Tourism operators hold hope for Savai'i flights
Much anticipated flights to Savai’i are taking off on Friday morning, and they have one hotelier on the big island for the opportunities the new domestic route may bring.
The owner and operator of Jane’s Beach Fales, Penina Schmidt, said she hopes the weekend flights between Faleolo and Maota airports will bring a much needed boost to tourism:
“At the moment there are no guests, but when I heard about this quick [trip]back to Apia, I think they will love it.”
Samoa Airways flights are currently scheduled to encourage weekend trips away. They leave Upolu at 4pm on Fridays and return at 7.40am on Monday.
For travellers coming from Savai’i the flights leave Maota Airport at 4.40pm on Fridays and return at 7am on Monday morning.
Ms. Schmidt said for the entire state of emergency period, demand at Jane’s Beach Fales has been extremely slow.
The only guests she has had are Government groups undertaking surveys or other official business on Savai’i, which has helped a great deal.
Asked whether she was concerned people would not take up the weekend flights to Savai’i due to a Sunday swimming ban the hotelier admitted she was unfamiliar with the regulation.
“They banned swimming on Sundays? Including at the resorts?” she asked. “I didn’t know that,” she said.
“I think that’s a problem, because that is why people come here, because of the beach.”
(The swimming restriction is one of many restrictions included in ongoing amendments to state of emergency orders, since it was first declared in March.)
Ms. Schmidt said she hopes eventually the Savai’i flights will be increased to allow day trips back and forth, something that, as a business owner, she has to do quite often.
A round trip in one day between Savaii and Upolu can be exhausting, she said.
“It’s not only good for the tourists but for us business people, she said. I always come early on the six o’clock ferry, and I want to come back on the four o’clock (ferry).
“But the flight from Maota to Faleolo, I would love it.”
Samoa Airways Commercial General Manager, Leuluaialii Robert Rounds, said as well as growing the domestic market, flights to Savai’i could help grow international tourism to Savai’i when international borders do eventually reopen.
“We want to build a base for Savaii, get it a bit known in terms of air traffic flow,” he said.
“It will allow us to market Savai’i a lot better on an international level.”
The new flights were announced last month.
Leuluaialii said among the reasons for the flights was the heavy demand for the ferry service on Fridays and Mondays, which have been operating at between full to near-full capacity.