Building back better

Lalomanu after Tsunami
A look at Lalomanu a day after the 2009 Tsunami struck. Photo credit: UNESCO Samoa.

Representatives from UNDP, Samoa Hotel Association, respective Government Ministries and NZAID visited 20 tourist budget accommodation sites on the South coast of Upolu in Samoa to monitor the progress in the implementation of the Tourism Tsunami Rebuilding Programme (TTRP). 

Building back better

  • Representatives from UNDP, Samoa Hotel Association, respective Government Ministries and NZAID visited 20 tourist budget accommodation sites on the South coast of Upolu to monitor the progress in the implementation of the Tourism Tsunami Rebuilding Programme (TTRP).
  • “The benefit of the visit is perspective. We have seen the changes and had a great discussion about how things have evolved over time, the way ahead, and where we should focus future efforts”.
  • One major achievement was clearly illustrated in one of the resorts which has upgraded from a Beach Fale type accommodation. The TTRP has reimbursed this family with the equivalent amount of what was destroyed and they have used this opportunity to further invest in reclaiming the existing site and building a 4-5 star Hotel Resort.

The main aim of the programme was the reconstruction and rebuilding of small tourist beach fales and accommodation businesses that were directly damaged by the September 2009 tsunami. Sites included Manono Islands, Tafitoala, Tafatafa, Saleapaga and Lalomanu. A total of US$ 1.4 million has been made available to provide assistance for such operators – with UNDP contributing US$20,000. The program will operate over a period of two years from May 2010 and is part of the Private Sector Support Facility (PSSF), a consolidation of previous funds supporting the private sector economy in Samoa, jointly funded by NZAID - New Zealand's Official DevelopmentAssistance’s agency – and UNDP through it’s Early Recovery Project. More specifically, UNDP assistance is provided in the form of provision of office equipment and ICT to the affected businesses whilst NZAID covers capital costs. 

The visit not only provided UNDP an opportunity to discuss the advancements and the future of the TTRP with development partners and government officials, but it also provided the staff a chance to see and interact with some of the local families who were most severely hit by the disaster.  

“The benefit of the visit is perspective. We have seen the changes and had a great discussion about how things have evolved over time, the way ahead, and where we should focus future efforts” commented Ms. Nileema Noble, the United Nations Resident Representative in Samoa. 

The building-back better principle is key to the TTRP and it ensures that new properties are of higher quality with respect to the ones that were destroyed, especially when it comes to building materials, aesthetics and environmental and safety standards. 

“The minimum distances of 3 meters between beach fales and of 5 meters between the beach fale and the road guarantee that guests enjoy a higher level of privacy and tranquility. This will enable tourist operators to meet the demands of more sophisticated, higher-paying clients” added Ms. Matatamalii Sonja Hunter, CEO of the Samoa Tourism Authority. 

One major achievement was clearly illustrated in one of the resorts which has upgraded from a Beach Fale type accommodation.  The TTRP has reimbursed this family with the equivalent amount of what was destroyed and they have used this opportunity to further invest in reclaiming the existing site and building a 4-5 star Hotel Resort. 

Notwithstanding the progress made, help is still needed in the tsunami affected villages: some villages of the South coast such as Lepa still look like ghost towns, as if nobody has dared to touch them after the disaster.  In fact, out of 56 businesses identified in the FK (09) Faapitoa that were affected by the September 2009 Tsunami, only 24 have applied to the TTRP. 

A total of 32 businesses are yet to apply to TTRP.  There is also some room for improvement concerning the current TTRP framework – with suggestions ranging from ways to improve docks that are not accessible during low tides, thus hampering tourist visits – to including ICT equipment among the items eligible for grant applications.