Bookings dive but no hotel bailout yet
As Samoan hotels reportedly move to ask the Government for financial assistance during a period of massive downturn, hotels are trying to survive on local bookings as international reservations plummet.
Various hotels from both Upolu and Savai'i told Samoa Observer they are feeling the effects of a tourism sector in recession and have been for some time. Some have halved their staff due to the effects of the downturn.
The President of the Samoa Hotel Association, Tupa'i Sale'imoa Va'ai, was this week quoted as saying his members were considering closing, in a story carried by Radio New Zealand that said that some hotels had approached the Government for assistance.
But the Ministry of Finance (M.O.F.), Chief Executive Officer, Leasiosiofa’asisina Oscar Malielegaoi told this newspaper that the M.O.F. has not received any such requests for a stimulus package for the industry.
“First thing, there needs to be a request, but as of now I have not received a request,” he said.
“And that’s the request that we will review because we cannot decide based on one sector. We have to see what sectors are all affected and then see what available resources we are able to provide.
“But if the Minister has been approached then they may be in the process of referring an application to the Ministry of finance because this is where all things come through.”
The travel sector of the global economy has been hit hard by a recent downturn driven by the spread of the coronavirus.
Various countries have announced stimulus measures in recent days as the world economy is battered by a coronavirus downturn, from Australia which is directly sending cash payments to certain citizens, to Italy which was forestalled mortgage repayments.
Various hotels told the Samoa Observer it is clear that Savai'i is bearing the brunt of the effects of the cancellations due to the global crisis.
A spokeswoman for Jane's Beach Fales in Manase, Savai'i told the Samoa Observer that only three people now run the operations of the accommodation due to financial constraints: “We only call them in when needed.”
“There are currently no visitors. There were bookings that came in for this month but up to now, no confirmations have come through, just cancellations,” she said.
“[Though] we are still waiting and if this disease drags on even more, then we really won’t have anyone.”
The accommodation provider has been struggling since the measles epidemic last year.
“We only have had walk ins and they’re locals, and they’re a big help, especially when Ministries come out here to utilize the services, that’s all what we are requesting right now," she said.
Similarly, a source at Jet Over Hotel echoed the same sentiments saying all bookings from overseas this month have been cancelled, with the majority of customers they currently have being locals.
Saletoga Sands Resort in Lefaga said due to the effects of the coronavirus and travel restrictions imposed by Cabinet, they are looking at reducing work hours of staff if it gets worse.
Le Uaina Resort in Saoluafata say they have been experiencing difficulties for the past two to three weeks, due to the travel restrictions but they are starting to pick up faintly, due to the local customers coming in for retreats and other programmes.
Comments were sought from the Savai'i Tourism Association as well as Samoa Hotel Association but they were not returned as of press time.
Leasiosiofa’asisino also noted that in terms of assistance during such tough situations, the Government has advised to keep the shipping routes open to enable trade and assist private sector while surveillance remains to be top priority.