Fifty hotels close, 500 lose jobs as downturn bites
More than 50 hotels and resorts in Upolu and Savai’i have been temporarily closed with over 500 workers laid off as the country faces a major economic downturn.
Projections suggest as many as double that number could officially be out of work by next week, according, the Samoa Hotel Association President, Tupa’i Saleimoa Vaai.
“We are still trying to update our database but we have about 55 hotels and resorts altogether that are temporarily closed from Upolu and Savaii,” he said.
Tupai said that they would have an overall number by next week.
“A lot of the hotels will be making drastic decisions by next week and saying that tourism is in trouble is an understatement,” he said.
“We have put a submission to the Government to try and assist the industry.
“The tourism industry has been suffering for six months and being optimistic and trying to hold out right from the measles we were hoping for a better recovery by the beginning of the year but the COVID-19 threat came into place.”
“The industry has come to an absolute standstill with no income coming in and that is a major blow to the industry and to maintaining or continuing the business.
“There are some hard decisions that need to be made yet the industry does contribute a lot to the economy.
“But also the amount of people that will be affected not only in terms of employment but the supporting services that go with it such as the farmers that bring their produce to the door.”
Tupai said that employees in the transport sector, tour guides, and those who work at attraction sites are all affected.
“A lot of the hoteliers in the industry have been putting in place measures such as cost saving measures to try and control costs and to try and maintain workers but it now has come to that point where it literally has become impossible to maintain their workers,” he said.
“We are hopeful that Government has further plans in place for assistance towards the private sector but a lot of businesses are on the verge of collapsing.
“When the lockdown does get reopened or relaxed every other business will go back to normal but with tourism not so much.”
Tupai has said that a lot of countries overseas have closed their borders.
“The confidence of people to travel … it’s probably going to be 6 to 12 months before [we see] any form of recovery in terms of tourism.
“We look after our people very well to try and maintain them and having to decide to lay off a lot of our workers is a big impact on us hoteliers because they are like family.”
In the supplementary budget and COVID-19 relief package tabled in Parliament last Tuesday, Minister of Finance Sili Epa Tuioti revealed the private sector stimulus package of $12.5 million.