Savai'i tourism growth celebrated in Upolu
The Savai'i Samoa Tourism Association (S.S.T.A.) hosted its first fundraising activity in Upolu on Friday night.
The occasion was two-fold; to celebrate the achievements of the Association and to tackle their biggest issue, lack of funding, by dipping into the pockets of Savai'ians in Upolu.
Among the achievements is the growing number of tourism operators in Savai'i as well as increasing the global awareness about the big island.
S.S.T.A. President, Va’aelua Fa’apoepoe Gidlow, said although there is Samoa Tourism Authority, a few Savai'i tourism operators decided that only the Savai’ians knew their true struggles and therefore should narrow their focus by coming together. Hence the formation of S.S.T.A.
“I can’t put out any precise statistics but what I know for sure that it is growing,” he said.
“I know that for a fact because I run a hotel myself, and I’m very involved with S.S.T.A."
Established nine years ago, the association was brought together to ensure the sustainability and livelihood of tourism operators in the big island.
Va’aelua credited the Government for their investments in infrastructure with the roads, transportation and national Airline bringing in more visitors.
“S.S.T.A. is doing their part in marketing Samoa and in general [giving] tourists what they are looking for, somewhere new,” he said.
“Somewhere new that is not Fiji or Cook islands, and that’s where the starting point is for this growth and also government encouraging everyone else in Samoa.
“This awareness, educating people with the importance of tourism industry in our country and we realised that tourism is probably the biggest money earner in our economy and so why not push it.”
While funding has proven to be the toughest challenge for the association, being far from “everything” geographically is another struggle.
“I think up to now, when tourists talk about Samoa, Upolu is the place and that’s where they initially see as Samoa,” said Va’aelua.
“Until they research a lot more and find out that there’s us, in Savai'i. So the geography of it, being away from where everything is happening.”
Asked what sets Savai'i apart, he confidently said, “Everything Upolu doesn’t have.”
“We feel we are a lot more untouched than Upolu, and we are real; we’re genuine people. We are Samoa.
“Maybe Upolu have got all the nice hotels, but we’ve got the real experience.”