Nov 19, 2017 Last Updated 9:11 AM, Nov 15, 2017

Samoa clips Virgin wings

Is Polynesian set for comeback?

AN unhappy Samoa Government has signalled an end to its aviation agreement with Virgin Australia from November, opening opportunities for regional and international airlines to fly into Apia. Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, has been dissatisfied with fares for some time, claiming that Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand, formerly a Virgin Australia shareholder and the only other major airline servicing the island nation, had been colluding on fares.

Until 2005 when Virgin entered the market, Samoa had its own national carrier – Polynesian Airlines – with flights to Nadi, Auckland and Tonga. The termination of the Virgin contract means that Polynesian’s return is a distinct possibility on the back of a major push by Samoa for increased tourism arrivals from China, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

“We can’t continue this partnership,” Malielegaoi wrote to Virgin Australia CEO, John Borghetti, in a letter sighted by the Samoa Observer. “For any country, they must have their national airline.” Malielegaoi went on to say that the decision to part ways had been made by Cabinet. “Following numerous, extensive discussions, Cabinet has decided not to renew the joint venture,” he said. “This can’t continue on especially when the airfares continue to increase and the hotels are complaining that there are no.....

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Samoa targets arrivals

Tourism growth inspires island ambitions

SAMOA will aim to continue improvements in its local tourism market after a recent visit by travel industry representatives from around the globe. The Samoa Tourism Exchange attracted international interest, coming ahead of similar events in Fiji, Australia and the regional SPTE 2018in Sydney.

Tourism Samoa’s Dwayne Bentley said every effort was being made to increase arrival numbers. “Kiwi visitor numbers for 2016 were up eight per cent from 2015 to around 66,000, securing their place as our biggest market,’’ Bentley said. ‘’Australians were just under half that at 31,000, with American Samoa sitting third with about 15,000.’’ Samoa recorded 145,000 tourists in 2016 – a growth of 4.4 per cent over 2015.

“It’s a positive result that can be attributed to awareness of the destination and the effort everyone is putting in to get people here,” Bentley said. Samoa has put in major tourism infrastructure improvements in an effort to maintain strong visitor growth, including the construction of a new arrivals terminal at Faleolo International Airport.

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Skies fill with new birds

Air deals to boost Tonga, Samoa arrivals

POLYNESIAN neighbours Tonga and Samoa hope to boost visitor numbers to their islands with increased flights between the destinations this year. Real Tonga has announced planned services using its leased Saab340B on international services from Fua’amotu International on Tongatapu to Faleolo in Samoa.

While Real Tonga would like to use its larger MA-60 which has a greater cargo and passenger capacity, the Chinesebuilt turbo prop airliner does not meet Samoa’s aviation industry standards. Real Tonga only resumed commercial MA-60 operations on the TongatapuVava’u route in September due to a longstanding dispute over the aircraft with New Zealand civil aviation authorities.

The aircraft was withdrawn from service in February 2015 after the Tongan Government cancelled a lease agreement. This was after the kingdom experienced intense pressure from New Zealand for operating the aircraft which claimed the aircraft had not been properly type-certified in line with international norms. After months of regulatory negotiations, Tonga signed a four-year lease contract for the aircraft with Real Tonga Airlines in August 2016. 

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Bank pushes tourism presence

THE growing middle class in China and India means more travellers from those markets over the next five years. It also means possible investment outside those two economic giants in smaller countries, including the smaller Pacific countries which are in desperate need.

The mix of tourism and investment is a marriage made in heaven for travel companies, national economies, investors, entrepreneurs and – of course – banks. Last year the ANZ Bank recognised that potential when it sponsored the South Pacific Tourism Exchange in Melbourne Australia.

At the time the bank pointed to its belief in tourism and its presence in the region as reasons behind its sponsorship. Speaking to Islands Business, ANZ’s Head of Emerging Corporates, Saud Minam, said the bank was committed to expansion throughout the region while providing financial support for communities.

“We recognise the potential tourism has in the Pacific and we want to show that we are part of this region, a major part of this region.” This year, however, the bank has reviewed its marketing strategies and decided not to sponsor the event. Even the much-publicised ANZ one-stop shop Regional Tourism Desk based at its Nadi, Fiji branch has been downgraded.

The void was immediately filled by Bank South Pacific who pumped FJ$55,000 per annum for three years as sponsors of this major regional event. 

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FROM the outside, it looks as if the imbalance of power had not changed a bit. The ruling party swept back into power in the predicted landslide, winning at least 44 of 49 seats. “As leader, and on behalf of the Human Rights Protection Party, I would like to extend my gratitude to all of Samoa for the support,” said newly re-elected, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, “and the overwhelming vote of confidence in our vision for this country.” Yet, as noted by Tuilaepa, the huge majority concealed big shifts within the party, with around half of all seats changing hands. Results also indicate serious imbalances between seats and voting, with more than 40% of the votes going to independent and opposition candidates, but less than 10% of the seats. The election was fiercely contested, with 164 politicians standing, including multiple HRPP candidates for some seats. “Looking at the results, about half of Parliament’s seats are going to change,” said Tuilaepa, in a press release posted online in the early hours of 4th March. “This is democracy at work.” Losses included two cabinet ministers, indicating dissatisfaction with at least part of the HRPP across the country’s 347 polling booths. Rather than gloss over the losses...

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