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Officials also push for tourism cooperation

By Rosalia Setefano APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, May 1, 2010) - Efforts to encourage our American Samoa cousins to bring their American dollars here are being made.

A part of these efforts include a seven-member delegation from American Samoa in Apia this week to familiarize themselves with what Samoa offers.

The delegation of travel agents, media representatives and airline officials visited hotels in Upolu and Savai’i.

American Samoa-based Salamasina Ripley said it was important for people in American Samoa to be aware about accommodation providers here. This is so that they know exactly where to go when they land in Samoa.

"This trip is also to strengthen the relationship between the two Samoans in tourism and travel," she said.

Salamasina thanked Aggie Grey’s Hotel, Manumea, Vacations Beach Fales and Eden’s Edge for their help.

Inter Island Airways Executive Vice President, Barney Sene said the number of visitors to Samoa from American Samoa has dropped since entry permits were introduced.

Mr. Sene said it was vital these fees are reconsidered to attract more visitors.

"And it is up to either Pago or Apia to take the first step to drop these fees because the amount of traffic will pay for these fees," he said.

More travelers to Apia helps the local economy, Mr. Sene said.

"Promoting more packages means to increase more traveling," he said. "If you go on vacation, you have to be well prepared and well organized so you are not stranded at the airport for hours.

"This is why we are here – we have to know the field of Samoa and other places you haven’t seen before so we will promote it over there in Pago)."

On Thursday evening, Owner of Polynesian Xplorer, Vaimasenu’u Zita Martel hosted the group at her home, Tulaele.

She said the opportunity to do so was for two reasons. One was to show her appreciation to the American Samoa people for hosting them during their visit with Segavao.

The other was to promote the partnership between the two Samoans in tourism.

Vaimasenu’u acknowledged the drop in visitor numbers from American Samoa "due to the visa issues.

"The two countries are working together to get across that hurdle and to try and get people from American Samoa to revisit Samoa," she said.

The visit this week was important, she said, so the industry could look into what packages are there and what can be done to improve things.

"Part of it is networking because if there is none of this, the plan will not happen," she said. "This is the first time in a long time that a group of this kind has come to Samoa – we get a lot of visitors from Australia, New Zealand even Germany but not American Samoa and they’re just next door."

Vaimasenu’u commended the Samoa Tourism Authority for the initiative.

"Samoa’s low tourism season is from November to March so we are trying to get visitors from American Samoa to come during this time since they are our closest neighbors," she said.

"Besides they will spend the US dollar here."

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