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Tourism planning in small tropical islands: methodological considerations and development issues in Samoa

Douglas G. Pearce


En présentant la méthodologie utilisée dans la présentation du Plan d’Aménagement Touristique de Samoa 2002-2006, ce chapitre cherche à éclaircir certains aspects de l’aménagement touristique dans les petites îles tropicales, ainsi que ceux de la planification touristique en ces lieux. Plus spécifiquement, cette étude présente une approche basée sur la formulation de questions destinées aux diverses parties intéressées afin d’identifier et puis d’adresser les points-clés de l’aménagement touristique dans le pays. Quatre questions principales résultent de ce processus, à savoir : Combien de tourisme veut le pays et à quel rythme doit-il se développer pendant les cinq années à venir ? De quels facteurs dépend la croissance du tourisme pendant la période 2002-2006 ? Quelles formes de tourisme faut-il développer et à quels endroits ? Quels sont les processus d’aménagement touristique les plus appropriés pour Samoa? On présente ensuite les stratégies formulées dans le plan. Pour conclure, il semble que la participation locale, bien qu’inappréciable, soit insuffisante par elle-même pour préparer un plan d’aménagement touristique efficace.

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1The growth of tourism in many small tropical and sub-tropical islands in the last two to three decades has been accompanied by the preparation of an increasing number of tourism development plans. The need to plan for tourism on islands is especially crucial given their limited size and resource base. Smallness and insularity often mean that the resource base of islands offers limited possibilities for development and their physical environment, society and economy may be particularly vulnerable to the changes which tourism and other external influences may bring (Conlin and Baum, 1995; Brigulio et al., 1996; Lockhart and Drakakis-Smith, 1997). Planning can help make the best use of the limited resources available, for example investment capital, land and labour, while at the same time mimimizing the adverse impacts which tourism may generate. Furthermore, the general increase in island tourism, whether in the Pacific, Caribbean or Indian Ocean, means individual island destinations are facing growing competition from other islands offering similar products and drawing on the same markets. Planning can also contribute to a better marketing positioning to face up to this competition.

2Tourism development plans, for islands and other destinations, vary in scope, scale and approach and a significant body of literature on tourism plans and planning has appeared (e.g. Gunn, 1994; Pearce, 1995, 2000; Jenkins, 1999; Hall, 2000; King, McVey and Simmons, 2000). Many plans are still prepared by external consultants, especially in small, developing destinations, but different approaches to tourism planning are emerging with increasing emphasis being given to a greater level of community involvement and public participation in the planning process (Hall, 2000; King, McVey and Simmons, 2000). However, involving the public in tourism planning is not without its constraints as Jenkins (1993) and others have noted.

3Methodological aspects of tourism planning have received variable attention. While general approaches to tourism planning are outlined in major texts (e.g. Gunn, 1994; WTO, 1994), in the plans themselves the emphasis is generally on the outcome, that is on policies and strategies, rather than on the means by which these were developed. Jenkins (1999, p.58) argues that at the macro-project level ‘At all times, methodology is driven by pragmatism and is informed by experience rather than theory’. In particular, he asserts, ‘the main concern is to devise a methodological approach to cover the activities and to produce the outputs required within both the time-scale and budget’.

4The purpose of this chapter is to contribute to a greater understanding of tourism on small tropical islands and to tourism planning in this context by outlining aspects of the methodology used in the preparation of the Samoa Tourism Development Plan 2002-2006 (Tourism Resource Consultants, 2002) and by discussing some of the issues that arose from this process. While the focus is on Samoa, many of the points raised have a more general application to other islands experiencing the growth of tourism or seeking to develop this sector. Samoa is introduced in the next section, the planning approach adopted is then presented, issues identified are discussed and then the overall strategy is outlined before conclusions are drawn.

1. Samoa

5Samoa is a small multiple island state in the South Pacific. It consists of two main islands- Upolu and Savaii- and five smaller ones, covers an area of 2935 km2 and has a population of 165,000, of whom almost three quarters live on Upolu and a fifth in the capital, Apia (Figure 1). The fa’aSamoa, the traditional and distinctive Samoa way of life, remains strong and continues to have a marked impact on all aspects of Samoa society and economy. Fairburn-Dunlop (1994, p 124) describes the fa’aSamoa as:

6A system of chiefly rule in which every person is expected to know their place and the correct behaviour patters of their place. ‘Correct behaviour’ is the dynamic which ensures the smooth running of the chiefly system, the norm being that one gives service and respect to those in higher status and can expect to receive the same from those of lower status.The country’s economy has been based on semi-subsistence agriculture, with some plantation production and limited forestry and light manufacturing. Samoa’s agricultural sector in the 1990s suffered from cyclone damage and problems caused by taro leaf blight and the African.

Figure 1. Samoa: location and place names

Figure 1. Samoa: location and place names

As the figures in Table 1 show, tourism today makes a significant contribution to the national economy. The tourist industry in Samoa, however, is still at a relatively youthful stage of development, the total number of visitors received, especially holiday visitors, is not large, and the accommodation sector is modest in scale and concentrated in Apia. Like many other Pacific destinations, Samoa is relatively remote from the world’s major tourist markets and heavily dependent on international air access. New Zealand, the main source of holiday visitors, is four hours flying time from Samoa.

