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Cannery closure puts pressure on dormant industry

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, America Samoa (Samoa News, May 5, 2009) – As news of COS Samoa Packing’s closure spread throughout the territory over the weekend, there came a more urgent call for the government to move on the development of the tourism industry in order to provide more jobs for the local economy.

One major document needing to be in place before moving this industry forward is the American Samoa Tourism Master Plan, the preparation of which is being funded by a federal grant.

"The [local] government must get this plan in place as soon as possible, especially now that we are faced with the closure of one of our tuna canneries, and our economic condition could get worse," said a local business owner who is involved in the tourism industry. "There will be massive layoffs — both Samoa Packing and local businesses that serve Samoa Packing."

This was the same statement echoed by others, who either called or sent e-mails to Samoa News over the weekend, following the publication in Saturday’s edition of Samoa News, the first story about the tourism plan.

Request for proposal on the "Preparation of the American Samoa Tourism Plan" closed last week Monday and based on recommendations from the Commerce Department, a six member source evaluation board (SEB) — representing both private and public sectors — has since been appointed by Chief Procurement Officer Pat Tervola.

Samoa News understands the SEB members are: Alex Zodiacal, Olivia Reid-Gillet, Ike Scanlan, Doug Harper, Virginia Samuelu and an attorney from the Attorney General’s Office.

The board held its initial meeting on Friday at the Procurement Office conference room and they were provided with nine proposals — three local and six from off-island. Board members were asked to review the proposals, with the next meeting slated for Thursday, May 7 at which time selection of a contractor will be made, according to sources.

According to bid documents for the RFP, the requested master plan will be comprehensive in scope, addressing both the local need to expand the territory’s tourism industry, to secure global marketing and development expertise, and receive detailed specific project designs and feasibility studies.

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs in March awarded to ASG a $417,000 grant for the tourism plan for four general scope areas of the plan:

Prior to finalizing the plan, it will be provided in a public forum. The firm(s), awarded the contract will assist DOC in presenting these documents through the following process:

According to the RFP, the successful offeror(s) will be under a negotiated fixed price contract agreement. It also provides a time frame of when the plan is to be completed, but two vendors told Samoa News that such "time frame" could be changed because the awarding of the contract — which states in the RFP as May 1 — is already delayed.

The RFP states final completion of the project and report is Sept. 30, 2009, but it also notes submitted proposals shall include a schedule indicating time periods for completing various phases of the contract.

Interior Department official Nikolao Pula told Samoa News that while the tourism industry in American Samoa has not kept pace with regional trends, and is less of a tourism destination than in the past, it could be revitalized with a more targeted approach and with a little bit of help from experts in the industry.

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