Poe Mageo and Petti Matila get House nod for ASVB Board

Representatives voted unanimously today to confirm the two nominees for the American Samoa Visitors Bureau Board.

At a confirmation hearing by the House Commerce Committee, the two nominees were asked about their plans to develop tourism and representatives made recommendations regarding tourism facilities and marketing strategies.

Mageo, who is appointed to a second term said that when COVID hit, their strategy was to build “domestic tourism” — where local residents patronize the hotels, restaurants, road side and Fagatogo Market stalls, handicrafts and other local businesses which were previously geared to tourists.

He said, even before COVID, there were hardly any true tourists visiting the territory. From his experience, at their family hotel, Airport Inn, most of the travelers are federal officials, engineers and business travelers.

Responding to Vice Speaker Fetui Fetu’s comments about the high standard of tourism facilities, promotions and activities for tourists in Samoa, Mageo said that the Samoa government pours millions of ​dollars into tourism because that is one of the country’s top money earners. “Tourism is their gold,” he said.

Mageo said, the Samoa government gives money to tourism businesses and hotels and businesses send many employees off island for training. He said that the Visitors Bureau has limited resources and local hotels and tourist operators are on their own. In the past, he said, the Visitors Bureau gave assistance for Bed and Breakfast operators but there was little success with this program.

Rep. Larry Sanitoa pointed out that funding for the ASVB has grown from $300,000 to $847,000, which is all local funding. He urged that the Board try to secure grants to help fund ASVB. He also recommended a review of the Bureau’s mission.

Director of Commerce Petti Matila reported on DOC’s assistance for tourism related projects. She cited restoration of the cable car, a Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) documentary that would feature American Samoa to be released next year, attending the Invest USA Summit earlier this year and the Fagatogo Redevelopment Plan, which will be launched next month.