The Women in Tourism International Alliance (WITIA) based in Queensland, Australia are in Samoa with 35 international professionals from the global tourism industry.
Among the visiting members are travel agents, property and hotel managers, travel writers, tour guides and a travel educator from America, Norway, China and Australia.
Samoa was selected for the annual education meeting so the network members can experience the local culture and understand the commercial benefits of advertising the destination.
“We want to know more. That is why we’ve come to learn about the culture, people and tourism opportunities, when it is a new market here,” W.I.T.I.A. Vice President, Leah Gage said.
“I took my group out to Savai’i to the local villages and to merge ourselves somehow in their culture and try to learn as well how to help them. They tell us what they can do and we try to fit it in to our tour, clients.”
The presence of W.I.T.I.A. in Samoa offers an opportunity to advertise Samoa to the global market.
“The two ladies from China owning a hotel, I am sure they will go back with all their photos and information, they are part of the china women travel service in China with all their membership of thousands to network with them, which is very good for Samoa,” Ms. Gage said.
“I feel like Samoa is a rustic Fiji and Fiji has got more development but it is not what everyone is looking for. Some people want to stay in a five-star resort and not go out to experience the culture, if that’s what they want then they choose accordingly.
“Other people are not worried so much about what they call a fly and flop destination, just having a pool or a swim, you could go anywhere, but here you have an unique culture and in some ways similar to Pacific Islands but each with its own uniqueness.”
In Ms. Gage’s opinion, promoting tourism and trying to maintain the authentic experience of a destination could be difficult.
“I think they (Samoa) are doing really well compared to some other places and I know it comes down to budget, money is a big thing.”
This visit has also enabled the network to involve two local members, one being the C.E.O. of Samoa Tourism Authority, Papali’i Sonja Hunter.
Marketing Director and one of the founders of W.I.T.I.A., Beverley T. Auerbach said: “We are going to have members here in Samoa so when people want to go to Samoa they have someone here who is actually in the country.”
Ms. Gage said they exist to give small tourism operators a chance to advertise in the global market.
“W.I.T.I.A. members can advertise in their monthly newsletter for free, so we profile members and highlight their business. The idea is to contact those members directly,” she said.
W.I.T.I.A. was founded in 2006.