Tourism upgrades continue amid downturn
Despite the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism industry, the Samoa Tourism Authority [S.T.A.] is continuing to upgrade tourism attractions on the island of Savai'i with the cost already passing half-a-million tala.
Sites selected for refurbishment include the Afu Aau Waterfall at Palauli; the Saleaula Lava Field at Saleaula; and the Umumamoa Cave at Aopo.
The total cost of upgrading the three sites is $733,998.
During a ceremony announcing the upgrades, the Associate Minister for the S.T.A., Amituanai Kenrick Samu, said the tourism sector remains a cornerstone of national development.
“The sector currently accounts for at least 25 per cent of [Gross Domestic Product] G.D.P., employing around 15 per cent of the workforce,” Amituana'i said.
“The total arrivals for 2018-2019 were 178,564 which was an increase of 9.3 percent compared to last financial year with total earnings of $514 million.
“However, total arrivals at the end of April 2020 was 124,399 a 30.0 per cent decrease compared to previous year with earnings of $358 million.”
The Associate Minister said the future prospects of the sector had been severely affected by measles in late 2019 and the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the accompanying closure of national borders.
“Although Samoa remains to be COVID-19 free, the impacts of the pandemic have affected and will continue to affect the tourism industry,” he said.
Despite the challenging times the S.T.A. is continuing to assist the industry through site upgrades and developments, the Associate Minister said.
“It is intended that these developments will prepare the Industry for when borders open up again and will improve the visitor experience,” he said.
Amituana'i said some of the works had already been completed by the Authority with the support of donors.
These works or activities were identified in international visitor surveys on the quality of Samoa’s attractions.
Also included in the upgrades are the safety of the sites. Improvements include the provision of life jackets and torches to the value of $15,648.
A further $7,374 was spent on garbage bins to keep tourist sites clean in line with the Beautiful Samoa initiative.
Seven interpretive signs for selected attraction sites to a cost of $15,300 were also installed.
Also included in the upgrade is the publication of the Guide to Samoa’s Geological History and Attraction Sites by Warren Jopling. Its printing cost $3,500.
The Associate Minister acknowledged and thanked the Government of New Zealand through its N.Z. Aid Programme for its continuous assistance and support of the tourism sector through the Samoa Tourism Growth Partnership.
“In concluding, I encourage our attraction site owners and all who will be directly involved to please ensure that we look after and maintain our sites and the assets entrusted to you all,” he said.