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Invest in hotels to support tourism – Tialavea

The Minister for Revenue, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, has urged the Samoa National Provident Fund (S.N.P.F.) to consider investing in small locally-owned hotels.

Using the investment portfolio of Fiji's National Provident Fund (F.N.P.F.) as an example, the Minister said the F.N.P.F. invested in four hotels in Fiji and they should be commended for their entrepreneurship and vision in supporting the country's tourism industry. 

“They invest in four resorts as part of their investment projects. Why don't we follow suit? And I say this because the local N.P.F. can afford it. Sadly, they rather invest in big hotels, like Taumeasina and other big projects – but continue to neglect the small hotels,” he said, in an interview with the Sunday Samoan.

“The tourism industry is a backbone to any Government, to develop the country’s economy hence the importance and essential for the N.P.F. to consider investing in the small hotels."

The four Fiji-based hotels owned by the F.N.P.F. are the Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, Holiday Inn Suva Hotel, Grand Pacific Hotel and the Fiji Marriott Momi Bay Resort. 

The appeal to the S.N.P.F. comes a month after Tialavea revealed in an interview with this newspaper that the Moanalisa Hotel – which is owned by his family and is run by his wife Elizabeth Hunt and daughter Moanalisa Hunt – is up for sale for $14.4 million tala due to the downturn of Samoa's tourism industry.  

The S.N.P.F. Chief Executive Officer, Pauli Prince Suhren, did not respond to emails from this newspaper seeking his comments on the appeal by the Minister. 

Early this year Samoa Hotels Association president, Tupa’i Saleimoa Vaai, said locals hotels are not asking for handouts but support from financial institutions to assist the pioneers of Samoa’s tourism industry. 

“It’s not so much the development of the hotels in Samoa, but rather the reluctance of financial institutions to take the risks on tourism and support the small operators, and the banks push the hoteliers to that point where they struggle or face trouble,” Tupa’i said in a phone interview. 

“A lot of owners do not want to push the next level up. A lot of downfall that has come with tourism has marred the industry. There are big overseas companies coming and investing in the country leaving the pioneers of the industry behind.” 

Tupa’i said the growth of the tourism market is not enough in Samoa, and the new hotels will have an impact on existing small operators. 

“But if it’s (hotel developments) going to bring in more tourists, that’s good,” he said, while emphasising the need to focus on existing hoteliers, as the tourism market is not growing fast enough. 

More assistance should be channeled to small properties and such help should also come from financial institutions, Tupa’i added.

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