Taumeasina Island Resort gets top tourism award

The Taumeasina Island Resort has been awarded the TripAdvisors’ Travellers Choice Award 2020 despite the bleak outlook for the tourism industry in Samoa.

The award-winning resort’s General Manager, Tuiataga Nathan Bucknall, told Samoa Observer in an interview that receiving the award in these challenging times will boost the morale of their staff and their supporters.

"To receive the email yesterday [Tuesday] was excellent for our morale, for us and for the staff and for everyone who has been involved in Taumeasina," he said.

"We’ve had excellent awards from TripAdvisor, but this is the first time we have got the Travellers Choice Award."

The award will continue to put the resort and Samoa on the world map, added Tuiataga.

Crediting their success on the number of guests they have received over the years, he said they welcomed everyone, irrespective of their background. 

"We’ve got a database of over 60,000 guests and a number of followers on all our social media platforms," he added.

"People connect with the staff here, the managers here and they continue to return."

Tuiataga firmly believes that the location of the resort, its staff and their product continues to make them the travellers’ choice, consequently their decision to return again and again.

"The location is amazing and we’ve got a beautiful product and it’s about the staff because no matter what the product looks like unless you can welcome people and make them feel welcome when they’re here and exceeds their expectations or at least meet their expectations, they’re not going to come back.”

Communication is also essential to their ongoing success, emphasised Tuiataga, who then pointed to the frequent conversations between managers and staff on anything and everything concerning the resort.

"It’s very easy to become what we call a shop-blind whereby we see something that is not right, but it has been not right for a long time and we miss it, which is why it is important to look at everything always," he reiterated.

"We communicate very well here at Taumeasina Island Resort, whereby each individual team has a WhatsApp group.

"If I see something that needs to be cleaned, I take a video and send it through to my house-keeping team. Technology these days makes it easier to keep standards up."

Every month the resort also has an “employee of the month” program where a $500 gift voucher for food items from Lucky Foodtown is given to the top performing staff. However, since COVID-19 they haven't been able to reinstate the program.

"They get nominated by their peers and then the managers’ vote. We treat everyone like family here and it seems to work and we have fun," Tuiataga added.

"And I think sometimes, part of the work that we do is that we need to have fun, and you need to put across that you’re happy with the guests and so you need to be happy yourself.

But it is currently a struggle with the COVID-19 global pandemic and the subsequent state of emergency [S.O.E.] that was declared, which the General Manager said led to them letting go of some of their staff, though they’ve managed to keep most of them.

And with the Father’s Day long weekend now upon us, the resort also aims to capitalise on the long weekend by offering specials and would be close to full over the weekend.

"We keep doing stuff where we’re always promoting through social media. We’ve got shows every night during the week except for Sunday," Tuiataga said.  "We’re very lucky that we’ve got Cindy of Samoa who’s on lockdown with us and she assists with all the shows."

The resort has also been active on social media since April this year and uploaded fun videos to their social media platform.

"I think it was around April when everything was closed off pretty much and I started going crazy," Tuiataga said while laughing.

"We got bored and we needed to find something to do and I did a couple of lives in the beginning on Facebook and I noticed that our clients wanted to see the resort and wanted to know what was going on.

"It’s been a lot of fun and it started out with me doing the push-up challenge where my team videoed me doing the push-up challenge and we kind of went on from there.

"I think we’ve done about 20 or 25 videos and a lot of people watch these videos and I’m quite surprised."

Having the resort being reviewed on online platforms such as the Trip Advisor is confirmation of the good job they're doing or their shortcomings, which Tuiataga says is important in order to get feedback from clients.

"I’m fairly a hands-on General Manager but there are things I don’t know [a few, not many] and people need to have an outlet where they can say what they want without being worried about it," he added.

In terms of bad reviews, Tuiataga says he responds to all the bad and good reviews on TripAdvisor and Facebook by reading them out to their staff and together they address the issue.

He said their guests are encouraged to review the resort on TripAdvisor and other social media platforms. 

"Every guest that has stayed here would have received an email that’s generated by Trip Advisor and we collect email addresses and we send out an email to everyone to review on TripAdvisor," he said. "We also have little cards that we give out as well that people can scan on your phones."

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