Pacific Sustainability Monitoring Programme: Le Vasa Resort (Samoa)

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Incorporating Authentic Samoan Culture and Traditions throughout the Guest Experience

A 16-room hotel located on the island of Upolu, Samoa, Le Vasa Resort is focused on providing guests with an authentic taste of Samoan culture. From room decor to hands-on activities, Samoa’s cultural heritage is incorporated throughout the Le Vasa guest experience.

Traditional Architecture & Design

Since acquiring the property in 2006, Le Vasa’s owners have worked tirelessly to renovate the hotel and ensure that their guests feel surrounded by the true essence of Samoa during their stay.

The property’s construction and design embodies the look and feel of traditional Samoan villages. Guests are able to stay in individual fales and bungalows that make use of materials and techniques conventionally used in Samoan architecture. The buildings and rooms feature thatched roofs, bamboo-lined walls, and finely woven mat ceilings.

Hand-carved poumuli wood posts throughout the property invoke an extra layer of meaning and significance. The posts are carved by local artists utilizing woodworking skills and techniques practiced by their ancestors. The legends, tatau patterns, and wildlife etched into the wood offer a glimpse into Samoa’s rich tradition of storytelling and connection to the marine environment.

 

In addition to these natural elements, Le Vasa also incorporates vibrant colors into their decor to reflect the oranges, pinks, greens and blues seen in Samoan villages. The elei printing method is used to create bright, patterned fabrics. These fabrics are then used to make curtains, pillows, bed linens, and robes which add a bold splash of color to the rooms.

Storytelling through Performances, Activities & Guest Communications

The oral traditions, myths, and legends passed down from one generation to the next shed light on the island’s past and the local way of life. Recognizing the important role that storytelling plays in Samoan culture, Le Vasa ensures that each guest goes home with their own distinctly Samoan story to tell.

Guests are able to develop a deeper connection to the culture through Le Vasa’s interpretive performances, activities and guest communications. Instead of merely showing aspects of the culture without any context, Le Vasa shares the narratives and meanings behind the local traditions.

Le Vasa has turned the typical Fiafia Night into more than just a performance. Instead, their shows are more of an interpretive cultural experience that explains different the aspects of Samoan culture. In addition to the traditional songs and dance, guests might learn about the different uses of the coconut tree, coconut tree climbing, the legend of Sina, and how to crack open a coconut and make fresh coconut cream.

Le Vasa also offers an array of tours and activities that allow guests to have hands-on cultural experiences. For example, guests can help prepare food in a Samoan Umu oven, learn how to weave a basket, visit local markets and museums, or participate in an Ava ceremony.

Staff interactions and communications materials are another way that cultural information is imparted to guests. The majority of Le Vasa’s staff are Samoan and the culture is ingrained in them. Because of this, educating guests about Samoa’s heritage and history in daily conversation is practically second nature. Every morning, female guests are given a flower to wear in their hair as an expression of Samoan culture. Visitors can also reference the guest books that provide information about cultural norms, tell the story of the legend that inspired Le Vasa’s logo, and explains the historic significance of the resort’s location.

A More Distinct Brand & Guest Experience

A common challenge for accommodation providers is to differentiate their hotel from other properties and develop a unique brand. This is where Le Vasa’s cultural heritage efforts have lead to success. “It sets us apart,” said Soraya May, Le Vasa’s Owner and Director of Operations. “People coming to Samoa want to know about the culture. It’s interesting and intriguing to them because it’s so different than their way of life.”

Tourists are increasingly seeking authentic and meaningful travel experiences that connect them to the destination. According to a 2015 survey conducted by the Adventure Travel Trade Association, “travelers are not content with just being in the presence of a new culture. They want to gain some understanding of it, along with a ‘broadened perspective’ and ‘expanded horizons.’” By giving their guests the opportunity to participate in and learn about cultural traditions from local community members, Le Vasa is providing the type of immersive experiences that travelers desire. According to Soraya, guests leave feeling more of a connection to the resort, the island, and the culture, and that they are a “part of something.”

Le Vasa has also noticed a positive change in their social media presence. To complement their in-hotel efforts, they’ve focused their social media strategy more around sharing videos and photos that showcase Samoa’s cultural heritage and reinforce the distinctiveness of their guest offering. As a result, their Facebook and Instagram followings have grown, and they are experiencing more engagement with their posts.

A Wider Impact

In addition to enhancing the visitor experience and their own competitiveness, Le Vasa’s efforts are having a wider impact for both Samoa and the Pacific Islands region.

Preserving Authentic Cultural Heritage

The Samoan culture is a rich and ancient culture, that possesses valuable knowledge and traditions. One of the potential risks of tourism and foreign visitation is a loss, degeneration, and commodification of this unique cultural heritage. However, tourism can also have the opposite effect, fostering enhanced cultural appreciation and preservation. By sharing Samoa’s culture with tourists in a manner that encourages understanding, Le Vasa is helping to keep Samoa’s heritage alive and prevent traditional knowledge and practices from being forgotten.

Supporting the Local Economy

Cultural promotion and support for the local economy tend to go hand in hand. To ensure authenticity of their experiences and decor, Le Vasa primarily hires local staff, works with local artisans, and sources materials and products locally.

Positioning the Region as a Cultural Destination

According to a 2016 Tripadvisor report, “Globally, 47% of travelers say they have visited a destination because of the culture and people of the specific country.” Because the cultural heritage of the Pacific Islands is centered around the people and their way of life, it is not as visible as destinations with iconic heritage sites. Many foreigners view the Pacific Islands as tropical beach destinations and overlook their value as cultural destinations. As Le Vasa and other businesses integrate cultural heritage into the tourist experience, visitors will gain a better understanding of the diverse identities and rich traditions of the Pacific Islands. Which will in turn help to position the region as a cultural heritage destination that can compete on the global scale.

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Soraya May
Director of Operations
Email: soraya@levasaresort.com

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