Accusations of 'sabotage' in Samoa tourism
Accusations of 'sabotage' in the Samoa tourism authority as group raises concerns.
In the wake of a worrisome report on Samoa's tourism industry, the Samoa Hotels Association has accused a private sector group of "sabotaging" the industry.
But the group, Samoa For Real, says it's taking action to unite the industry and address problems.
Just as the country has been named a leading sustainability destination, experts say needless divisions will not help.
Alex Perrottet reports.
The Samoa International Visitor Survey for 2012-2013 said almost a quarter of accommodation providers did not have any tourists stay at their properties over a 12-month period. This week, the President of the Samoa Hotels Association, Tuala Oli Ah Him, hit out at the industry-wide Samoa For Real group, accusing it of sabotage, after it voiced its concerns. He says the group is a small minority who don't own hotels, trying to stir up trouble.
TUALA OLI AH HIM: I think these people don't know what they're talking about. They need to stop causing trouble and work together with government and don't go against government. That's the success of each country, working together, not trying to disrupt or sabotage the good work of government and also the association.
But the group has had 67 participants, many of them hoteliers, at workshops with world tourism expert Anna Pollock, who acknowledged the occupancy "crisis". A representative from Samoa For Real, and a former CEO of the hotels association, Nynette Sass, says they're just responding to the Prime Minister's call for operators to do more for themselves. Another member of the group is the managing director of Sinalei Reef Resort and Spa, Sose Annandale, who says the group is inclusive and she's disappointed Tuala is accusing them of detraction.
SOSE ANNANDALE: We're trying to unite our industry and bring our industry together so you know it is kind of disappointing when you hear comments like that because it's the furthest thing from the truth. It's just one of those unfortunate situations where we have been challenged, we've risen to the occasion and then we're condemned for doing just that.
In Savai'i, Sesilia Leota-Schwalger is the manager of Bayview resort and the president of the Savai'i Samoa Tourism Association. She says the workshops have been helpful, and it's crucial to her organisation that industry partners like taxi drivers and tour operators be involved.
SESILIA LEOTA-SCHWALGER: I think that anything anybody does to bring more tourists to Samoa and to help individual properties to get to be promoted and marketed overseas is all, everything is good, every little help is welcome.
Both Sesilia Leota-Shwalger and Tuala Oli Ah Him say the real problem with Samoa is flights and the lack of competition with the only carrier, Virgin Australia. Tuala says it can be cheaper to fly to London from some nearby countries than it is to fly to Samoa.
But Anna Pollock's recommendations say the industry has to work better together and mend past divisions, and remove the "them versus us" attitude between government and the private sector. She says niche markets need to be homed in on, rather than the mass market, and with Samoa this week named as a global leader in sustainability, there's one positive among many that needs to be marketed well.
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