Hotelier disputes reason for flights postponement

The President of the Samoa Hotels Association, Tupa'i Saleimoa Vaai, has expressed disappointment about Samoa Airways decision to postpone its Faleolo/Maota flights. 

Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Tupa'i also doubted claims from the airline that the decision was due to the low demand from passengers on the route.

“The demand is there but the airline needs to be more proactive in marketing their flights and reach out to the tourism industry and business community in Savaii,” said Tupai, who is also a member of the Savaii Samoa Tourism Association. 

“The business community had asked to initiate the service for quite some time. And now the situation has changed in terms of the tourism [from overseas] but the bottom line is to gain more access to Savai'i not only by the boat but what is also essential for the development of Savai'i.” 

The flights to Savai'i were announced last month with the first flights scheduled on 11 September 2020.

At the time, Samoa Airways C.E.O., Seiuli Alvin Tuala, said “the launch of Savai’i services is to support growing demand for a more convenient travel option to and from the market.” 

Last week however, the airline moved to postpone scheduled flight services to 5 October 2020 citing "low customer demand for these flights at this time." 

But Tupa’i believes this would not have happened if the airline was more proactive in terms of working with members of the tourism industry. 

 “The most difficult part of their launching is the lack of communication. They went out and launched the flights without talking to the [tourism] industry [in Savaii] or even a have marketing strategy given it is a business," Tupa'i said. 

“There is a need to have a strategy to gain the market. You can’t just offer and expect everyone to come running to the [Airline] you have to market it.” 

He said the S.S.T.A. met with the Airline management on Tuesday to discuss the game plans for the flights to Savaii.  

“We only met them yesterday. It was unfortunate the timing there is no international market but in terms of the demand in Savaii it is still there. 

"And there are businesses and people we were hoping to use the launching of the flights as well for the domestic market to come to Savaii.  Samoa Airways in itself it’s in own entity and they should be doing what they can to market the flights and entice the public to fly and it is essential to have the services to Savaii.” 

He acknowledged the need for the flights for emergency purposes and general commute for businesses. 

“Its saddening that we have asked for this for quite some time and there should have been a communication before the launching, they went ahead. Also they should have considered offering packages to the domestic market, and approach the businesses sin Savaii. 

“There was no exposure of the launching rather it was just an announcement and then expect everyone to come running to the airline,” said the businessman.  

Another issue for the Tourism industry in Savaii are the airfares. 

“To fly from Faleolo to Maota a 10 minute flight and the cost was going to determine how viable the flights and $89 tala one way, its an alright fare, but for the distance that it is travelling it’s quite a bit high (it does not include the taxes) compared to the boat ride.

"We’ve met with them, we have given them our support and ideas on what to do, but again this meeting should have taken place way before the launch." 

An email asking for comments Samoa Airways was sent on Wednesday morning.

No response had been received by press time.

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