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Savai'i tourism embraces training opportunities

Tourism operators in Savai'i and workers have welcomed training courses to build capacity in a struggling workforce displaced by the sudden halt to tourism.   

The free tourism and hospitality training courses offered was part of Phase 2 of the Government’s stimulus package.

A team from Samoa Tourism Authority (S.T.A.) accompanied by partner representatives of the National University of Samoa (N.U.S.), Australia Pacific Training Coalition (A.P.T.C.) and Samoa Business Hub (S.B.H.) delivered the information and registration drive in Asau, Manase and Salelologa, Savaii.

President of the Savaii Samoa Tourism Association, Va'aelua Faapoipoi Gidlow hopes the training courses become an annual initiative by the Government to help keep the industry up to international standards. 

“I fully support this, it's the best time to do this while it's slow and we got time to do it,” said Vaaelua.

He added that another advantage for the short courses is that it will also be held in Savaii.

“I hope that A.P.T.C. and N.U.S. continue to provide these short courses even when things go back to normal, especially considering the high turnover of staff in this industry.”

The owner of Lauiula Beach Fales in Lano, Richard Ah Chong, who attended the information session held at Jet over Hotel, Salelologa, also agreed with the idea of yearly training for the industry in Savaii.

“This opportunity is excellent, I must admit this training on offer is what we need in fact, I wish this was an ongoing initiative by the government and not just a one off thing.” said Mr. Ah Chong.

“I am mindful that we don't want to waste this opportunity which is why we want to see what’s available and then go back and select workers who we think will be receptive to this raining and show a willingness to improve their skills.”

However, faced with a combination of border closures, a small local market and ongoing State of Emergency restrictions, Mr. Ah Chong had to let go of staff and look into other ventures to help supplement lost income while relying on family remittances to survive in the interim.

At the moment, he said that his family relies on his children’s generosity, “they send me money.”

He also relayed that he is working on trying to build up his cattle farm.

“The land is more than 30 acres but I only have two cattles at the moment because I'm clearing the land and replanting the grass which is going to take a lot of time and effort.”

Several representatives from the Savaii tourism industry raised concerns over the growing challenges presented by the suspension of inter-island ferry services on Sunday for families and locals who commute during the question and answer session.

“The Sunday thing [inter island travel ban] is very serious - not just for working people but for those making the commute and are now not able to do that,”said Mr. Ah Chong.

“We’re not talking about overseas; we are talking about locals who want to spend time in Savaii visiting their families on the weekend, especially families with children who go to school in Upolu.

“People are sending money over here because it's not an option to come over and get stuck here on the weekend. So those are the opportunities missed for people who want to come see their families in Savaii and stay with us. We hope that the government will reconsider the suspension of ferry services in Samoa”

Mr. Ah Chong also made a case for the unemployed youth in his village that once relied on casual work offered at Lauiula beach fales when his business was thriving.

“I am thinking of some of the young workers I used to employ who showed a lot of promise and a natural desire to be independent so they don't have to rely on anybody - these are the types of young people who we need to empower with these training opportunities.

“Everything that we will learn from these courses is transferable skills- whether it's in commercial cookery or housekeeping, it will be helpful in every aspect of life.”

A representative for the S.T.A., Sheena Ng Lam-Stowers said that priority will be given to displaced employees due to COVID-19 and there would be a maximum of 20 participants per location.

“All S.Q.A. [Samoa Qualifications Authority] and Australian accredited courses on offer vary from Non- formal learning to Formal qualifications and will be delivered by the N.U.S., A.P.T.C. and S.B.H. 

“Short courses are expected to be held in over five different locations (three in Upolu and two in Savaii). 

“To help support participants who will be away from work or family commitments while attending these courses, an allowance of SAT$100 per person will be paid on the last day of the training course.”

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