"If we are China ready, we can be global ready" - Papali'i Sonja Hunter

The Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) and the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) are ready to launch the China Pacific Tourism Year 2019 in Samoa on Monday.

STA Chief Executive Officer, Papali'i Sonja Hunter, who is also the Chairwoman for the SPTO Board of Directors, and SPTO Chief Executive Officer, Christopher Cocker, explained the significance of the event on Friday.

"[Chinese] President Xi, in the APEC meeting last year announced the China Pacific Tourism year to eight of SPTO member countries who had direct diplomatic relations with china, including Samoa," Mr Cocker said. 

For Papali'i, she said this is connected to the Belt and Road Funding Initiative and it was a great opportunity to promote the Pacific to the world.

"And of course under that there are a specific funding or assistance that the Pacific can tap in to," she said.

Asked how much funding exactly is expected to flow to Samoa, she said she could not disclose this.

"Most of these initiatives are really good in promoting the Pacific and individual countries who have celebrations with the People’s Republic of China."

According to Papalii, there are about 1.4 billion people who travel each year all around the world out of that, 140 million come directly from the People’s Republic of China and out of the research done, SAT$521 is the contribution of each Chinese that travels to any part of the world.

In hosting Chinese tourists, Papalii is confident that Samoa is ready.

"So looking at the Pacific and what we have, we have so many wonderful places that would definitely entice them, if they knew that we have all these wonderful things.

"And as you know some of our students speak Chinese quite fluently, and so it’s not as if we’re not ready, we’re definitely ready but we have to ensure that they know first that we exist," she said.

"Because of their great assistance that we can tap into, we can also then ensure that the China Ready that we so often talk about, because if you look at the type of guest, the profile of people coming out of china now, if we are China ready, we can be global ready," added Papali'i.

Mr. Cocker later linked this to the importance of having a China Pacific Island Countries Tourism Year as this is one of the roles of SPTO, it's to try and develop emerging markets for the Pacific.

"We cannot put all our eggs in one basket such as Australia and New Zealand, which are our major markets, we need to start developing emerging markets. So the two major markets that are currently developing from a regional perspective for our Pacific countries is China and also Korea," he revealed.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi also spoke about the event on his weekly media programme saying the tourism industry is a growing industry. 

"China aims for this year to be the year that highlights the work between China and the Pacific countries," he said.

"Once the Chinese want to visit Samoa, our hotels will be booming where thousands of our children are employed; to provide for their families, pay their tithing and send their children to school. 

"Our Government is constantly trying to look for ways to bring money into the country and ensuring that it is sustainable."

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