Wage support needed for Pacific tourism sector

The Pacific Tourism Organisation (S.P.T.O.) wants to see wage support for the struggling tourism sector in the region, as the COVID-19 pandemic leaves long-term economic damage in its wake. 

With over 5000 people employed in tourism in Samoa, and visitors spend adding up to NZ$4 million annually, tourism accounts for 30 per cent of Gross Domestic Product and employs at least 12.5 per cent of all employees (as of 2015).

And nearly half of that money comes from New Zealand arrivals alone, numbering 78,055 in 2019, accounting for 43 per cent of all arrivals. 

In a status report for Pacific tourism, the S.P.T.O. looked at Samoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Niue, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji. 

They report that five per cent of New Zealanders surveyed by Forward (the consultancy firm behind the S.P.T.O. report) would be very or quite likely to travel to Samoa if COVID-19 was under control in the region and there were no quarantine periods imposed.

Respondents were most likely to choose travel around New Zealand or Australia, but four per cent said they were very likely to travel to Fiji and three per cent to the Cook Islands. 

According to the survey, 1.6 per cent of New Zealanders travel to Samoa annually. 

But with commercial flights suspended across the region and airlines suffering economic blows of their own, connectivity in the region is suffering.

Samoa’s own tourism industry won’t begin to regenerate without flights, SPTO states, calling maintaining flights “critical” in the medium term.

But immediately, the core of the sector and its success stories need wage support to keep their staff employed and make it to the other side, they state. 

Then alongside the wage support, more training and capacity building programmes could help see the sector through, as well as seeking more employment opportunities for redundancies through seasonal work programmes.

In Samoa’s first stimulus package intended to soften the economic blow of the pandemic, the Ministry of Finance gave power and water subsidies, loosened National Provident Fund money and gave significant discounts to businesses renting out of Government owned property.

There were no wage subsidies for any sector.

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