Makeshift Samoa bar bids for tourist return


Nearly a fortnight after a tsunami left more than 140 people dead and wrecked homes and businesses in Samoa, the first tourism operation there has re-opened.

While it has only launched a handbuilt bar, using ice to keep the beer cool, the Faofao beach resort is hoping it is the beginning of a new start for them and the Samoan south coast.

Since the tsunami there has been concern about its effect on tourism, with many visitors among those killed.

The bar opening came the day after a national day of mourning and mass burial of remaining victims of the disaster.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said the grief and desolation felt by everyone who lost loved ones “are beyond words to describe and we can only grieve with them”.

Yet, as survivors return to their homes near the coast, Samoa is keen to tell the world there are plenty of places where the tsunami has had no effect.

Even on the day of mourning, one of the massive cruise liners that tour the Pacific docked in Apia and disgorged a few thousand tourists to visit the markets and tourists haunts of the capital.

One visitor told Radio Ausralia’s Pacific Beat Samoan officials were insistent the ship continue with its visit.

There is little left of the Faofao beach resort, but with money from New Zealand and the carpentry skills of local secondary school students, a bar has been built and it is now open for business.

It is the first tourist business to open along the devastated stretch of coast.

Surrounded by the wreckage of the resort, the bar’s view of the ocean is slightly spoiled by a small Japanese car wrapped around palm trees.

But it is a start and it pleases barman Auva’a Tabu, welcoming customers from America and New Zealand.

The rebuilding project was driven by New Zealand-based television producer Hamish Coleman-Ross, who wanted to do more than just compile a story on the disaster.

He said: “It started with getting a blender and a shaker. It’s kind of a nice gift.”

In a campaign in New Zealand, “we had to raise the initial money to build the bar, to get the materials, and we managed to get it over a 48-hour period.”

Mr Coleman-Ross saw the wreckage of the resort on his first visit to Samoa. “I could not believe it, I could not believe that was where I had been standing and I wanted to try and may be leave something behind that got them on the way back to being there.

“It is a great thing to have been involved with and I just wish them the best of luck and I hope (visitors) will come and support it.”