Vandalism of tourist-signage worries authorities

The vandalism of tourist-focused signage in Savai'i has compelled the Savai'i Tourism Association, Samoa Tourism Association and the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) to meet in Savai'i next week to discuss how the issue with the community.

It is understood the tourism-focused organisations will meet with three families in Savai'i to raise concerns at the damaging of the public property and discuss ways the matter could be resolved.

This was confirmed by the Savai'i Tourism Association president Vaaelua Poi Gidlow and the Samoa Tourism Association President Tupai Saleimoa Vaai. 

The tourist-focused signage were funded and commissioned by the New Zealand High Commission earlier this year. 

As to the reasons behind the vandalising of the the signage, Vaaelua and Tupai refused to comment saying they are yet to confirm what the issue is through their discussions. 

However, Tupai said they have followed all proper channels before implementing the projects to ensure there are no issues with landowners.

"We went through all the proper channels, we sat down with the village councils including the Land Transport Authority, who pretty much control that part of the road. There are about three families: two in Salelologa and one in Palauli," Tupai said.

"It's the Village Council we always ask when we do this kind of thing. The consultations with the Village Council to ensure nothing of this sort happens. 

"I cannot comment personally on the differences this particular families have, but we try to do everything that we can within our means to ensure there is a full consultation and of course to see this issues before we implement these projects."

Tupai said he is not involved in the matter, but is aware of it and the association will not make a comment, that could jeopardise the discussion with the families involved. 

"But we will go through this particular issue again when the STA, and of course the tourism industry to go and see these families on what the issue is. From our understanding, we have done our consultations with the village councils and all that so it shouldn't be an issue," he said.

"To my knowledge, this is the first time for such thing to happen on Savai'i. But like anything, land issue is always a sensitive issue here in Samoa and I don't want to say anything that will jeopardise our discussion with these families when we sit with them again next week."

From the tourism point of view, he said it is disappointing because these are donor-funded projects and it's for the betterment of Samoa and improving the tourism sector. 

"It's the implications of it all towards our donor partners , we are disappointed when these kinds of things happen. It will always work better to try and foresee these things but we thought we need everything by book, unfortunately it did not filter right down to where we wanted it to,"  Tupai said.

"It's why these programmes we are trying to push out in terms of tourism awareness is important in trying to get everybody on board. It's a huge benefit for the country. Sometimes people prioritise their own self-interest over the better good of the whole, of the collective." 

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