S.H.A chief clears air on hotel prices

The Samoa Hotel Association [S.H.A.] has refuted claims local hotel charges are too excessive for residents, as the tourism industry pins its hopes on getting support from local residents.

S.H.A. President, Tupa’i Saleimoa Vaai, said that the hotels and resorts’ current charges have already been drastically reduced to cater for Samoa’s domestic market.

He was responding to claims by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, who said on his 2AP radio program last weekend that the charges by local hotels and resorts were too expensive.

Tuilaepa asked hoteliers to cut down their prices to between $80 to $100 instead of $200 which he said is ‘too pricey’.

But Tupa’i told the Samoa Observer in an interview that prices suggested by the Prime Minister are within the range that the local hotels and resorts are currently charging. 

“That’s exactly where the price range is at,” he said. “The industry has responded in terms of our domestic market and it’s around that price market.

“Of course there’s always a bottom line that everybody has to look at and there’s a breaking even point, you can’t go past otherwise you lose too much money if you open up, but if you look at the current situation in terms of prices, the market is there in terms of trying to attract our domestic market and the prices have gone to $80 to $100 tala.

“I guess it’s because the PM is too busy trying to run the country and he hasn’t stayed out at hotels at this point but the industry has responded way before the Prime Minister’s speech.

“We had to as an industry, we included in our plans together with the S.T.A. [Samoa Tourism Authority] that we looked at trying to entice our domestic market and the only way to do that is to ensure that there is a price point that our people can afford.”

Prior to the COVID-19 global pandemic, Tupa’i said hotel prices were charged according to the investments made, which depend on how much is being invested into their properties.

Tupa’i reiterated that it was a case of the hotel and resort owners trying to get a return on their investment, which is where Tuilaepa could be coming from.

“It is true in a sense that our prices are too expensive for the local markets, especially at this very point of time when that’s all that’s available,” he said. “But if you do see the ads that are available and are going out at the moment, the prices have reduced hugely.

“So he is right in one sense but at the same time the prices that are based prior to the pandemic was based on our investments.”

Nevertheless over the long term, Tupa’i said the Prime Minister’s comments are welcomed as a boost for the industry, in reflecting hotel prices that were set pre-pandemic which catered towards an international market.

“It is a good time as well for the association to reflect and also look at ensuring that there is a particular price point for the domestic market that we have to ensure to maintain,” he added. “It’s a good opportunity for the association and the industry itself to look at price points, especially considering the disposal income that’s readily available in Samoa.

“We must ensure as an industry that we look at the price points or at least a domestic price point where we maintain it right throughout regardless of our international market.

“Depending on how much you’re spending on the hotels, and the hotels are going to cost you $40 million, of course you’re going to have to price it so that the return of investment ensures that you don’t go past the breaking point.

“You want to open your doors but you don’t want to open your doors to the point where you’re losing money, but things have changed and the norm has absolutely changed in terms of every kind of business, especially tourism.”

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