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Samoa Tourism industry "desperate"

The Samoa tourism industry is in “desperate” need of assistance.

This was the admission by the President of the Samoa Hotels Association, Tupa'i Saleimoa Vaai, who lamented the loss of more than 1,100 jobs when tourism properties started closing as a result of coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

“Our biggest concern is the loss of staff because that is a lot of jobs to be lost,” he said.

In an industry that employees thousands of Samoans across the nation, Tupa'i estimates that just over 700 people are still working.

But even those employees are working reduced hours and many of them at reduced rates.

“The fact remains that the tourism industry is the most affected at the moment with all that is happening,”  Tupa'i said. 

He added that that the tourism industry has made a submission for assistance from Government.

“We had dialogues with Government and will continue to do so but thankfully they are willing and have plans to assist not only our industry but others as well.

“We have asked Government for a range of assistance which includes financial assistance. But we are not looking for handouts but rather financial assistance through our financial institutions to help out.”

The Association President stated that they are well aware of the amount of money that can be gained through the tourism sector.

“And we are bound to get that back but in the meantime we have to persevere and help each other out to try and get through these hard times.

“The reality is that tourism income has stopped. There is a chance that businesses can be lost. 

“It is a threat that may lead to a lot of hotels going bankrupt if no assistance is provided.”

Tupa'i said that their association understands that the Government has limited resources and is trying to do the best that it can. 

“We are hoping that our donor partners can come to the table and try and assist.

“Samoa’s economy depends heavily on tourism as one of its major driving force.

“But for tourism the bulk or 80-90 per cent of its income comes from overseas.”

He added that worldwide, countries are facing a global pandemic but it has affected Samoa’s small economy.

With the relaxation of State of Emergency orders most sectors and industries will go back to some form of normality and the economy will start to roll again.

But the tourism industry has a long road ahead to recover because it has struggled from the measles epidemic last year up till now but will continue for another six or seven months to pick up business, he highlighted.

“I know that some of the hotels are starting to open up and others have partially opened for the weekends only because we need to put some form of income but there is no sustainability behind it.

“Our borders remain closed and absolutely no income at the moment. A lot of the industry has come up with innovative ways to open up their restaurants and bars to get some sort of income to sustain the current workforce.”

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