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Administration bill seeks to amend laws regarding the ASVB board

American Samoa Visitors Bureau logo

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Lolo Administration has proposed amendments to the local law dealing with the composition, qualifications, and number of members of the American Samoa Visitors Bureau (ASVB) board.

“This bill aims to streamline board selection and action which will allow vital decisions affecting the tourism industry to be made more efficiently," according to the Administration, adding that the current qualification and composition requirements of the board "make selecting members unduly difficult.”

Under current law, there are seven board members nominated by the governor and confirmed by the Fono. The membership includes — one member who is an “employee” of the Commerce Department; one member from the Office of Samoan Affairs; two members from the American Samoa Visitors Association; one member with at least five years in the cruise ship industry and currently employed with, or own a cruise ship agency; one member from the American Samoa Chamber of Commerce; and one member from the National Park Service of American Samoa.

When the bill creating the American Samoa Visitors Bureau was first enacted several years ago, the Togiola Administration submitted nominations to the board for Fono confirmation. However, a representative of the National Park informed lawmakers during a confirmation hearing that they are prohibited — under federal laws — to sit on any boards or commissions.

Since that time, the seat for the National Park has been vacant as the law remained unchanged. The Lolo Administration has informed the Fono that “members from the National Park Service cannot serve on this board.”

Under the proposed amendments there would be only five members and:

•    the word “employee” is removed from the law but keeps the one member from the Commerce Department;

•    American Samoa Visitors Association is delegated and replaced with two members selected from the airline, travel agency, hotel, lodging “or cruise ship” industries;

•    delete the one member from the cruise ship industry;

•    delete the one member from the National Park Service.

Samoa News understands that the governor has had difficulty getting a nominee for a member of the cruise ship industry to sit on the board — which selects its own chairperson.

According to the Lolo Administration, “tourism is an underdeveloped industry that must be grown to strengthen the economy of American Samoa” and the Visitors Bureau Board “plays an important role in improving the tourism industry.”

The Administration’s bill was introduced Tuesday in the House and later this week in the Senate.