Samoa’s Legendary Aggie Greys Reopens Under Sheraton Brand

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

Samoa’s Legendary Aggie Greys Reopens Under Sheraton Brand First five star hotel graces waterfront in Apia

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, April 29, 2016) – The memories of the legendary hotelier Aggie Grey continue to live through the opening of Samoa’s first five star Sheraton Samoa Aggie Greys Hotel & Bungalows in Apia this afternoon.

Around Apia town, traffic edged slowly as the only direct access through the Vaisigano Bridge to the main wharf was blocked for six hours for the milestone opening.

The founder Aggies grandson, Lupesina Fred Grey paid tribute to the lady who loved wearing the Samoan flower aute that ultimately became her trademark and the hotel she built from scratch became an icon and a Samoan identity in the hotel and tourism industry in the Pacific and the world.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi told the guests at the opening that the Aggie Grey Samoa brand has served Samoa proud in decades with hospitality services that are distinctively Samoan.

He also said that the opening of the hotel also marks the elevation of Samoa’s hotel accommodation standards.

"This would not have been possible without the diligent work of the pioneering and legendary Aggie Grey and her family in the hotel industry in Samoa," said Tuilaepa.

"Today is about celebrating the Aggie Grey family achievements, and these are the positive impacts on the progressive development the Government continues to support, for it began with a vision of a vibrant Samoan lady, Aggie Grey and now grown by her family to become a globally recognized hotel chain entity with a customer base of more than 15 million active members."

Tuilaepa believes that without a doubt, Samoa must be more a world class business summit to deserve the path of quality in business that is most socially and economically beneficial for Samoa.

The legacy of Aggie Grey

"We must pay homage and recognize her (Aggie) as she is the namesake and founder of this hotel , and we look back in her entrepreneurial warm spirit, Aggie Grey was a popular and pioneering figure in Samoa," said Sean Hunt, Vice President of Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

"She founded one of the South Pacific’s most famous hotel which led best-selling authors and other famous guests to stay and I believe this hotel will put Samoa on the global scale," said Hunt.

"From humble beginnings to what is now today, Aggies legacy will always remain as one of the most colorful in the history of Samoa," said Tuiloma Pule Lameko, member of the Council of Deputies.

Grandson Lupesina Fred Grey said despite the grand status the hotel represents today, it was worth remembering the humble beginnings back in its early days.

The land where the hotel is located today used to be occupied by a British Club and Aggie bought it for £200 pounds back in 1933.

Aggies life as a mother was a struggle as she tried to make ends meet, and being widowed twice, Aggie was left with children to feed. Unfortunately, it was not easy and she returned to her family at Toamua to await the sale of the British Club house.

A friend lent her the money to buy the club and Aggie saw the opportunity not only to fend for herself, but help the Samoan people. She promised her friend that she would pay the money back, but, the friend died soon after, and Aggie never repaid that loan.

"However, she turned that into an opportunity to serve and Aggie Greys hotel was born," said Lupesina.

"She would do anything to make money and she was known back then for smuggling alcohol from the passing ships in the harbour, when alcohol was forbidden in Samoa back then," said Lupesina.

Things changed when the marines landed in Samoa in 1943 and, they urged Aggie to provide coffee and snacks for the marines.

"Her influence was immediate, warm and her charming hospitality drew guests from all over the world including, Hollywood stars, Presidents, royalties and other dignitaries," said Lupesina.

Lupesina said, over the years, the building changed, guests and staff have come and gone, but Aggies influence was still felt 80 years later.

Lupesina fondly remembers that his grandmother was "famous for a particular brand of hospitality."

"Aggies legacy was the firm belief that Aggie Greys belong to all Samoa, and the importance of contributing to the Samoan community at large," aid the grandson.

Despite the rich history of the hotel, cyclone Evan in December 2012 destroyed its glory leaving the Grey family in the dark, and not knowing where to begin. Insurance money only partially covered the damages. It was even harder because they have over 300 employees to be paid.

Lupesina said the family then decided to do whatever it would take to keep as many of them paid, until there is was no other hope in sight.

"My mother always says to ask God for guidance and he will show you the way."

Consultations followed with the Government and banks, and a plan was hatched which allowed Aggie Greys hotel to reopen its doors today as the five star Sheraton Samoa Aggie Greys Hotel & Bungalows.

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