The Foreign and Commonwealth Office website has been amended today to advise against all but essential travel to Samoa until further notice.
Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa, and the smaller American Samoa, a US territory, make up the Samoan Islands group with a combined population of nearly 250,000.
The islands are heavily reliant on tourism, which has overtaken agriculture as the dominant contributor to GDP at 25 per cent, generating over $116.5 million (£75 million).
The number of visitors to Samoa reached 122,000, with the majority of tourists coming from Australia and New Zealand, and less than 10 per cent from Britain.
The tourist website for Samoa (visitsamoa.ws) crashed this morning due to weight of traffic following the earthquake.
Richard Green, The Sunday Times travel expert, is a frequent visitor to the Pacific islands. He recently suggested that Samoa is the nicest of the islands in the South Pacific and that it’s safe to drive despite accounts of stone throwing. It will now be more familiar to British visitors after the country opted to change from driving on the right to the left earlier this month.
Green told Times Online: “Samoa is on the tourist trail mainly due to the Air New Zealand services from Auckland and, indirectly, Los Angeles. Also Polynesian Airlines pick up from New Zealand and Australia.
“It receives package tourists that way and there’s stopover traffic on the way Down Under. It isn’t as popular as Fiji and some of the other South Pacific destinations.
“American Samoa isn’t a tourist destination. It’s smaller with little tourist infrastructure, not such good beaches and no direct flights anywhere, except to Apia.”
Samoa lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, the most active seismic and volcanic region in the world with an estimated 90 per cent of the world’s earthquakes. An earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale was recorded 185 miles southwest of Samoa on September 28, 2006.