Governor calling on Visitors Bureau to review long-term tourism plan
Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has called on the American Samoa Visitors Bureau to revisit and conduct a new review of the agency’s long-term tourism development plan to focus attention on local developments and attractions first.
The governor’s request was made during a recent cabinet meeting, where Visitors Bureau Deputy Director Vaitoa Hans Langkilde spoke briefly on the latest development from the agency, including that the Visitors Bureau continues to work with local businesses to cater to cruise ships calling into the Port of Pago Pago.
He said the last cruise ship for the year 2016, is the Costa Atlantica — on its maiden sail to Pago Pago, arriving Dec. 23 for a one day visit.
As previously reported by Samoa News this is a charter cruise sailing from China, carrying just over 3,000 passengers and crew. (See inside today’s issue for story of the inaugural visit.)
At the cabinet meeting, Lolo told Vaitoa of the need for the Visitors Bureau to review and conduct another review of the long-term tourism plan for American Samoa as the administration prepares to start a new four-year term on Jan. 3, 2017.
Lolo said that for the last four years, “We’ve been having some conflicts with the Fono” and it’s the Fono’s belief that the focus should be on the development of a local tourism infrastructure “before we even move outside to attract” off island visitors; and Lolo says he agrees with this thinking by the Fono.
“We need to improve local development before we can even go out and market and spent a lot of money. We haven’t really seen the impact of that,” he said — referring to marketing off island.
He said if there were some changes to local tourism development, it would make it easy to take such developments and attractions to promote American Samoa’s tourism off island.
“You need to review a five-year plan or a 10-year plan for tourism so that the Fono fully understands, as well policy makers,” Lolo told Vaitoa, who was also informed that this was the “assignment” for him, as well as Visitors Bureau Executive Director David Vaeafe to do.
During budget hearings this year and last year, several lawmakers raised lots of questions over local tourism development and what’s being done, because nothing was visible to them, while a lot of money in the Visitors Bureau budget was allocated for off island promotion and travel.
The off island firm, Resort Consulting Associates, completed in the summer of 2010 the America Samoa Tourism Master Plan, which was funded with grant funding from the US Interior Department.
Vaeafe told a May 2016 meeting of the local Chamber of Commerce that the territory has a Tourism Master Plan — “this is the road map that we use.” (The Master Plan can be downloaded from website: doc.as.gov)
Additionally, “Tourism is everyone’s business” and “tourism is a private and public sector partnership,” the executive said. Vaeafe also shared the same information during FY 2017 budget hearings in September this year.