Tourism officials to seek China's guidance to woo tourists

The South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) and the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) will ask China for guidance to assist develop local tourism markets to prepare them for Chinese tourists. 

Chinese government officials will join the SPTO and local tourism officials in Apia on Monday to launch the China Pacific Island Countries Tourism Year.

STA Chief Executive Officer, Papalii Sonja Hunter,  said the program of activities on Monday at Sheraton Hotel is funded by the Chinese government except for the fireworks.

"When they went to Tonga for the coronation of the King, one of the high level officials made a commitment that a hundred Chinese tourists would go from china to Tonga every year, and they still have that.

"And so we don’t know what commitments they will have while they are here but they are very happy that its taking place in Samoa," she said.

Papali'i, who is also chairwoman of SPTO, admitted that they had a long list of issues they want to raise with the Chinese government delegates who will be attending the launch.

SPTO chief executive officer, Christopher Cocker, identified some of the key issues that needed discussion: empowerment, development of the Chinese market, sustainable tourism development, and also areas of research and statistics.

"But to have everything on the table, it doesn’t mean everything will be ticked off. We have a long list.

"At the moment we don’t know how we are going to develop the Chinese market – so we want their guidance in this case and in the area of marketing – we would also like to see some sort of marketing representation of the Pacific in China, to do all the PR activities in marketing because its important," he said.

Mr Cocker later emphasised that the priority for now is a direct air service between China and Samoa.

"So we’re going in with an open mind with key issues on that agenda, but particularly on how to further develop the Chinese market in this case. 

"And it needs to follow through and begin to develop within five to 10 years in this case – under a robust strategy focusing on sustainable development I must emphasise," added the SPTO chief.

Papalii reiterated that they don't want the launch Monday to be "be fireworks, done now, and then its finished."

"So these are learning steps but they are very substantial building blocks so that people in the tourism industry, people in our host communities, and people in our country continue to have a slow but sure development program as everybody progresses through things," she added. 

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