Hotel Association pleas to save Nadi route
A Government move to shut down the Apia-Nadi flight route will hit a tourism industry already reeling from losses caused by measles and the coronavirus and must be reconsidered, one of its peak representative bodies has urged.
The President of the Samoa Hotel Association, Tupa’i Saleimoa Vaai, said he remained hopeful that the Government and Fiji Airways will come to an amicable solution.
“I am shocked," he said. "We were not aware of the government making this move."
The industry recently said it was staring down the barrel of a $10 million loss as a result of cancellations arising from the measles epidemic and the coronavirus, which has seen four cruise ships and thousands of passengers cancel planned stops in Samoa.
Tupa’i also noted the industry did not receive any official confirmation from Government.
“There would be an immense impact on the tourism Industry. It will be a crying shame if another route is denied again, we need these routes," he said.
Tupai’s comments were sought after a confidential Cabinet paper, FK(20)6, outlined the move to close the Apia-Nadi flight route, as it moves to promote the use of Samoa Airways for passengers travelling between Samoa and Fiji.
“It will be a huge impact on the industry and these are accessible routes in terms of major markets such as America; [it] also [provides] some of the transit routes such as Australia," he said.
Tupa’i acknowledged the Government’s stance towards the national carrier, but the impact on the industry as a whole will be immense.
He also noted that it’s more expensive to travel to Fiji which is one hour away than New Zealand which is four hours away.
“One thing is that it’s more expensive to travel on a hour flight: the fares are $1700 per ticket and yet [...] going with the Samoa Airways to New Zealand its $800-$900 and it’s much cheaper," he said.
“The impact it’s undeniable."
Tupa’i hopes the meeting between the Samoa Government officials and the Fiji Airways officials will come to a resolution.
He said ever since Samoa Airways arrived its provision of affordable air travel had benefited everyone: "And without [Samoa Airways] we will never have this kind of access, the cheap airfares and that makes it easier for [tourists] to come to Samoa.”
According to the Cabinet Directive all travel intended for Fiji will be routed to Auckland using Samoa Airways and return via Auckland on the way back to Samoa.
Travel from Hawaii will come through Pago Pago and then to Apia.
The Ministry of Finance Chief Executive Officer, Leasiosiofa'asisina Oscar Malielegaoi, said the Government would do anything possible to support its national carrier.
Leasiosio spoke in his capacity as a member of the Committee appointed by the Cabinet to oversee the finances of the Samoa Airways and said it would be of net benefit to the sector.
“We still have other alternatives; tourists in the past have used other alternatives routes to Samoa including Australia, American Samoa, where Samoa Airways flies to," he said.
“In a way it’s all part and parcel of that package to support our airline. And tourists at this age and stage people use online booking, after you go online the system will direct you to other alternative [routes]."