Virus travel restrictions add another nail to tourism industry

Travel restrictions imposed by the Government to address the threat posed by coronavirus has added another burden to the tourism industry which is already staring down the barrel of a $10million loss as a result of measles crisis.

During an interview with the Samoa Observer, the President of the Samoa Hotels Association, Tupa’i Saleimoa Vaai, lamented the extra losses saying this is having “tremendously (negative) impact” on the  industry.

He said preliminary figures suggest that the impact of the coronavirus and the measles epidemic before that could cost the tourism industry well above  $10 million tala.

But the impact of the travel restrictions on Samoa's tourism industry is out of the industry's hands, added Tupa'i, as the ultimate objective of the policy is to protect the nation from the virus. 

He assured that the industry’s aim at the moment is to hang in there for as long as they can while the nation fights off the threats.

“I guess it’s not just Samoa, it’s all around the world,” he said.  "But the impact is enormous, especially for businesses which their primary income is based on overseas numbers.”

Tupa’i said it is not an easy path and it is an "understatement" to say it is challenging times.

Coming out of a measles epidemic that officially claimed 83 lives, only to be impacted by the threats posed by coronavirus, Tupa'i said they are looking at months of recovery work 

“We understand the measures that we have to put in place, because it’s simply to protect the country," he said. 

"Unfortunately if we don’t have numbers into our beds, we still have to maintain our staff, maintain utilities, and financial obligations. And like we said, we cannot prioritise our challenges and struggles over the safety of the country."

Tupa’i said there is no easy solution to the matter apart from formulating ideas with other industries and relevant stakeholders to collaboratively sustain industry.

The most important aspect of keeping the industry afloat is funding, and the financial sector is their closest ally.

And while Tupa’i personally feels that “Samoa is still safe”, he said the travel restrictions are only an inconvenience, but not a complete stoppage.

“So we are still encouraging our people overseas and still running campaigns with the Samoa Tourism Authority to still come and visit Samoa. These advisories are put in place to ensure that Samoa is safe.”

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