Robyn has been in Samoa 5 weeks now and learned a lot about the local people and their approach to tourism. Read more about her travel2change trip and how you could join her to help.
I have struggled with some things, finding an electrical connection, electricity working and a wifi connection all in one place is often a rare occurrence away from Apia. Some accommodation operators have been very enthusiastic about my idea and I have had some great conversations with some useful exchanges of information. I have been discouraged to find some operators who don’t want to be part of something that might help their neighbor (competition) and many can’t see the benefit of everyone working together. The bus system here in Samoa is designed for the locals and provides a great service, taking people from their village to school, work, the market to sell produce and buy food, building supplies etc. but buses are slow, crowded and only travel between their own surrounding villages and the market. Getting between each accommodation spot can be a difficult & tiring experience.
My progress has been slow but I have now arranged, thanks to the grant provided by travel2change, to rent a car for 2 days and go to some of the more out of the way places. Some operators have expressed an interest in having travelers from travel2change visit and help them grow their skills and business. Many struggle with organizing the office and booking systems as the business grows and particularly setting up systems that staff can follow to give consistent service to customers. If any travel2change members have these skills and are interested in helping I have details of some accommodation owners who would be happy to discuss the possibility of a work for board situation.
A number of other accommodation operators (and potential operators) want help with sourcing funding to grow (or start) their business. To fill in application forms for funding and business plans is often an insurmountable obstacle for people that have land and manpower but not the funds or knowledge. Sadly I have seen a few villages that have recently given up the struggle and instead leased their land to overseas businesses, – which of course means most of the revenue will also go overseas.
Although I am finding the progress slower than I had hoped, I have had some strong local interest and support and I still feel quite confident that my project will make a difference to many small locally operated business when I am able to get it online.