Why would a tourist want to visit American Samoa: A study says it all


American Samoa, a forgotton Pacific island when it comes to travel and tourism. Findings of the first ever intensive study of visitors arrival and departure at the Pago Pago International Airport will help improve the quality and enhance services for visitors to American Samoa, says American Samoa Visitors Bureau (ASVB) Executive Director David Vaeafe.

“American Samoa’s tourism industry and product is unique and continued research will assist our Territory in developing and refining a strong and sustainable tourism sector for future generations to come”, he said, noting that the survey results “are very encouraging.”

He reiterated that “private-public sector-partnership” drives tourism development by ASVB and the whole government approach in the sector in achieving the desired results.

The American Samoa International Visitor Survey 2017 report, which was commissioned by ASVB and delivered by Fiji-based South Pacific Tourism Organization (SPTO), was officially released Monday during a presentation in the Lupelele Room at the Tradewinds Hotel.

The 69-page report, is the result of field work carried out at Pago Pago International Airport from Dec. 1, 2016 to Aug. 30, 2017 through funding from the US Department of Interior’s Office of Insular Areas.

Divided into 13 sections, the report covers various issues, including who visits the territory; how long they stay, and how much they spend. It also presents information on each of these issues through info graphics — detailed pieces of information, accompanied by charts and tables.

The report notes that the term “tourist” refers to visitors traveling for all purposes —  holiday/leisure, visiting friends and relatives, business, religions, transit and others. Day visitors, as well as all persons who live in American Samoa, regardless of their nationality, were excluded from the survey. Persons employed by American Samoa companies were also excluded.

According to the ASVB,  the survey report is a key measure of visitors that will be used by the government and the private sector to make complex strategic decisions regarding planning, marketing, policy formulation and regulations within the tourism sector.

“It is important to understand that all visitors contribute to the American Samoa economy and they also participate in recreational activities,” it says.

Among the key findings of the report, is that in 2016, a total of 20,050 visitors were recorded by the Commerce Department’s Statistics Division. And “visiting friends and relatives (VFR)” accounted for the majority of all visitors at 55%.

The U.S. (excluding Hawai’i) is the biggest source market at 42.3%; followed by Pacific island countries at 21%; Hawai’i with 11.3%; and New Zealand at 10.1%

The survey shows that over 17% of tourist arrivals from the US reside in California, with 4.9% from Utah and 3.7% from Washington state. More than half of all tourist arrivals from the US reside in other states.


According to the survey, the main reason for visiting the territory was for business at 37.6%. Of this group, the main reason of visit was for business and conferences at 28%.

Leisure, the second main reason, was dominated by people who mostly visited cafes and restaurants (59.7%), shopping (44.7%) and independent sightseeing (44.2%). On VFR, family fa’alavelave dominated the segment at 29%.


The average length of stay was 8.1 nights, according to the report, which notes that Samoan and German visitors stayed the longest with an average of 19.7 and 19 nights, respectively.

Business tourists stayed for an average of 11.9 days; holiday/leisure tourists an average of 10.4 nights; and VFR an average of 7.9 nights


The survey also found that 46% of all visitors to American Samoa were first time visitors. However, those from Europe (85%) and other Asian countries (84.6%) were more likely to be traveling to American Samoa for the first time than those from Australia and other Pacific countries. Additionally, visitors from Hawai’i and Samoa were the least likely to be first time visitors — i.e most likely to have visited before.

For previous visitors, the report says 56% visited American Samoa before. This is higher for those from Samoa (76.5%), Hawai’i (68.3%), other Pacific islands (56%), Australia (52%), New Zealand (48.6%) and the US (47.9%) — excluding Hawai’i.

It is lower from those long haul markets of continental Europe (15%) and other Asian countries (15.4%), according to the report. (Samoa News will report later this week on other key findings in the report.)

Key findings of the survey were presented during the Monday gathering by SPTO chief executive officer, Christopher Cocker, who traveled to the territory with three other STPO officials, to host a two-day Statistics and Sustainable Tourism Training Workshop for stakeholders and government at the Tradewinds Hotel earlier this week.

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Juergen Thomas Steinmetz has continuously worked in the travel and tourism industry since he was a teenager in Germany (1979), beginning as a travel agent up through today as a publisher of eTurboNews (eTN), one of the world’s most influential and most-read travel and tourism publications. He is also Chairman of ICTP. His experiences include working and collaborating with various national tourism offices and non-governmental organizations, as well as private and non-profit organizations, and in planning, implementing, and quality control of a range of travel and tourism-related activities and programs, including tourism policies and legislation. His major strengths include a vast knowledge of travel and tourism from the point of view of a successful private enterprise owner, superb networking skills, strong leadership, excellent communication skills, strong team player, attention to detail, dutiful respect for compliance in all regulated environments, and advisory skills in both political and non-political arenas with respect to tourism programs, policies, and legislation. He has a thorough knowledge of current industry practices and trends and is a computer and Internet junkie.