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Territory is prepared for growing cruise ship industry, says ASVB

American Samoa Visitor’s Bureau Executive Director David Vaeafe says the territory is well prepared to meet the increasing number of cruise liners moving to the South Pacific, and the territory can — based on its current infrastructure — actually accommodate up to ten cruise ships a month.


“As a matter of fact, American Samoa’s main Port of Pago Pago has proven that it can accommodate two large cruise ships for a day,” said Vaeafe, who was responding to Samoa News inquiries following a challenge by the South Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO) for small Pacific island countries and territories to improve infrastructure to meet the increase in cruise ship visits in the region.


SPTO marketing manager Petero Manufolau told Radio New Zealand International the strong Australian dollar has meant more Australian tourists have opted for cruise holidays this year. He said small countries do not have the infrastructure on the ground to accommodate mass numbers and added the governments and the private sectors need to collaborate and raise destination awareness.


Vaeafe told Samoa News American Samoa is well aware — and has been for a long time — more cruise ships have moved bases to Australia and New Zealand, thereby providing more cruise ships for the region.


“This trend is expected to continue in the future,” he said.


Since the Visitor’s Bureau was first established, there has been a gradual increase in the number of ships calling in to the Port of Pago Pago over the last four years, including a number of bigger ships bringing more passengers to the territory.


During its first year of operation, the Visitor’s Bureau had only nine ships, followed by 12 ships in the second year.  In the third year — which was last year — there were 20 confirmed ships, but one didn’t make it to port due to the cyclone in Samoa last December.


This year, there are 18 confirmed ships but while the number has declined a bit, the ships are bigger, carrying more passengers and crew members, Vaeafe said.


“We can take more,” he said. The VB director reiterated the territory can take up to 10 ships a month “and this is sustainable for us”.  For next year, Vaeafe said 16 ships have been confirmed up to September 2014 and these are bigger ships like the Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria, which can carry more passengers.


By next August, he added, the widening of the Panama Canal is expected to be completed, and big ships based in the Caribbean are looking at the Pacific region to bring their vessels, which can accommodate up to 6,000 people.


“More cruise liners are looking for more destinations for their ships and passengers. So more of them are basing more ships in Australia,” said Vaeafe. “Placing more ships in our region means more new destinations are being sought and American Samoa is prepared and has been promoted well as a cruise ship destination.”


“However, we can always do more with ground transportation issues dealing with buses and taxis and this has been a matter of discussion in the past when there is not enough local buses and taxis to accommodate visitors,” he said.


“This is a good way to grow an emerging industry by finding out our shortfalls and filling in the gaps as we learn and grow,” Vaeafe added. “As we know a year in advance of the types of ships coming here, we get prepared to meet those challenges. It’s important for American Samoa to be part of this major tourism sector: the cruise ship industry.”


Meanwhile, the Visitor’s Bureau, along with the Department of Commerce, the Development Bank of American Samoa and the Chamber of Commerce will host on Aug. 29th a tour workshop at the Governor H. Rex Lee Auditorium.


The morning session will be in Samoan and the afternoon session will be in English. Those interested in this developing industry, especially those at the village levels, and residents of Manu’a, are encouraged to attend this tourism workforce. 


More details on the workshop will be released this week and additional information can be obtained by contacting the Visitor’s Bureau at 699-9805.