Taumeasina Island Resort prepares for “new normal”
It’s going on almost two years since Samoa closed its borders to international visitors forcing many accommodation providers to either close their doors or cut back drastically on trading hours.
However Taumeasina Island Resort has taken a step into the role of the unofficial flagship hotel keeping the wheels of the tourism industry moving by continuing to welcome visitors whenever possible. Their steady dose of vibrant activities and events give those watching Samoa from afar some assurance that while Samoa’s borders remain closed, it is in a strong position to welcome back international guests when travel restarts.
According to General Manager, Tuitaga Nathan Bucknall, resort management have been doing all they can to maintain cash flow and keep staff employed which includes forming partnerships with local community groups and businesses to generate bookings.
“We continuously come up with ideas to give us a reason to stay open because just having the hotel doesn’t necessarily mean that people will come here” said Tuitaga.
“Last month we held a Halloween party and we have hosted the Band of Usos at least four times since lockdown. It’s a big group of up to 150 competitors and they also book rooms.”
With the completion of their brand new 12 self-contained 3-bedroom Villas in sight, ready for visitors sometime in the first quarter of 2022 - Tuitaga has applied his proactive approach towards making sure his staff are prepared for the new normal when borders re-open,
“I want everything to be in place when borders open and the only way to do that is to be quick.” He said, “our staff have been double vaccinated since September. I made sure to be the first one to receive the vaccine so I could demonstrate to my team that it is safe and I provided transport for everyone to get their shots.”
Tuitaga also confirmed hotel personnel have gone through the Ministry of Health (MOH) Training to sanitise premises and he plans to invest in a defogger from New Zealand before border restrictions are relaxed.
“We can use the defogger in our properties so when people leave their rooms, we will defog them for extra security and hygiene”, he says. “We have sanitiser locations throughout the resort and we encourage people to use them although in most cases people are pretty good at using them all the time because it’s become normalised.”
Other policies will be implemented to establish a safety net in the event of a Covid outbreak and it is a requirement that all staff and overseas visitors download the Samoa Travel Tracer mobile application.
“All our staff have downloaded the Travel Tracer app and we have asked them to keep their Bluetooth on at all times. The good thing about the app is that it barely uses battery or data and there’s no privacy concerns because it doesn’t track your location or even record your name”.
More importantly, Tuitaga says that overseas visitors will be required to show proof of vaccinations before booking. As the Acting Chairperson of the Samoa Tourism Authority Board of Directors, Tuitaga says discussions have been held around properties getting into the habit of asking everyone including, locals to produce proof of vaccination before entry.
“Covid will get here eventually, we are so lucky through the grace of God it hasn’t hit us so far but it will come here.” He says “We are lucky we have excellent vaccination rates in Samoa and mainly due to the village community and Pulenu’u (village Mayors) that have assisted.”
“As a country, we need to go further and get used to asking people to be vaccinated before they come. At the moment we are not and someone needs to start and it’s been suggested that Taumeasina Island Resort be the first to require proof of vaccination before entry. Nothing has been decided yet but I think it will be the new norm and Samoa will have to get used to it.”