March arrivals drop, statistics show

Arrival statistics for the month of March this year shows more than a fifty per cent drop compared to the same month last year, the Samoa Bureau of Statistics (S.B.S.) has revealed.

As COVID-19 still has its holds on the globe prompting a global lockdown, Samoa is doing the same despite having no confirmed cases.

The total arrival for March 2020 has been reported as 37.8 per cent lower than the previous month, February and 57.3 per cent lower than March last year.

But numbers get even gloomier for total visitors, which has declined by 41 per cent compared to February and 62.7 per cent lower when compared to March 2019.

"The huge decreases mentioned above were caused by the Government's SOE (State of Emergency) actions due to Covid-19/ Korona Virus, leading to the closure of its international borders for passenger arrivals and departures since the end of March 2020," the report read.

Samoa's biggest market New Zealand declined by more than 60 per cent, the Australian market declined by almost 50 per cent while American Samoa and America copped a decline in numbers by more than 70 per cent.

"The majority of visitors (35.2 per cent) entered our shores to visit friends and relatives while 31.8 per cent entered our shores for holiday and vacation. Those who were here for Business/ Conference recorded a share of 9.3 per cent while those on transit made up 0.7 per cent," the International Arrival Statistics reads.

The decline in numbers of arrival was largely noticeable even before Samoa imposed its travel restrictions and lockdown orders.

A report released in April: "Visitor Earnings and Remittances for February 2020" jointly compiled by the Central Bank, Samoa Bureau of Statistics and the Ministry for Revenue shows a dramatic drop in visitor arrivals before an order for the borders to close was issued on 24 March.

Samoa had by February already begun to cap the number of incoming passengers to the country and placed restrictions on the arrival from passengers from countries and territories affected by the virus. 

This included the establishment of mandatory 14-day quarantine for in-coming passengers as part of its containment measures.

After the initial large decline in arrival numbers recorded in January 2020, Dr. Robert Kirkby, a macroeconomist from Victoria University, Wellington had told the Observer that given the importance of tourism to the economy the decline is expected to lead to a substantial drop in Gross Domestic Product.

"Being so dependent on tourism leaves Samoa vulnerable to large swings in visitors, as was seen last year with the measles outbreak and now again.

"Many countries, including the US and New Zealand, are upgrading their predictions of how severe and long-lasting they expect the economic disruption to their economies to be. Samoa is likely to face a similar worsening decline in trade and tourism."

Although the most recent publicly released G.D.P. is from the September 2019 quarter which reached a high of $528.8 million at constant (real) prices for the first time, recording a G.D.P. growth of 4.4 per cent.

According to S.B.S., the increase in G.D.P. follows an increase of 5.6 per cent in the June 2019 quarter.

It is the fifth consecutive quarter of positive growth in G.D.P. for the economy. A sixth consecutive quarter of growth is not looking favourable.

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