American Samoa closing in on the booming wedding market

Just need to change those laws…
fili@samoanews.com

American Samoa is looking at tapping into the wedding market — a booming industry in the Pacific — by amending local laws, hence allowing foreigners to exchange vows in the territory.

Current local marriage laws are a “big deterrent” for American Samoa to be a potential destination for weddings, for foreigners who want to wed in the territory, American Samoa Visitors Bureau executive director David Vaeafe told Samoa News yesterday, in a phone interview.

A call to the Office of Vital Statistics by Samoa News elicited the following: To get a marriage license, you must have a valid Immigration ID, unless you are an American Samoa National or US citizen. As a foreigner, you must also obtain a letter from your sponsor approving the marriage.

Vaeafe said, “A village can do it with a chapel in which the whole village can participate; not just the hotels can do it.” He added, “This is another financial opportunity at the village level and it could be a great opportunity.”

Among the many developments dealing with tourism cited in the governor’s Comprehensive Report to the Fono and the feds, is the “marriage market”.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga notes that in order to tap into the booming wedding industry in some of the most sought after wedding destinations in the Pacific like Fiji and Samoa, the local Visitors Bureau is working closely with the Department of Legal Affairs (which includes the Attorney General’s Office) to amend local marriage laws to make it easier for foreigners to get married in American Samoa.

“Revamping the local marriage program will attract couples from abroad to share their wedding vows in American Samoa, and possibly open new opportunities for the Territory to tap into this growing marriage market in the Pacific,” the governor said.

Vaeafe told Samoa News this is an issue the Visitors Bureau and Legal Affairs have been discussing for some time. “The wedding market is a multi-billion-dollar market in the Pacific, that almost all of the island countries have,” he said.

“Now things are progressing with our discussions; and with the governor publicly mentioning the issue, this is the opportune time to move this forward,” Vaeafe said.

According to the ASVB executive director, there have been inquiries made at the American Samoa booth during recent trade and travel shows off-island about getting married in the territory, and there is interest off island from foreigners wanting to tie the knot on island.

“The possibility of having this wedding market opportunity is huge for American Samoa,” Vaeafe said, adding that other popular Pacific destinations for weddings include Tahiti and Fiji. “A wedding can be held on Tutuila or the Manu’a Islands.”

Besides the government benefiting from the wedding market — through fees paid for marriage licenses issued by the Office of Vital Statistics — industry officials told Samoa News that the private sector, through businesses such as florists, bakeries, and sewing shops — can also benefit from this market.

“This means employment for American Samoa,” an official said yesterday afternoon.

Of note, many locals have been getting married in Samoa, and have cited being able to be married in the church there — as well as the variety of hotels and venues available for reception and honeymoon. Affordable airfare has also been mentioned.

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