Samoa should use events to lure tourists

Samoa should have a full calendar of events to attract a variety of travellers when the country Samoa reopens its doors to tourism in the future.

That’s the opinion of Christopher Dalton, who is taking part in Samoa Events’ annual Upolu Perimeter Relay. He believes the event has the ability to draw a large crowd of international competitors to Samoa and he hopes Samoa will invest in this kind of tourism, not just the holidaymaker market.

“This perimeter event has the capability of attracting international teams, apart from this COVID thing,” Mr. Dalton said. 

The runner, who works at Samoa Airways on revenue management, pricing and networking, said he thinks events can give Samoa the edge over other islands also beckoning the New Zealand and Australian markets when the travel environment is safe enough. 

“Samoa’s tourism needs to grow, and it will grow and is growing and when things come back to normal and all this is over, these are the things that will bring people back faster.”

The Perimeter Relay organiser is, Afoa Seti Afoa, who owns and operates Samoa Events. As well as the relay he hosts marathons, swim series, and even a race up Mount Vaea.

He has always considered his events as tourist attractions, choosing pristine locations with popular accommodation sites for his swimming and running events, like Lalomanu. His events already have hundreds of bookings on hold for 2021 when travel might be able to open up in the region.

These days people want more than sitting on the beach when they take their overseas holidays, Afoa suggested.

“That is what we are finding in New Zealand and Australia, people want to come to Samoa and ride a bike and at the end of their holiday still feel like they have done something active other than lazing around.”

The average age of his event participants is 42, he said, and many are repeat travellers who come annually. 

For those who are missing out in 2020, Afoa has travelled to New Zealand and will be there for the foreseeable future running swimming, biking and running events in Auckland. 

“They can’t travel to Samoa so I am coming to them,” he said. 

Looking ahead to 2021, there are already around 200 people booked to attend a Samoa Events race and holiday in Samoa, and he expects a further 200 will still book.

Afoa estimates that means approximately 2,800 nights in a room somewhere on the island, plus visits to tourism attractions and meals.

“They aren’t huge numbers like the Pacific Games, but our people spend money out on hotels and sights.

“The demographic we are getting are financially dependent, their kids are gone and it’s mum and dad’s time to play and they have the money to spend.”

Mr. Dalton used to work in Fiji where he and his running teams would travel to Australia and New Zealand to compete in events like Afoa’s.

“It’s awesome, it’s something to aim towards with a couple of months of hard core training and then go and do an event.”

This year he is running with the Apia Hash House Harriers who as well as the 104 kilometre run are adding an additional 104 kilometres with a team of walkers who tackle the perimeter overnight. 

For the last five years they have been using the event to raise money for the Goshen Trust Mental Health Services, which runs the only respite home for people that need help with mental health problems or disabilities. 

As well as the fundraiser opportunity, Mr. Dalton said events like marathons and relays can attract a large group of tourists from the sporting and corporate world who might come in large groups or families to compete and enjoy a holiday immediately after. 

“[We should get the] Samoa Tourism Authority more heavily involved in making this a calendar event that Australians and New Zealanders, American Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, would put teams together for, it’s destination marketing in a way” he said.

“At the end of the day it’s a team event, it’s not hardcore. It’s a struggle but it can be done, and you don’t have to be super fit.

“I am hoping this event can attract regional tourists. This can turn into an event that a basketball team and their families can come for, the basketball team does the perimeter relay have and a family holiday after."

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