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“Building Partnerships in the Pacific”

Miss American Samoa Antonina Lilomaiava performing the traditional Samoan Ava ceremony to welcome the guests of the 104th Annual Conference for the Association of Pacific Ports. See story for full details.  [photo: TG]
Pacific port authority reps and officials in town for regional conference

American Samoa is playing host this week to more than 60 guests, which includes officials and representatives from 11 ports throughout the Pacific region — from Washington state to Tonga — for a one-week conference to network and discuss challenges faced by each port authority in the Pacific.

The conference is also a boost to the local economy, according to ASG officials.

Off island delegates and representatives, along with their companions started arriving last Friday for the 104th Association of Pacific Ports (APP) Conference, under the theme ‘Building Partnerships Throughout the Pacific, with the Port of Pago Pago as the host.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, APP president Taimalelagi Dr. Claire Poumele, who is also ASG Port Administration director, said the “conference will give us the opportunity to network with other Ports. We can discuss our challenges and hear and learn about successful practices in Ports.”

According to AAP, its mission is to, among other things, “foster a better understanding and relationship among port authorities in the Pacific region.”

Asked about the importance of the territory hosting this conference, Taimalelagi told Samoa News last Friday that, “it gives American Samoa the opportunity to showcase our beautiful harbor and the Port of Pago Pago. A few of the other Port members have never heard of Pago Pago.”

She said there will be approximately 68 guests that will be on Tutuila island and are staying in local hotels “and will be contributing to our economy. Restaurants will benefit from their participation in this conference.”

Hosting the conference is also “a boost to our tourism development,” she said adding that the Port of Pago Pago has a clean and attractive appearance, as “our guests descend on our shores.”

American Samoa Visitors Bureau executive director David Vaeafe agreed that such conference is a boost to tourism, as the Lolo Administration has been pushing for these types of events to be hosted in American Samoa and ASG entities have been encouraged to work with the Visitors Bureau to bring these conferences to Pago Pago.

“This conference event is very valuable to our tourism development. This type of event falls under the category of ‘Meeting, Incentive, Conference and Event’ in our tourism master plan,” Vaeafe said over the weekend responding to Samoa News questions. “We have been working on these types of events over the years — American Samoa has been able to attract such conferences in the past.”

Vaeafe said the Visitors Bureau worked with Port Administration on the tourism side to pitch the Port of Pago Pago as host of this year’s conference, by working with the local tourism industry on tour packages.

“We’ve always said over years that ‘Tourism is Everybody's Business’ involving everyone in our community,” he said and noted that these types of conferences “will help grow our tourism and economy.”

In preparation for the conference, Port Administration compiled a 3-minute promotional video encouraging AAP members and others in the industry to participate in the conference in American Samoa. The video shows sights of Pago Pago Harbor and Pago Pago International Airport, as well as other scenes from Tutuila.

There are several aerial shots of the dock, as well as a fautasi passing in front of the new MV Manu’atele as it sailed into the harbor on the morning of Jan. 4, 2017. Four Port Administration employees are on the video with open arms, saying “Welcome, Afio Mai”, according to the video upload early this month to YouTube.

“There will be enough networking time to learn what’s new and build stronger working partnership with your Pacific port colleagues,” said the voice-over in the video. “We welcome you to join us in beautiful American Samoa and experience the heart of the Pacific.”

The conference will be held at the Gov. H. Rex Lee Auditorium, which is also where the official opening ceremony is set to begin at 9a.m. tomorrow.

Last Saturday afternoon was the traditional welcoming Ava ceremony at the Fale Samoa at Utulei Beach, carried out by the Office of Samoan Affairs. Registration for the conference starts today.

Besides the Port of Pago Pago, other port authorities being represented at the AAP conference include  five from California - Port of Stockton, Port of Hueneme, Port of Umatilla, Port of Redwood City, and Port of Long Beach; two from Washington state - Port of Benton, and Port of Longview; Ports Authority of Guam; Ports Authority Tonga; Marshall Islands Ports Authority; and the Commonwealth Ports Authority of the Northern Mariana Islands.