Beach Fale businesses hanging by a thread

Six months into the nation's State of Emergency (S.O.E.), beach fale accomodations are among many in the tourism sector hanging on by a thread, counting on the local market and fruits of agriculture to pay their bills.

This time last year, the beaches of Aleipata were filled with tourists escaping from winter in their home countries to enjoy the white sandy beaches and serene turquoise waters.

On a beautiful Wednesday afternoon when the Samoa Observer visited, the beaches were completely empty. And that's not the worst part, for many of the operators, it is the uncertainty of how long the beaches will remain without tourists.

Faofao Beach Fales Manager, Lolo Fiatele Koroseta said the greatest difference between now and pre-COVID-19 is the downturn in wealth.

"These businesses are heavily reliant on tourists from overseas but with the lockdown, there is no hope apart from our local people who visit," said the 59-year-old.

"Our prices have been dropped so low to try and attract our people, apart from special occasions with public holidays. Father's day was okay but most were herejust to swim and return."

Ms. Koroseta noted that this is the biggest difference between tourists and our locals.

"The palagi tourists are very different from the Samoans. When palagis visit, they usually stay up to two weeks, some even a month. But our people only visit when it is public holidays," she said.

"And some families who come for a getaway in the weekend, or Ministries who come for their retreats. But there is such a big difference in terms of income earned."

She noted that the loss in stable income has forced her family to turn to a vegetable garden and root crops plantation to maintain their business.

Last year, Samoa Tourism Authority released figures showing a 15.8 per cent growth in arrivals for the July to September quarter compared to the previous year. 

Australia and New Zealand were Samoa's biggest market in arrivals with most of them visiting for a holiday.

Ms. Koroseta said she had to lay off all 14 of her staff as she relies on her children, nephew and nieces when help is required at the beach house business.

"In terms of food for eating and sustaining our livelihood, we are fine, we have the sea and land. But it is the maintenance cost of keeping this place going is expensive," she said.

"Cash power, water bills and our children's school fees, we have had to loan to make ends meet because the business was not making money anymore."

Although despite hardships brought forth by the global pandemic, Ms. Koroseta stands by the Government's decision to close the borders to international travel.

"We are hoping the Government may soon let through some funds to help us out as we continue through this uncertainty. But we mostly hope the Government continues with what they are doing at the moment," she said.

"We are able to survive right now because there is no COVID-19, and we hope it stays this way. Even though we are struggling, we support our border lockdown."

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