Tourism director cautions against over-building
American Samoa Visitors Bureau has cautioned the territory against any rush to overbuilding accommodations, as the tourism industry is slowly being developed, and advises taking one step at a time.
Visitors Bureau executive director David Vaeafe said American Samoa has the smallest tourism industry in the region with 250 hotel rooms, 180 rental cars, and 20 restaurants — which include fast food places.
He said there has been talk in the community to increase hotel room accommodation; thereby attracting more tourists to the territory as the local tourism industry continues to be developed moving forward.
However, Vaeafe “cautioned not to rush into overbuilding our capacity needs. What we need to do, is maintain a high level of occupancy, and then down the line— in three to five years, when the need arises and our current capacity is filled—then we add more rooms accordingly.”
He also says that there was talk about building a 500-room hotel in the territory but “that would be a disaster” because “we cannot fill that capacity” with current flight frequency — including that of Hawaiian Airlines — and other contributing factors.
“As we grow this sector, grow our infrastructure,” he said. “While we have limited rooms, that is also very unique as a selling point, in that only limited people come here. We use this to market ourselves.”
He emphasized the need for continued private-public sector cooperation to plan and grow the tourism industry as “we move forward”.
When he was before lawmakers last month, Vaeafe also cautioned the Fono against any rush to add more accommodation rooms for the territory. “For us to grow it, we have to insure that with the growth of tourism, the infrastructure is there to support that growth,” he said and pointed out that neighboring Samoa’s tourism industry is “booming” but it has taken the independent state 15 years to get to this point.
He was quick to point out while tourism in Samoa is booming there has been “an over capacity of accommodation facilities.”
“There are some facilities that are going to be closed down because they can’t fill them, they can’t honor their bank loan and so forth,” he said. “So we have to be mindful of situations like this, so we don’t incur those situations here. That’s why the things we have done have been one step at a time.”
He said it took Samoa some 15-years to get where it is now, adding that last year the independent state had more than 130,000 visitors and tourism poured about US$170 million into the country’s economy.
Vaeafe says next year’s cruise ship count for the territory, is now set for 16 ships — including three ships visiting American Samoa for the first time. Also next year, the territory will get a royal visit from the cruise ships Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, which have both visited the territory in the past.
He says there is at least one more ship that needs to be confirmed for next year.
As for the remainder of 2013, Vaeafe says there are only three ships left, all for the month of November, although there were originally four ships set for next month.
The first ship for this month is ‘Sapphire Princess’ arriving this Saturday, Nov. 2, from Apia, Samoa. Scheduled arrival time is 7a.m. and departure around 4p.m. for Bora Bora, French Polynesia. The ship is on a 30-night round trip cruise from Los Angeles and carries up to 2670 passengers and 1100 crew.
The next one is the ‘Ocean Princess’ arriving Nov. 14 from Apia around 7a.m. and departing at 4p.m. for Bora Bora. This is a 35-night cruise from Singapore to Pape’ete, French Polynesia and carries up to 680 passengers and 391 crew.
The final ship ‘Amsterdam’ arrives Nov. 19 at 8a.m. from Lautoka, Fiji and departs 5p.m. for Bora Bora. This ship is on a 75-night cruise from Vancouver, Canada to Los Angeles and carries up to 1380 passengers and 647 crew.