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Am Samoa plans to welcome back the world beginning New Years Day

Health director Motusa
First cruise ship expected in February after Task Force discussion

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Governor’s Office is preparing a statement to officially announce that American Samoa’s borders will fully re-open on Jan. 01, 2023, and welcoming back cruise ships, with the first one in February.

This was revealed during the weekly COVID-19 Task Force meeting on Tuesday, during which one of the main issues of discussion was the question: “Are we ready to accept cruise ships next year?”

Since the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the previous Lolo Administration imposed travel restrictions to the territory and it continued into the current Lemanu Administration — which began lifting restrictions in the past weeks.

Pandemic restrictions also impacted the territory’s limited tourism industry including cruise ships calling into the Port of Pago Pago due to the suspended entry.

Late last month, the task force announced that that it has recommended to Gov. Lemanu P. S Mauga that travel to American Samoa be completely re-opened to include cruise ships at the beginning of 2023.

During this week’s meeting, task force chairman Lt. Gov. Talauega E. V Ale, who is also the Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR), sought information from the responsible agencies involved with cruise ships.

“Where are we on cruise ships and when to expect the first one in American Samoa?” he asked, according to video  of the meeting, shared with Samoa News, as well as information from ASG officials who participated in the Zoom briefing.

On the public health side, Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua said he believes the task force should stay on target. With COVID cases reduced, he said that Jan. 01, 2023 “is a good day for cruise ships to come in and we will still keep an eye on what’s going on regarding vessels coming in.”

He also said that it’s time for American Samoa “to move forward”, live “our day-to-day lives with a little bit of COVID around the community, which is something that we can still control.”

As previously reported by Samoa News, based on a task force statement, the government was looking to re-open in January — the start of 2023 — the territory’s borders since the global COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020. And on Dec. 01, the the Lemanu-Talauega Administration ended COVID-19 Emergency Declaration restrictions, but says that residents and visitors in American Samoa should comply with the health advisories issued by the ASG Health Department.

At this week’s task force briefing, Motusa reiterated the 2023 return of cruise ships to the territory, as this was agreed upon by the task force.

American Samoa Visitors Bureau executive director Taimalelagi Minnie Tuia announced that there are 18 cruise ships scheduled for the territory next year and the first arrival is in February.

Taimalelagi expressed appreciation to the support from DoH and requested that an official announcement be made that the territory’s borders re-open on Jan. 01, 2023 allowing in cruise ships.

She explained that cruise ships need to have their calendars and itineraries out there. She said vendors are ready and “we’re ready.”

According to the executive director, American Samoa is the last jurisdiction in the region to open up for cruise ships and the industry needs an official announcement from the government that American Samoa is re-opening up to cruise ships.

Talauega queried as to the kind of document needed to “announce to the world that we’re open.”

Taimalelagi responded that “it will be good to have a press release that the American Samoa government has officially announced that its borders are open and we welcome cruise ships.”

“I know the industry suspects that and we have talked about it but a lot of the cruise lines need that official document —  the press release from the American Samoa government,” she added.

Talauega said a press release will be prepared from the Governor’s Office “announcing that we are now fully open” and will have the statement “ready in time for the beginning of the new year.”

Samoa News understands that the statement is expected out this week. No details were available at press time as to the dates or time schedule of when the 18 cruise ships will call into the Port of Pago Pago.