By Nanai Laveitiga Tuiletufuga
In five years time, the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) is expected to be government’s main breadwinner, and should account for 50% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Latest data from the Central Bank of Samoa puts our GDP at close to $1.9 billion tala, which means that the STA must increase its revenue earning capacity by almost three times from its present annual tourism earnings of $350 million tala a year to close to $1 billion tala a year.
“While it may sound improbable and very ambitious, I am a firm believer that anything is possible,” says new Tourism Minister Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell in his speech to STA employees during a welcoming event hosted in his honour as the new Minister for the Tourism Sector. Lautafi takes over from the Prime Minister.
“Government has set the in motion the possible acquisition of a Boeing Aircraft for Polynesian Airlines, to increase links for more tourists to visit our country,” he said.
“If approved by Cabinet, it will dramatically increase the passenger capacity for tourists and visitors.”
This is separate from a proposed partnership between Samoa’s national carrier and Air Tahiti Niu which is also being looked at.
The relationship with A.T.N opens Samoa up to Asia, North America and Europe directly.
“The Faleolo International Airport is also undergoing a major facelift to improve its reception capacity for passengers and larger aircraft. This should greatly increase tourism traffic to our country,” added the Tourism Minister.
A year from now Faleolo Airport will be transformed into a state-of-the-art, modern facility, capable of catering to 600,000 passengers every year.
The multi-million tala investment will lift Samoa’s profile as a tourism destination.
A grant from China is funding the first phase of two new terminal buildings, while funding from the World Bank will cover the second phase which includes extending the runway, upgrading the entrance and the landing and take-off area for aircraft.
The project will cost US$50 million ($125 million tala)
Back to Lautafi, he said that he is confident that the STA has the capability to increase its revenue making capacities within the next five years by aggressively initiating promotions that will entice tourists to spend two to three weeks in Samoa and not two days.
“We want to encourage tourists to come to Samoa and once here keep them entertained with activities for them to stay longer and spend more money in the country which will reflect in more tourism revenues injected into our economy.”
“It is imperative and in the best interest of Samoa that we improve on our current revenue position because tourism is the mainstay of our economy now and moving forward.”
Aside from Tourism, Lautafi has retained the Public Enterprises portfolio and inherited the Commerce, Industry and Labour portfolio, Samoa Land Corporations, Statistics, Accident Compensation Corporation, Polynesian Airlines and the Audit Office.