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Visitor's Bureau gets $200K from SBA to market territory

The American Samoa Visitor’s Bureau is “very grateful” to the U.S. Small Business Administration for awarding the agency more than $200,000 in grant funding that will go towards, among other things, training of the local tourism industry and marketing of the territory with off island travel wholesalers.

SBA yesterday morning issued a national news release announcing the awarding of about $30 million to 47 states, American Samoa and other U.S. jurisdictions under the second round of funding support efforts to increase exporting by small businesses.

This federal funding is through the State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) initiative, which was launched last year under the Small Business Jobs Act, aimed at increasing the value of exports for those small businesses that currently export.

SBA Administrator Karen Mills said the second round of STEP funding will be instrumental in helping small businesses start or expand their exporting opportunities so they can create an economy built to last.

SBA online records show that the Visitor’s Bureau will receive  $246,671. Additionally, the  “STEP program will work with American Samoa to strengthen the capacity of local tourism industry members with training to equip them with partnering skills in international travel trade, and to support American Samoa’s international travel partners to develop and promote consumer holiday packages from New Zealand, Australia and Samoa.”

“These partnering initiatives will endeavor to develop holiday packages and promote the destination in an effort to generate new tourist visitors,” the project description states.

When contacted for comments yesterday morning, Visitor’s Bureau chief executive officer David Vaeafe said he just received information about the grant award and he is pleased and “very grateful to SBA.”

“This is great in terms of the support of our work in the development of our industry and this funding will help us in many ways,” Vaeafe said in brief phone interview. Among the main “elements of the project” is a “second element training of industry managers” on various travel issues such as preparing commissionable rates for travel and tour wholesalers.

Another element of the project is for marketing support with off island partners, such as those in Samoa, New Zealand and Australia. “And we’re also going to translate our website to a number of different foreign languages for overseas travelers,” said Vaeafe. “And all of these elements are part of our efforts to strengthen and grow our tourism industry.”

Meanwhile, Vaeafe says nine U.S. travel wholesalers and one journalist will be in the territory next month as part of a familiarization visit being organized by the Visitor’s Bureau, in partnership with Hawaiian Airlines.

The traveler wholesalers are from California and Hawai’i and, along with the journalist, are scheduled to arrive in the territory Oct. 18 for a few days and will also travel to Samoa.

“This is a joint familiarization with Hawaiian Airlines - assisting us with air fares for the group from the U.S.,” said Vaeafe.

The wholesaler and media visit is the third one planned this year, organized by the Visitor’s Bureau. This month they hosted a group from Australia and last month was a group from New Zealand. The visits were made possible with a US Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs technical assistant grant.