Concerns voiced about size of proposed casino for Mulivai Safata
The owner of the one of the most popular resorts in Samoa, Tuagataloa Joe Annandale – who is the paramount chief of Poutasi - has expressed concerns about the size the proposed casino to be built in Mulivai Safata.
During an interview with the Weekend Observer where a range of issues were discussed, Tuatagaloa, Owner of Sinalei Reef Resort,says he is worried about the impact of such a project on the rural community.
While he is excited about the prospect of job creation, Tuatagaloa hopes the Government has weighed the social cost of having a casino against the benefits.
“Based on what the experience has been elsewhere, it’s been a dismal failure,” says Tuatagaloa. “As far as I know in Vanuatu, it’s a failure in terms of support for it. I’m talking about the lack of visitors from overseas, tourists.”
In Samoa, Tuatagaloa says much as been said about the social impact of the casinos.
“The thing I suppose that concerns me is the size of the sort of properties that are being talked about.”
Tuatagaloa believes a resort of such size, catering to tourism on such a large scale, is something that Samoa should not be associated with.
“I’ve never been an advocate of large hotels as such in Samoa. Anything more than 150 – 200 rooms in a rural setting like this; would be a bit of a concern.In my view, Samoa is not about mass tourism and a 500-room resort is mass tourism.”
Instead of building a 500-room resort with a casino as an added attraction, Tuatagaloa thinks locals should look into developing small-scale, tourist accommodation facilities.
“Since building Sinalei, I’m sold on the idea of having small boutique properties, 30 rooms, 40 rooms, 50 rooms max, perhaps that take up these little spots because we don’t have the big massive beach areas that others countries have.
“We have these little pockets of beachfront areas like Tafatafa and further along this south coast, it is well-suited to small properties. If we had a lot of those, it would be wonderful.
“Each of these little properties would have its own personality, its own soul, its own character and what I think is good about these small properties, is that they’re small enough to be developed by local people and that, I think, should be encouraged.”
The success of Sinalei over the years proves the point.
“It’s affordable, it can be financed locally, local management, local employees, everything and then we have sympathetic airlines that would bring your business in but we have neither at the moment.”
Tuatagaloa acknowledges the Government’s drive to create jobs. But the 500 acre property proposed by Chinese-owned ETG group raises some critical issues.
“Employment is very important.That isthe concern or the responsibility that any government has to provide opportunities for, provide the infrastructure for employment to take place or activities to take place that would employ our peopleand there’s nothing wrong with that.”
However, Tuatagaloa says there is a need to “develop agriculture” in the rural areas. If a 500-room resort is to employ a large percentage of the village population, there will be no one to tend to the farming and agricultural needs of the villages.
“I think that everything has to be balanced because you do have the need to encourage agricultural development in rural areas to cater to the rest of the country and to cater to the hotel industry, no question.
“To have too many people within the village engaged or employed in say one large property, needs to be carefully considered. Consider the impact that that would have on that particular community or the villages that are close to it?”
Speaking from experience, Tuatagaloa has no doubt that the tourism-based businesses in the rural areas are helpful to the communities.
Butthere is always the other side of the coin.
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