Hotelier supports Sunday ban, but only when tourists not here

A local hotelier in Savai’i has welcomed amended state of emergency (S.O.E.) orders that prohibited swimming on beaches and public transport operations on Sunday. 

Taito Vaea M. Tanumafili of Tanu Beach Fales at Manase in Savai'i told the Samoa Observer that the Sunday-focused SOE order is a "good move" by the Government. 

"In my opinion, the Sunday ban during the lockdown is a good thing," he said. "As a Samoan, it is only right that we prohibit swimming on beaches and other activities on a Sunday. So it's a good call by the Government and I support the ban for us (locals) while on lockdown because we do not have tourists in the country at the moment."

But in the long-term period, Taito foresees the Sunday ban negatively impacting tourism as he fears tourists will be put off by their inability to do anything on the day.

"I do not think it's a good idea, especially for the tourism industry to continue on the Sunday ban. This might discourage tourists to visit Samoa if they know that they will have nothing to do on a Sunday,” he emphasised during the interview. "We have a different culture compared to our visiting brothers and sisters from different parts of the world. For us Samoans, we respect Sunday and use it to relax and connect with God. But for some tourists, it is a day for relaxation, which means swimming and enjoying a peaceful time with God at the sea. That is my own opinion."

Taito, who runs his family business, said things have been tough for them business-wise since the measles outbreak late last year.

"Starting from the time our country was affected by the measles, things have dropped so bad and now it's dead. The only guests we have are just a couple of friends who stay over but it does not make up for the loss and they only stay for one or two nights,” he revealed. "We depend mostly on overseas visitors and international markets, so it has been really bad."

Furthermore, he said they had to let go of about 18-20 workers early in March this year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic.

"So they are unemployed at the time being."

The onset of the global pandemic has left Samoa’s tourism industry in a perilous state with Taito saying nothing more can be done other than praying for better days.

"We are not against the lockdown because health is a priority and this disease has had a huge effect on the other countries of the world. So preventive measures are essential. It's not like we planned for this to happen so we can not do much but to wait for everything to settle down so we can get back into the business,” he added. "But it will definitely take some time. We also have buses, but some of our buses are private buses that only work to take around tourists as we depend heavily on tourism to operate. All the bookings that were made here have been canceled all up to December this year.”

Revealing that this period prior to COVID-19 was Samoa’s peak period in terms of tourist numbers, Taito said they would normally get between 40 to 60 tourists this time of the year.

“This is the high season in terms of tourists coming into Samoa for us. We usually get about 40 up to 60 tourists around this time almost every year, mostly from New Zealand and Australia,” he said. "This time last year from May up to July and August, we hosted a lot of tourists and families from overseas. It's quite unfortunate how things unfolded for us, and how badly our business and the tourism industry has been."

Currently, the hotel relies on its plantations, cattle and pig farms as well as the sea to provide their daily upkeep, Taito said.

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