By Alan Ah Mu
APIA: TUESDAY 12 MARCH 2013: Ever since Cyclone Evan struck in December, no guests have stayed at Le Valasi’s Beach Fales.
Inside a big traditional fale built in the 1950s was the dining area for guests the roof of which suffered “massive damage,” said Ross Jones, who ran the property with wife Maria.
Their beach fales were battered too.
The Jones were amongst operators of tourist properties at the launch of the Tourism Cyclone Recovery Programme by Minister of Tourism, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi today.
“Well we want to hear how they can help us,” said Jones.
To rebuild their Savaia facilities to accept guests again they need up to $50,000.
Tuiafatea Olsen Va’afusuaga who runs an eco-tourism at Falese’ela had to cancel bookings for April because of a loss of facilities and the presence of tree branches in the waterfalls guests visited.
Tuiafatea, like Jones, stayed at a workshop held after the launch to find out details of the recovery programme like time frames, extent of financial help they are eligible for and where smaller properties like theirs stand in the list of priorities.
He’s got bookings for late June to plan for.
They live with the uncertainty created by the cyclone damage.
Tuilaepa said the programme seeks to “ensure rapid and integrated recovery” for the tourism industry.
He referred to the $19 million made available to the business community for loans with an interest free period of 12 months, then interest of three percent after that, already announced by the Minister of Finance.
Today Tuilaepa announced $NZ4 million ($SAT7.5 million) from New Zealand for the recovery programme for tourism.
“After any disaster, the days that follow are filled not only with loss and suffering, but also with much uncertainty,” New Zealand High Commissioner, Jackie Frizelle, said at the launch.
“Uncertainty perhaps about immediate shelter, food or water; uncertainty as to the extent of the damage, or how or where they might rebuild; and indeed whether they will even have the resources to do so,” said Her Excellency.
Uncertainty is also created in the market as both perceptions of disaster and closure of business affect market confidence, she said.
“It is one thing to reopen. It is quite another to return to your pre-disaster operation.”
The recovery programme will hopefully go some way to providing certainty to those in the tourism sector.
Funds will be given Samoa Tourism Authority and operators for marketing, “so the industry and individual businesses can recover their market share as they rebuild and reopen.
“It is important to remind the world that Samoa is open for business – and that it is (a) fabulous tourist destination.”