Hotel Association Head: Samoa Is Ready For Cruise Ships

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Dismisses worries of South Pacific Tourism Organization

By Nanai T. Laveitiga Tuiletufuga

APIA, Samoa (Savali, August 19, 2013) – President of the Samoa Hotel Association Tuala Ollie Ah Him has rejected claims that island countries like Samoa is not ready to cater for a cruise line boom in the region.

CEO for the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) Ilisoni Vuidreketi told Radio New Zealand International this week that SPTO members need to improve port and transport infrastructure.

Said the SPTO Chief: "We (Pacific Islands) right now are not fully prepared so the message is, this is the segment that we cannot ignore, and this is the segment that we have to look forward and to take advantage of the opportunities of this segment we need to be well prepared for that."

But the local hotel association president is concerned that the comments imply that Samoa is not ready for the tourists they have been working hard to bring in.

Tuala assured that Samoa is ready.

"We are ready to take on cruise ships; we are ready to take on 747 flights. We have been doing it for the last decades. Every cruise ship that comes here we are able to cater for them."

Tuala pointed out that government has underpinned its commitment to port tourism by heavy investment in port facilities at Matautu.

Over 20 cruise ships have booked to stop over in Apia this year.

False information

Tuala has also dismissed criticism of the Tourism Development Act, which proposes penalties for those who deliberately run down Samoa.

"If anybody’s going to start badmouthing or trying to sabotage the country, then they should be punished," he said. "We’re only a small country and we rely heavily tourism. That’s our livelihood. That’s what feeds our families and keeps the economy ticking over.

"We need to put a stop to that and I fully support the Act."

Attorney General Aumua Ming Leung Wai said that response to the Act has been "blown out of proportion."

Said Aumua:

"There is no intention by the government or the Tourism Authority to stop people from expressing any bad experiences that they have. But the way the matter has been reported by some of the media personnel has really blown this issue way out of proportion."

He stressed that Act does not stop people from expressing their experiences, be they good or bad.

"What the Act prohibits is the publication of false information intended to affect the reputation of Samoa as a tourist destination."

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