Tourism losses causing economic devastation: Fiame

Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa has underscored the impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic on tourism at a meeting of Commonwealth foreign Ministers on Friday.

The Commonwealth Foreign Ministers Meeting was held virtually on September 17.

“Samoa, like all tourism dependent economies [is] struggling since the pandemic. Most of the job losses were from the hospitality industry,” Fiame said in her statement.

“Low international consumer demand and limited shipping and air freight access have impacted exports.”

In a previous interview with the Samoa Observer, the Samoa Tourism Authority (S.T.A) Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O) Fa’amatuainu Lenata’i Suifua revealed that 52 hotels in Samoa have been closed, while 48 are still operational out of the 144 hotel operations in the country.

A survey by the S.T.A of employment in the tourism sector shows that a total of 3877 jobs have been affected since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

Before the 2019 measles epidemic and the COVID-19 global pandemic, the workforce stood at 5651. But since the pandemic the number of fully employed workers dropped to 1774. The total number of laid off workers caused by the pandemic-led downturn was 2706; some 1171 workers had their working hours reduced. 

Fiame said she appreciated the continued work by the Commonwealth Secretariat, despite the challenges of global lockdowns and restrictions, to support trade and economic development efforts.

“We stress the importance of the support by the Commonwealth Small States Office in Geneva, enabling our active engagement in the [World Trade Organisation],” Fiame said.

“We look forward to its continued support as we finalise the opening of our Mission in Geneva. We particularly welcome the proposed areas of focus for the Commonwealth to support trade and economic recovery, especially the revival of the tourism sector and ensuring sustainable financing for recovery.

“We ask that all efforts to enhance digital trade and implement the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda, be responsive to member countries’ COVID19 economic recovery efforts.”

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