Plans to restore American Samoa's cable car
American Samoa is looking to revamp its tourism industry by getting an iconic attraction up and running again.
A cable car spanning across American Samoa's Pago Pago harbour was a top tourist attraction in the 60s and 70s, but fell into disrepair after a military accident in 1980.
After remaining untouched for the past couple of decades, the government is looking into the feasibility of restoring it to its former glory.
For now, the area at the start of the cable car is being cleared and repainted in time for a visit by cruise ship, Crown Princess, on her maiden voyage to the island in November.
Director of the American Samoa Visitors Bureau, David Vaeafe, told Sophie Leggett a feasibility study into restoration costs could take up to a year, after which a set of design plans would be produced.
DAVID VAEAFE: Well, the cable car had been established back in late 60s, early 70s, and was a very iconic tourist attraction, and had been running throughout all that period until April 17, 1980, which is our flag day celebrations, commemorating the raising of the American flag on April 17, 1900. And what happened was, as part of the celebrations, there was an airforce P-130 Orion which was supposed to fly up the harbour and then fly back to Honolulu, which it did, at a preconceived time. And then what happened was, the pilot turned around after doing his flight past, and then came back down to fly down the harbour again. And he tried to fly under the cable car itself, and basically he misjudged the distance under the cable, and the cable severed, and the plane crashed into the harbour, killing all on board, and that was the last time that the cable car operated.
SOPHIE LEGGETT: Was it restored after that?
DV: No, it stopped operating after that, and it slowly just deteriorated over the years. It had been very iconic because cruise ship passengers always used to remember coming into the harbour and sailing under it, and then what they would do was, they would park the cable car in the middle of the harbour, and they would throw flowers - baskets of flowers - onto the ships, so people always used to remember that. And it was the longest spanning cable car from point-to-point over water, because it went directly over our harbour. The actual cable itself only came down a couple of years ago due to a cyclone, but there's still remnants of a cable car on the old site.
SL: I mean, restoring the cable car is something that's been in the pipeline for years now, why has it been decided that it's now time to really look into restoring it?
DV: Well, we had our tourism master plan released in 2010, and one of the key attractions identified in there was the reestablishment of the cable car, and since the visitors bureau has been established back in 2009, it's always been our priority to look at doing that, and restoring the cable car to what it was, but adding more features and services. Tourism is one of the economic drivers that has been identified to grow the economy, so with the new administration, and a more collaborative approach by government agencies and the private sector. And we're looking at moving forward to reestablish the cable car as an iconic attraction, like it used to be.
SL: So, do you think the restoration is likely to benefit the tourism industry?
DV: Ah, yes, it is. You know, the whole part and parcel of it is adding the additional services into it, as part of a tourism master plan. You're building the cable car, and then having a zipline coming back. So offering an additional, sort of, adventure, or excursion as such. But a whole lot of other services like restaurants, a visitors centre and so forth, on top of a mountain, and down below. It was a popular tourist attraction, it will be a popular tourist attraction again.
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