Samoa Hotel Association Urges Unity Amid

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Tourism ‘Crisis’
SHA not privy to recent, informal meeting of industry members

By Sophie Budvietas

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, June 5, 2013) – The Samoa Hotel Association (SHA) has issued a letter to its members to counter what it calls "misconceptions" about the tourism industry in Samoa being "in crisis."

The letter, obtained by the Samoa Observer yesterday, is in response to a meeting held last week in Apia by local tourist operators. Dated 4 June 2013, it is signed by the President of SHA, Tuala Oli Ah Him and members of the Executive Council.

"We empathize with our members as the challenges facing our tourism industry today affect all of us," the letter reads. "However, unity at times of challenges and difficulties is critical to any cohesive strategies and campaigns.

"Moreover, we strongly urge our membership to remain unified to protect our association - so that we may continue to work without hindrance or complications with Government and our development partners for the good of our entire industry."

According to a well-placed source, last Monday’s "crisis" meeting was not formal, nor designed to exclude anyone.

"The meetings were more ad-hoc, just a group of people sharing concerns," the source said. "Anyone could have attended, but they really were informal.

"At the end of the day we all want the same thing and for that to happen the whole industry must work together.

"Like what Luna (owner of Le Manumea Hotel) said ‘We cannot do it by ourselves, we need to be together with the STA… we need all the industry together to make it possible. It is not going to happen with just us and it’s not going to happen with just the STA… we need the whole package."

However, due to the many inquiries that SHA received about the meeting it wrote to its membership saying it wants to clear up any "misconceptions."

The letter states the SHA Executive Council (with the exception of Francois Matel) and the SHA Secretariat were not invited to the meeting nor were they part of the consultation by the organizing group.

"Hence, many of our SHA members were also not included or made aware of this meeting," the letter reads. "The views presented were not endorsed by your elected Executive Council nor resolved to be endorsed as there were no consultations between SHA Executive and the TNT group."

The SHA response letter states that the organization respects any individual or a group of individuals’ rights to assemble and voice their positions as Samoa’s democratic principles are based on freedom of speech and freedom of association, therefore the right to attend such a congregation is a matter of individual choice.

"However, it would appear disjointed if industry membership splits and takes forked roads leading to the same Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism," the letter reads.

The letter continues saying SHA has taken tremendous strides within the community and is a highly respected NGO within the community of NGOs, government and our Development partners as evident by the positioning of SHA within various current and future projects such as the TCRP, STSP and UN SIDS Conference just to name a few.

"These pivotal roles continue to strengthen our association as we forge forward," the letter reads.

"Your SHA Secretariat is currently compiling an Issues paper to be presented at an industry workshop with the Samoa Tourism Authority and the New Zealand Aid Programme on the 7th June 2013, and we have sought and continue to welcome any views from our members to be included and addressed at this workshop.

The letter entreats the tourism operator group to bring their concerns under the SHA umbrella.

"In addition, we welcome and encourage you to attend our meetings and to put forth all your concerns for a unified stance for effective lobbying," the letter reads.

"To all our dear members, please feel free to communicate all your concerns and valued views to our Secretariat so that your elected Executive can include these in all our pursuits to benefit our Samoa Hotels Association."

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