Togiola: Cruise visitors want good quality local products
Gov. Togiola Tulafono has urged local businesses to come up with "good quality products" that reflect locally made merchandise for visitors arriving off cruise ships, instead of products with a "Made in China" label - a statement strongly supported by David Vaeafe, executive director of the American Samoa Visitor's Bureau.
Speaking at Saturday night's Business Award ceremony at the Governor H. Rex Lee Auditorium, Togiola commended the Visitor's Bureau, its executive director and staff and the board of directors for pushing to bring more cruise ships to the territory.
"We've been working with the board trying to enhance the visitation of [cruise] ships to the territory," said Togiola. "This will be our tourism industry that we don't have to spent a lot of money on for infrastructure, but it can bring people as long as we continue to bring ships in every month and if we can help it, we can bring one in every week."
He said that more cruise ships that call in to the Port of Pago Pago means more money going into the local economy "and that's the reason for that effort."
"But it is also up to you to develop things that attract the people to want to come here," he told the business community audience. "That is not entirely the government's job. It's all our job. The government has a part to play, but the business community has a bigger part to play."
"You have to make American Samoa business friendly for these visiting tourists," he said and urged vendors to provide the kind of things that these visitors want to buy. He informed the private sector that the first thing that tourists said they don't want to see - but they see a lot of it here- " ... t-shirts with the label "Made in China".
"They don't want to spend their money on made in China products. They want good quality products. But our businesses do not sell the products that they want to spend their money on," said Togiola.
"Get to know what these people want to spend their money on and then you will see more sales, you will see more money and we will see a better economy," he added.
Responding to Samoa News inquiries, Vaeafe said he is supportive of the governor's call for coming up with local goods for visitors.
"A lot of tourists want to buy products that are unique to the destinations that they visit," said Vaeafe in a telephone interview Monday. "With us being the only U.S. territory in the South Pacific, visitors are looking to buy American products. Offering American products with American Samoa printed on them, helps market these products as well as our destination."
For example, Vaeafe says that there are a lot of [jade] Maori carvings and tikis in New Zealand being sold to visitors but the jade is made in China.
"So visitors - when they see these tikis and carving with the made in China label - they won't purchase that product," said Vaeafe, who worked in New Zealand for several years before taking up the post in the territory.
Another benefit of American made products with American Samoa's name printed on it, is that "it creates jobs," through entrepreneurship, he said.
One of the Visitor's Bureau goals since its establishment more than two years ago was to increase the number of cruise ship visits to the territory.
And his work has been successful with 12 cruise ships this year, while next year has a total number of 19 cruise ships calling into the Port of Pago Pago. The American Samoa Tourism Master Plan calls for at least 20 ships annually.
"Cruise ships provide a valuable niche in terms of injecting new revenue into the economy with passengers buying souvenirs, dining out and taking tours," Vaeafe said.