Am. Samoa Officials Asked To Be Tourism Ambassadors

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Visitor’s Bureau provides PR material to those traveling abroad

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, July 5, 2013) – Directors and other government officials will soon be taking an American Samoa "bag" containing tourist information when attending meetings and conferences off island, which is a form of free publicity for American Samoa, according to David Vaeafe, American Samoa Visitor’s Bureau executive director.

He posed the idea during his presentation at last week’s cabinet meeting and it was supported by Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, acting governor at the time.

One of the many issues raised by Vaeafe during his 45-minute power-point presentation is that all departments and agencies of government play a role in promoting American Samoa as a tourist destination.

Additionally, each director can also play a vital role, which includes taking with them a bag of tourist information, sites to see, and other things of interest about American Samoa, especially its unique culture and environment.

Vaeafe says this information is available to all directors free of charge and is provided by the Visitor’s Bureau as part of the whole government’s efforts to promote tourism for the territory.

"You travel off-island for your meetings and so forth... you are automatically ambassadors [of American Samoa]," he said, asking those present to contact his office which will provide a tourism bag of information which the directors can carry with them to meetings and conferences.

"If you’re hosting an event here, a conference, I urge you to plan it a year in advance and tell us, so we can help you," he said, adding that this is an opportunity for the Visitor’s Bureau and its local partners to put together packages of brochures for the visiting delegates from off-island.

"You’re an extension, an ambassador of the Visitor’s Bureau," he told cabinet members. He also said that these tourism packages and brochures can also be provided to others coming here for contract meetings or work.

Lemanu told directors that it’s very important for them to help in the development of tourism and agreed to the suggestion that directors take brochures with them when they travel off island for meetings and conferences.

It "helps grow our economy," said Lemanu, who joked that maybe this should be made a policy, for directors to take bags with them traveling for conferences and meetings.

Vaeafe says the challenge is to make tourism a driving force of the territory’s economy in the next two years and reiterated the need for the government to approach this sector along with the private sector to make it a success.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

He says American Samoa has very good infrastructure, but "we just need to develop that and make sure that it’s consistent and it’s maintained."

"And as we grow our sector, make sure our infrastructure can cope with the growth, as well as ensuring that both the public and private sector are trained in the requirements of tourism," he said, noting, for example that one of the "first impressions" a visitor has when they arrival to an island destination is the greeting they get.

"At the point of entry, it’s usually the immigration officer who is the first point of contact. You go to Fiji - they say ‘Bula’ and in Hawai’i, they say ‘Aloha’," he said. "Here we don’t do that — but that’s the first impression. A simple ‘Talofa — welcome to American Samoa’ … that makes a lasting impression."

"So these are some of the things that we just need to work on and develop and these are the things that we will work with, with each of the agencies to ‘develop this customer service mentality’," he said.

CULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT

If there was any doubt among cabinet members that American Samoa can attract tourists, Vaeafe made it clear that there is a lot to offer in the only U.S. outpost in the South Pacific.

"American Samoa has so much to offer and having worked for the Samoa Tourism Authority in Samoa, I believe we have a lot more to offer here than what’s in Samoa, we just need to develop that product," said Vaeafe.

He said the territory’s biggest asset is "our Fa’aSamoa — our culture" which is based on "tautua (service), fa’aaloalo (respect), our family and our values, Samoan values."

When these treasures and assets are explained to a visitor, it’s very different to someone, for example, coming from New York, he said.

"We take it for granted, because we live it everyday, we’re used to it. But to the outside, it's something new and it's those family values... that they like to see," the ASVB head pointed out.

He said, "Our environment… is the second biggest attraction," adding that when people fly into the territory, "they see the mountain ranges, they see the lush green tropical setting and they realize this is a beautiful place to be," away from the fast pace of their everyday lives.

According to the executive director, the Visitor’s Bureau continues to work at the village level to help people develop their own product, combining culture and environment, to sell to travelers.

"We [need to] insure that we maintain our culture and environment. This is the reason people come here. It's because of who we are and what we are," he stressed.

Another culture and environment selling point for American Samoa is the Manu’a island group, which Vaeafe said is "our icing on the cake... because of its isolation, its uniqueness, its culture heritage."

Manu’a "was the power base of the Samoan islands" centuries ago — not the islands of Savai’i or Upolu (in Samoa) or Tutuila (in American Samoa), he said.

"These are things from a marketing prospective. I see the marketing value in that — and opportunity," he said and noted that there is also "our rich American history. I’m amazed at the American tradition in this territory, the U.S. naval history, and space travel history."

"No other country in the South Pacific has that relationship" when it comes to the rich American history in the territory and this is a selling point for our destination, he said.

Vaeafe says one of the major global tourist attractions now is World War II and American Samoa has been part of this.

He noted that brochures and other literature are now available, outlining the history of Tutuila and its involvement in World War II. Brochures and other information were made available with great assistance from the Historic Preservation Office and other entities, he added.

Other issues of interest pertaining to tourism development and marketing prospects for American Samoa will be published later next week in Samoa News.

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