Savai'i hotelier turns creative amid downturn
A local hotelier in Savai'i is not refusing to lie down in the face of the challenges posed by the global coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn.
Taito Vaea M. Tanumafili of Tanu Beach Fales at Manase in Savai'i has taken to opening a retail store to earn money while hoping and praying for better days ahead for the tourism industry in Samoa.
They are also looking to expand their small shops into a small fast-food takeaway place, catering for the people of Itu-o-Tane on the big island.
In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Taito said they have been struggling financially since the lockdown.
"We have been greatly affected because of travel restrictions," Taito said.
"Starting from the time of the measles and just when we were trying to recover from measles, COVID hit us hard and we have been struggling.
"We had about twenty workers, not including our family members and we had to let go of all of them."
Taito said had to sell family assets just to get by.
"I'm sure you are aware that we used to have buses that were used to take our tourists around the island, but due to the fact that we haven't had any tourists for almost a year now, we had no choice but to sell the buses," he said.
"So we had to come up with ideas and ways so we can still earn money and so we decided to open a shop."
Tanu Beach Fales at Manase was the first-ever beach fale established in Manase. It has been in operation for twenty-eight-years now, said Taito.
Since the establishment of Tanu Beach Fales, this is the first time the business has experienced something like this:
"We've had low seasons back then where we don't have many tourists. However, the high seasons always made up for the low seasons. So financially, we have never really struggled like this before," said Taito.
"There were times when we were fully booked, and then there were times where there were no bookings at all. But there were still so many ways to earn money and earn income to keep the business going.
"We had buses, plantations, cattle farms, and vegetable gardens. Our local farmers and businesses also thrived whenever we hosted many tourists.
"But all of that has changed and we have been trying to find new ways."
But dealing with a global pandemic was not something that was ever on Taito's horizons.
"We didn't think we would have to deal with the consequences of a global pandemic. We always make plans for our businesses and set aside the budget for those plans," he said.
"But this is something we did not forecast and when it hit is hard, it took some time for us to adapt to the impacts and the changes imposed by the pandemic.
"Then it occurred to us that we should not sit idly and wait for better days to come. We had to come up with something and a new plan so we can generate income for our business.
"We are still praying and hoping for better days for our tourism sector as I believe it is the most affected sector in the country."