drive unless they apply for a temporary license.
“Mind you, these are people who come from big countries with huge motorways and they could safely travel at 100mph.”
Lastly, Tuala raised questions about the education system, especially in relation to the entertainment industry.
“I have no idea who gave them the idea that teaching orchestra was a good idea but why can’t they just simply teach guitar or piano?” Tuala asked.
“We have a shortage of musicians in Samoa and they come up with the idea of teaching orchestra?
“Let’s be real, we can earn more money if you know how to play guitar or piano at a hotel and plus it will also benefit the hotel and the tourism industry.”
The questions and points raised by Tuala were accepted by the panel which included Cathy Deane, an International Development Specialist; Michael Upton who is the First Secretary of the Development New Zealand aid programme; Adele Kruse, the President of the Samoa Hotels Association; Tupa’i Saleimoa Vaai the President of Savai’i Samoa Tourism Association and Papali’i Sonja Hunter, the C.E.O of Samoa Tourism Authority.
Coordinated by the Samoa Tourism Authority (S.T.A), the Forum is Samoa’s annual Tourism Sector and Stakeholder meeting.
This year’s theme was “Achieving Excellence.”
The Forum is designed to provide tourism business operators and the wider tourism sector, valuable insights and understanding about key issues which influence and shape tourism development in Samoa, the region and globe.