NEW SPTO HEAD WANTS MORE PACIFIC ISLANDER TOURISM OWNERS

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By Aeo‘ainuu Aleki

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (February 1, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---New South Pacific Tourism Organization chief executive Lisati ‘Akolo says more Pacific Islanders are needed as owners of tourism businesses.

"Tourism in the Pacific needs to be infused with capital assistance to enable indigenous operators to join up with suitable joint ventures from off-island," ‘Akolo said during a visit to American Samoa.

"The off-island joint-venture partners. . . are needed," he said, "because of the low financing available in practically all of SPTO's member nations, including American Samoa.

"In fact, the most developed tourist partners in the group, Fiji and Tahiti, have their tourist industries dominated by expatriates from off-island, but the local tourist business picture is bleak," he said.

‘Akolo, a Tongan, met with Commerce director Ali‘imau "JR" Scanlan, Commerce's Tourism Division manager Virginia Samuelu and her staffers, and a few local tourism operators.

American Samoa is a founding member of the now 13-member SPTO, formerly known as the Tourism Council of the South Pacific.

‘Akolo came to town to get acquainted with the people who plan and develop tourism policy in the Territory.

‘Akolo told Samoa News that his major task is to bridge the gap between small island operators and financing.

"The capital investment committed by expatriates is very high, and the gap needs to be bridged," he explained.

"If not, it will continue to exist and widen, leaving the indigenous Pacific Island tourism future in the hands of foreign investment groups and banks.

"I've found that banks in the Pacific are not very user-friendly. The banks' attitude is usually very demanding, asking for outrageous standards the islanders need to achieve in order to get financing for their tourist ventures, which usually end up with negative results.

"The results usually stagnate tourist development. By being strict and stringent, the islanders' tourist ventures, when improperly financed, usually end up with less than satisfactory economic conditions.

"These island ventures usually end up in failure. Hence the continual domination of Pacific tourism by the expatriates with big bucks," he said.

‘Akolo’s training and professional experience has been in financing and banking. He is also known for facilitating the restructuring of institutions during an illustrious career of close to 20 years.

He said he is looking forward to restructuring the tourism organization and to inject some energy into the Pacific visitor industry.

In a recent Samoa News story, Samuelu said American Samoa was thinking of pulling out of the organization if it did not find enough benefits for its $18,000 annual membership fee.

"In light of the large amount of money we're paying, it is questionable if it is really worth the money," she said.

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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