Delta variant makes bubble unfeasible: tourism chief

Samoa Tourism Authority C.E.O. Faamatuainu Lenatai Suifua says there were discussions on a travel bubble two months ago, but the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant now makes it unfeasible.

Faamatuainu told the Samoa Observer that there were discussions for a travel bubble two months ago but at that time there was no Delta variant of the virus. 

But he says the virus’ most deadly mutation has since emerged and changed the way several of Samoa's larger neighbours manage the virus' with countries such as Australia and New Zealand imposing strict lockdowns.

He said before the emergence of the Delta variant, “we looked at American Samoa and New Zealand, but now it is very unsafe at the moment, especially taking into consideration the current impact of COVID-19 in Fiji.”

According to Faamatuainu, the pandemic has moved with unprecedented speed and the true situation cannot be ascertained until next year, on how everyone can make more informed choices.

“For Samoa, the priority remains in keeping our people and country safe because once we have a case, no one would want to travel to Samoa and thus also affecting the tourism industry,” he said.

The C.E.O. also added that it is also significant to protect Samoa as a safe tourist destination free from COVID.

“This is why for tourism alone, we are still preparing through marketing initiatives, and it is our core role that despite not opening our borders, we want to be ready when it is safe to open for tourists,” he said.

“We don’t want to take a break then restart because that will cost us more.

“While most countries are busy fighting against COVID-19 we are blessed that we are not, so we are using this opportunity to prepare.”

He said that so far they are still continuing with social media campaigns abroad to promote what Samoa has to offer compared to other countries while highlighting the country’s uniqueness and culture.

“Also we have season two of the “Tafaoga, Experience our Beautiful Samoa” [a tour guiding programme] is actually encouraging our locals to use what we have because some might say that there’s not much to do in Samoa but we are promoting our local products and what we can offer through adventures.

“By December, we would have some new tourist attractions different from the previous ones so that our tourists can compete with other tourist attractions in other countries. 

“Last year, we looked at maintaining but now we are looking at expanding.”

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