Mother finds opportunity in downturn

Janice-Tautaeao Setefano Tauti’aga from Maagiagi made the ultimate career change decision after her working hours at the Outrigger Hotel in Moto’otua were reduced.

The 33-year-old now pursues her own business fulltime.

“I decided to stay [home] from work because the income started being insufficient because we were not getting full-time hours ever since the pandemic hit,” said the mother-of-three.

Ms. Tauti’aga’s life changed from working in and out of hotel rooms to baking at home and delivering goods to sell for cash every day

“I now deliver my cakes to earn my income as we go through this pandemic. And this is very different from being employed as I decide when I want to work and do not want to work,” she said.

“I do as I please and am still able to earn a stable income for my family, I would not have been able to earn what I get now if I was still employed, especially with the pandemic’s effects on hotels in Samoa.”

Ms. Tauti’aga bakes a variety of cakes and cinnamon rolls which she then walks to sell around her village and beyond to support herself and children.

Her eldest is already in college.

She says selling her cakes and baked goods is nothing new. But now that she has no job to fall back on, Ms. Tauti’aga said her side-business is now a full-time gig.

And Ms. Tauti’aga is just one of many whose jobs have been affected by the recent economic downturn.

President of the Samoa Hotels Association, Tupa'i Saleimoa Vaai revealed recently that the Samoa tourism industry is in “desperate” need of assistance.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, more than 1,100 jobs have been lost as some tourism properties close down.

Ms. Tauti’aga says she cannot see herself going back into her previous line of work at the hotel should the tourism sector recover.

“I get so much more money from my business than when I would be working. And I believe that even if the hotels recover from this pandemic, I still would not return,” she said.

The tourism industry employs thousands of Samoans across the nation, but that number has been reduced greatly since the beginning of the year, with an estimate of only 700 left still employed.

Although Samoa Hotels Association President Tupa'i Saleimoa Vaai said even those employees are working reduced hours and many 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.

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

“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.”


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