Samoa not ready to meet the Chinese tourist’s aspirations

The promotional material produced by the Samoa Tourism Authority to promote Samoa as a tourist destination

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – FRIDAY 10 AUGUST 2018: Samoa is far from ready to meet the aspirations of the Chinese tourists unless all tourist operators and Government unite under one banner to sell Samoa as a destination.

This is the message delivered by Dr. Marcus Lee, President of the International China Investment Forum who is also Samoa’s Tourism Executive Representative in China.

Speaking to Talamua Media, he said the industry needs to work together.

“I went to the Tourism Board and is not complete. You do not have many things but basic things that need to be assembled together, there is a lack of activities and the industry has to be united and committed to the cause,” said Lee.

Lee is at the forefront of the two day “China Ready” program aimed at equipping tourism operators to be ready for the influx of the Chinese tourists.

“When Samoa is ready for the Chinese tourists, then they will also be ready for the global tourist arena,” said Lee.

He said Chinese people are not like Europeans who can sit and watch birds for hours, or a Kiwi enjoying a beer on the beach.

“Chinese tourists want activities and like to spend their money on shopping, on shows, sports and want to understand culture,” said Lee.

He also emphasized the fact that Chinese people travel in groups and Samoa has to be ready when the influx comes.

Dr. Marcus Lee speaking to members of the tourism industry during the China Ready seminar

Since being in Samoa last week, Lee said he met 8 Chinese people who wanted to know where to eat and what activities are available locally.

He also noted the incompleteness of information in brochures selling and promoting a tourists attraction or hotel.

“They say they have ‘this and that’ but is not on the map or in the brochure, and Samoa must also keep in mind that Chinese tourists travel 20 hours to get here and they expect the travel to be worthy,” said Lee.

His advice is to give the Chinese tourists something they do not have such as cultural experience, water sports, nature and capitalize on it.

In opening the two day China Ready seminar, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said there is a lack of skills, understanding and capability within the tourism industry on ways to entice and encourage tourists over.

He hailed the China Ready program as an eye opener for Samoa to learn ways to ensure that Samoa is ready for targeted business.

He said China tourists has overtaken the US and German in number, and 3000 Chinese tourists visited Samoa last year but he wants more. But Samoa is up against tough battle as the China market is targeted by all countries.

Tuilaepa is meeting several Chinese business people next month in China regarding a direct airline to fly between Samoa and China and he is encouraging members of the tourism industry to take advantage of the trip to explore the China market and their techniques.

Peseta John Nickel has been in the tourism business for 44 years and although he commended the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) he said promoting and creating awareness of Samoa on established markets or as a destination should be consistent.

Another businessman Va’atu’itu’i Apete Meredith, Managing Director of the Aga reef Resort said it is  good to be aware or made aware so we can start preparing ourselves when the time comes.

As a board member of the Airport Authority, he took note of what Lee said about having a welcome sign in Chinese at the airport.

“This seminar is useful for us who do not have China as a traditional source market, and it’s critical that we do get a chance like this to find out what they expect from us,” said Va’atu’itu’i.

He also noted that China is not asking for any fancy things and Lee understand we are not going to get everything overnight.