Samoa
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Annual Savaii Palolo Fest is being celebrated the whole of October

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Lifting Covid-19 travel restrictions towards the end of September is being widely welcomed and it is just in time to welcome visitors to the annual Savaii Palolo Fest.

On Sept, 22 the requirements to complete a pre-departure test and show proof of vaccination were removed following the reopening of borders to international travellers on August 1.

The Samoa Tourism Authority says in a statement that Jennifer Clayburn, a recent visitor from Australia who travelled with her husband and three teenage children, said the move to lift restrictions is a needed relief, which will help Samoa appeal to more visitors which in turn would support the recovery of the visitor economy.

She acknowledged the added obstacles the requirements posed and the responsibility of travelers to ensure they’re well and fit to travel.

Stephanie and Leslie Wilson from New Zealand echoed the same sentiments and added that the wealth of information that’s available online means it also convenient to plan and book.

Returning visitors Niruba George and her husband Bradley Scott, from Auckland visited seven years ago and and decided to return to Samoa for their first international trip in three years after having such a great experience. 

The pair learned about the lifting of the restrictions when they went to get their pre-departure tests and welcomed the change, saying it made it much simpler.

A German couple who arrived for the first time after the restrictions were removed shared how happy they were.

PALOLO SEASON IN SAVAII

While many across Samoa are closely monitoring the moon as part of the countdown to the first rising of the much-loved palolo which is predicted to be around 14 to 16 October, the Savaii Samoa Tourism Association (SSTA) has started month-long celebrations as part of the annual Savaii Palolo Fest.

The first rising draws many to the big island and for SSTA, it’s an opportunity to embrace.

Organizing Committee executive member Tupai Saleimoa Vaai said they’re expecting a very busy month ahead and participating properties are offering special deals on accommodation throughout October.

“This has been our primary focus hence why this initiative came about three years ago, a collaboration by SSTA, Samoa Tourism Authority and participating properties to support the business community especially the tourism industry in Savaii”, said Tupai.

The Festival is timely given borders have reopened and Covid-19 restrictions have been removed.

“Encouraging our traditions for a stronger future” is the theme of this year’s festival, highlighting the importance of sustainably harvesting palolo as part of Samoa’s cultural heritage.

Many activities have been organised by SSTA and participating tourism accommodation businesses and these include educational and awareness programs highlighting the environment and its treasures, Palolo and its cultural significance and preparations as well as cultural entertainment.

“We might be focused primarily on attracting visitors but we also have to bear in mind that we are obligated to preserve and conserve our beautiful environment” added Tupai.

This year, traditional methods and preparations are being emphasised and embraced.

Va-i-moana Seaside Lodge on the west-end of Savaii is hosting a paopao competition and float parade to encourage the use of traditional methods to catch palolo and to avoid damage to coral life and marine ecosystems. 

As part of the celebrations, a traditional paopao carving exhibition will also take place. Traditional boat carving knowledge and skills are a highly valued part of our cultural heritage and Tupai and his committee are using the festival as a platform to help revive these and share them with visitors and the future generation who are eager to learn and participate.

As part of palolo-catching preparations, hotels and resorts are also putting on special markets and demonstrations and the Sunset String Guitar Band competition is also scheduled.

The second palolo rise is predicted to take place towards the end of November.