Tourism operators welcome funding assistance

By Lumepa Hald 07 January 2022, 9:56PM

A number of local tourism operators say they are grateful for the Government’s $5 million stimulus package as they wanted assistance following the impact of the measles epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Representatives of the Amoa Resort, Le Lagato, Manusina Beach Fales, Samoa Outrigger Hotel, Saletoga Sands Resort & Spa and Namua Island Beach Fales told the Samoa Observer that they were thankful for the funding.

However, there was a mixed reaction if the funding portions that would come out from the $5 million appropriated in the budget would not go far enough. 

Some of the hoteliers say their overheads are high and the funds are insufficient to really have an impact.

Elizabeth Siaosi, the Amoa Resort Manager, described the funding as a timely boost for the industry.

“It is a great relief and received timely to boost the tourism sector,” she said.

Tinei Matai’a of Le Lagoto said that while more funding is needed due to the high costs of maintenance, she thinks that it is at least a good start in the right direction by the Government.

Matai’a said she believes that the resort needs a lot more help as there is so much that needs fixing before the borders reopen, adding that due to the lack of maintenance, their standard accommodation is not up to expectations.

Laena Hermansen, the co-owner of Samoa Outrigger Hotel, told this newspaper that they are yet to receive the grant and are thankful to the Government for the initiative.

“This is the first time since the pandemic started that we have received substantial help from the Government,” she said.

“It might not cover all the renovations we have to do before the borders reopen but the help will go a long way.” 

For Gavin Brightwell, the owner of the Saletoga Sands Resort & Spa, he is thankful for the assistance but agrees with the other operators that the funding is insufficient.

He said that it would have been good if the Government assisted with insurance as it is one of the biggest costs that the resorts have to foot. 

As one of Samoa’s biggest resorts, Mr Brightwell said a $40,000 payout will not help much as it would only cover 2-weeks of overheads for a resort the size of his.

The resort owner also revealed that he recently had to spend $40,000 in order to sustain their operations and is worried that the reopening date of Samoa’s international borders could be pushed back further. 

And while the festive season with the increased guest list last December would support them for the upcoming “quiet weeks”, Mr Brightwell said the recent festive season has only seen them break even. 

Going back to the Government’s stimulus package, he then asked where all the funding will go and who will benefit, while adding that giving $25,000 to an operator with two employees makes no sense and other operators with larger overheads get $15,000 more.

“Saletoga would lose everything during a disaster if they do not insure their resort,” said Mr Brightwell who then revealed that the resort’s insurance cost $100,000 and he doesn’t have the funds to insure the resort.

“A lot of the hotels are not insured and if they were damaged during a disaster, they would find it very hard to fix their places up again,” he added.

Nevertheless, Mr Brightwell commended tourism operators that stayed open, despite the hardships brought on by the pandemic lockdown.

He said that these resorts have a vision to help their surrounding families and keep going even though it has been challenging.

Tuava Levasa Ieti, the owner of Namua Island Beach Fales, said he is aware he will get funding from the Government to assist with maintenance so he is rebuilding his dining area.

He said he cannot open the public until the work is done as he did not want complaints about his dining area.

“I wanted to fix my dining fale first because I would probably get mad if I saw any complaints about it if I had let people come to stay with us, even though we have really felt the hardship of not receiving any money from overnight stayers for two years.”

One operator, the owner of the Manusina Beach Fales, confirmed that they received half of the funding before Christmas and they are using it to build their enclosed fales.

“We have received our first eleven thousand so far but will start using the funds to build our enclosed fales,” said Taleo Vaaiga. 

Admitting that the funding is not enough, he said at least it is helping him to extend his beach fales and the next payment batch of $11,000 will enable him to complete his project.

Samoa Tourism Authority C.E.O. Faamatuainu Lenatai Suifua has confirmed that over 200 businesses stand to benefit from the Government’s $5 million stimulus package that is still being distributed to operators since early December 2021. 

Accommodation owners, travel agents and tour operators that are registered and accredited under the S.T.A. are amongst the recipients of the funding assistance.

Faamatuainu told the Samoa Observer that 70 per cent of the recipients have already received their stimulus package and added that he is grateful to the Government for the assistance to tourism operators thus far.

By Lumepa Hald 07 January 2022, 9:56PM

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