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STA looks at marketing to the lucrative Chinese tourist population

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Samoa Tourism Authority has appointed Hong Kong-based Travel Focus to market the destination — Samoa — for Hong Kong, Macau and China.

Having been the agent for Samoa Airways a few years ago, Travel Focus will work closely with wholesalers of each city in China to push Samoa as a destination. Hong Kong and Mainland Chinese travelers will also be offered visa-free access into Samoa.

Minister of tourism, Toesulusulu Cedric Schuster, told TTG Asia: “The country reopened last August and we started looking at new markets. China is the biggest source out there and (as) Samoa is not known to Chinese travelers, [that’s why] we work with Travel Focus which has a wider reach.”

He explained that while Asia had always been a vital market for Samoa, accessibility was an issue as there were no direct flights. By partnering with Travel Focus, he hopes Samoa will “make a better presence.”

“Having regular groups coming over from China will help lift standards of our hoteliers and private sectors in Samoa,” said Schuster, adding that the destination has mainly served travelers from New Zealand and Australia so far.

Luamanuvae Albert Mariner, Samoa’s ambassador to China, pointed out that a lot of destinations in the world are targeting tourists from China.

“Chinese tourists have specific interests – they travel in groups [and are interested] to explore countries they [have] never been to,” he said, adding that the Chinese see Samoa as a mysterious destination, one they have not heard of before, despite the “strong historical and cultural connections.”

According to Samoa Tourism Authority’s (STA) CEO, Pativaine Petaia-Tevita, the country welcomed a record-high number of 180,000 visitors in 2018, of which only 9,000 were from Asia.

She remarked that there is room to grow for the Chinese market, with efforts in place such as signage in Chinese at airports. The two-day Samoa Tourism Exchange will also return in May and enable STA to connect with buyers from all over the world, especially Chinese markets.

In addition, a weekly non-stop charter service operated by Hainan Airlines on B787 and A330 aircraft will also commence on May 1.

Currently, there is no direct air connection between Hong Kong and Samoa. Travelers need to fly via Sydney/ Melbourne, New Zealand and Fiji.

Starting from May 8, Air New Zealand will fly daily from Auckland to Hong Kong, while Fiji Airways will operate two weekly services with the possibility of adding more flights in June.