Published on 21st September 2015
In the last decade, Samoa’s tourism numbers and revenue have doubled, now accounting for 25% of the country’s GDP, and Volunteer Service Abroad (New Zealand) volunteers have worked with industry operators to upskill the workforce to meet demand. In the last two years alone, 10 VSA volunteers have worked with the Samoa Tourism Authority, Savai’i Samoa Tourism Authority and the Samoa Hotel Association (SHA).
Volunteer Kate Payne is working as a tourism adviser with SHA. Kate jokes that she’s helping the Samoan hotel industry “one bathroom at a time”. In fact, she’s working to lift housekeeping standards across the board, in addition to other standards and practices, such as building code compliance and disaster preparedness.
The fit for a Kiwi volunteer is clear: 40% of Samoa’s visitors come from New Zealand, and SHA Board member Charlotte Brunt says “The volunteers adapt really well. They bring New Zealand standards but retain our Samoan flavour.”
The vast majority of accommodation and other tourist attractions are locally owned. This ensures money earned stays in the community. Charlotte’s hotel, The Orator, buys produce from local suppliers, provides work experience for local youth, and works with other hotels on promoting Samoa’s hospitality.
Kate says this is Samoa’s chance to take a slice of the tourism pie: “There’s a new generation of travellers who want to know their money’s staying in the village and not being exported.”
As Kate travels around the country, training operators and staff, she’s had to use translators, and they have grown able to deliver the training themselves, expanding SHA’s reach. Alex Rankin, CEO of SHA, says it’s been a success. “When she leaves, all the skills and knowledge she has will be integrated into SHA.”