Amoa Resort doing its best to survive in tough times
Eight months into the Government-declared state of emergency, hotels are doing their best to survive amidst the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
And with the future uncertain in terms of international travel, the Amoa Resort at Faga in Savai'i is doing it's best to find ways and identify opportunities to keep the business going.
In an interview with the Amoa Resort Hotel Manager, Elisabeth Siaosi, she admits that the tourism industry is struggling but she remains optimistic.
"We are doing our best to be positive and work with what we have," Mrs. Siaosi told the Samoa Observer.
"We are also seeking new opportunities to survive. It's true that the international border is closed so we don't have overseas guests but we feel that there have been some markets that have emerged for us as a resort, for our local and corporate companies to travel to Savai'i and enjoy themselves a bit while they're here.
"So either it's a family gathering or corporate meetings or function. In some ways, this coronavirus and lockdown has shone a light on Savai'i for people to see what else is here in Samoa to explore."
According to Mrs. Siaosi, Amoa Resort is now offering attractive rates for local communities and expanding their service to catering, not only for their guests but for the community in Savai'i as well.
"For us as a hotel, we are providing attractive rates for people to come, more like a stimulus rate and it has achieved movements.
"We have a big focus on our food at the moment, so we've expanded our services, we've always had a catering arm, but not we've expanded that. And just this week, we will launch our Sunday To'ona'i catering.
"A lot of businesses are not open on a Sunday, but for us, we have to be opened to cater to our guests so we're using the most of the stuff that are on board and capable of providing a menu so that people in our local neighbourhood might want to have Amoa food at home.
"And also, we've come up with a couple of events combining good food and great local music. We believe that good food and good music is a big attraction for our local people.
"The idea is offering an opportunity for our locals to come dine at Amoa and enjoy good music in a safe environment and without having to travel to town to find a place to relax and have a good time."
When her opinion was sought on the S.O.E. orders and whether the Government should relax them, Mrs. Siaosi said: "In terms of the S.O.E. orders, what can we do?
"I mean it's good practice if worse comes to worst and should a case is confirmed in Samoa.
"We are abiding by the rules and orders in place, but if there is no confirmed case for our country, we would like to see easing of the rules especially for Sunday.
"Because, a place to stay away from home is an essential need for people that are traveling and they need a hotel to stay and they need to travel back to their home in Upolu, so it's essential need.
"We don't expect to have event on Sundays but just to be able to provide accommodation and most of our guests want to leave on Sunday, but we can't do so with the rules."
On the bright side, Mrs. Siaosi said the lockdown has helped speed up the expansion of the resort.
"We had plans already in place prior to measles to expand the resort. And I guess with measles and back to back with coronavirus, it has given us a small blessing, we managed to carry out the work for the expansion of the resort without affecting guests.
"The project would've taken much longer, having to work around the guests and all the noise, but the project is ahead of time. We're hoping that once we close the doors to 2020, that 2021 will be different and we will see more people traveling from overseas.
"But in that case that it doesn't, we hope that we'll get support from Government and companies to have meetings and corporate gathering in Savai'i or family reunions to utilise the capacity we will have as of next year so we're expanding to 27 rooms from 15 to 27.
"And as I said, we are also expanding on the food experience which we were basically set up to run and cater food for the resort only, but now with the downturn in tourists we are looking to open that more to our community, like catering and Sunday To'onai that you can take home. You don't necessarily need to be a guest in the hotel.
"We are also expanding on the agricultural side as well. putting in place the contingency, that should access to food supply becomes a problem, we at least have a hand in growing our own food which thankfully, that the weather is still abundant."
The resort also had to reduce and redeploy their staff since the lockdown, said Mrs. Siaosi.
"We've done our very best to repurpose our staff. Yes we had to reduce our staff, it was the very last option, to let go of some of our staff.
"But we had to repurpose our staff, you'd see some of our housekeeping in the kitchens, we see some of our bartenders in the reception which is good that they have been repurposed.
"We are still developing so that when we go into 2021, they'll have more skills and experiences. It's funny seeing some of our housekeeping nowadays working on the computer on a daily basis, helping us with administration and stuff.
"But it is the energy of the staff that keeps us motivated as well. Not that many, but a reduction of staff."
Heading towards the festive season, Mrs. Siaosi uttered that traditionally they would host a lot of guests over during this time.
"Traditionally, we do have a lot of visitors at this time of the year, we do have a lot of people and groups.
"This time last year, we were getting psyched up for a big season and then measles happened so, just the week, we've received a few inquiry from people in Upolu wanting to travel.
"But we'll see how it goes. We all feel like we deserve to relax this year, so we'll see what we can do locally. We encourage our local community and neighbours to come into the resort."