Table 1. Basic dimensions of tourism in Samoa










Other Upolu
















All Visitor Arrivals (2000): 87,688

Holiday Arrivals (2000): 28, 433

Samoa’s share of South Pacific Arrivals (2000): 9.1%

Accommodation (excludes fales):

Economic Impact

Contribution to GDP (2000): 7-12%

Foreign exchange earnings (2000): $133.8 million

Tourism employment (2001): 2265

Tourism as % of national employment: 10%

Source: Samoa Tourism Development Plan 2002-2006

7Samoa has taken a cautious, planned approach to the development of tourism. Development during the 1990s was guided by the Western Samoa Tourism Development Plan 1992-2001(Government of Western Samoa/Tourism Council of the South Pacific, 1992). That plan was prepared to enable Samoa to ‘undertake a planned, orderly and sustained development of its tourism sector’. A review of the plan undertaken by this author (Pearce, 1998) concluded that: The TDP remains a ‘live document’, regularly used by the Samoa Visitors Bureau. Many parts of the plan have been, and continue to be implemented, though at a slower rhythm and with less depth than envisaged. In particular, progress has been made in terms of infrastructure, institutional strengthening, marketing and provision of basic attractions facilities. Conversely, private sector facility development has been more limited and the accommodation has differed markedly from that recommended.

8Its successor, the Samoa Tourism Development Plan 2002 –2006, was prepared in 2001-2002. The new plan was funded by the New Zealand Official Development Assistance programme and prepared on behalf of the Samoa Visitors Bureau, the country’s national tourism organization, by Tourism Resources Consultants, Wellington. The planning team of five, led by the author, included two staff from the Samoa Visitors Bureau (SVB). The plan was prepared in accordance with the terms of reference (TOR) and under the guidance of a steering committee of senior government officials and industry representatives.

9The general purpose and thrust of the plan are encapsulated in the goal developed, namely:To provide a framework and process that ensures a balanced, coordinated, practical and efficient approach to the sustainable development of tourism in Samoa.

10Sustainable tourism development will be undertaken at a rate and in ways that will:

  • Generate continuing economic benefits throughout Samoa society;

  • Contribute to a general improvement in the quality of life in Samoa;

  • Reflect, respect and support the fa’aSamoa;

  • Conserve and enhance the country’s natural and built environments;

  • Enhance tourist experience of Samoa.

2. Planning Approach

11In line with the goal developed, the emphasis in preparing the plan was on developing practical strategies and getting ownership of the plan from the outset through widespread consultation and input at all stages. The approach adopted reflects the planning team’s broader experience, including previous experience over a number of years in a wide range of roles and projects in Samoa, draws on more general planning principles and was designed to meet the specific needs of Samoa. In many respects it might be labelled a ‘question asking’ approach, with the principal sets of questions being ‘what are the key issues facing tourism in Samoa?’ and ‘how might these be best addressed? Preparation of the plan was undertaken in three phases between August 2001 and January 2002.

2.1. Inception Phase

12Work in this first phase was designed to :

  • establish the planning context and provide a situational analysis;

  • identify the key issues facing the development of tourism in Samoa over the five year plan period;

  • formulate a draft goal for the plan.

2.2. Strategic phase

13The emphasis in this second phase was on developing strategies to address the issues identified in the inception phase and to meet the goal formulated.

2.3. Action Phase

14In this final phase the planning team evaluated and integrated the ideas and material from the inception and strategic phases into seven strategies under the core strategy of developing a focused future for tourism in Samoa. An action programme setting out what needs to be done over the period 2002-2006, and by whom, was also prepared. Finally, consideration was given to how the plan itself would be implemented.

15The first phase involved a combination of desk research, fieldwork and widespread consultation. The desk research was particularly important in terms of setting the scene and contributing to the situational analysis, not only in Samoa but also in the South Pacific. In this respect the team was fortunate in having access to a range of reports, studies and other documents covering key topics as the time for the generation of primary research was limited. A starting point was a re-reading and re-evaluation of the Mid-Term Review of the Samoa Tourism Development Plan 1992-2001 followed by an assessment of the extent to which the recommendations of the Samoa Tourism Development Action Programme, which had resulted from the mid-term review, had been successfully implemented. This provided insights into areas where progress had been made (e.g. institutional strengthening and infrastructural development) and others where issues were proving more intractable (e.g. questions of land tenure). Market research included an analysis of statistics from the Samoa Visitors Bureau and, to provide the regional context, the South Pacific Tourism Organization. Recent marketing reports were also available, for instance the Samoa Tourism Marketing plan 1998-2001 and the Report on the New Zealand Holiday Market for Tourism in New Zealand which provided not only details on the visitor characteristics and attitudes in that key market but also an analysis of distribution channels (Pearce, 2002). An understanding of the impact that tourism is having in Samoa was greatly facilitated by the findings of the Sustainable Tourism Indicators project that had been led by one of the team members. Insights into the broader policy context were obtained from the Government’s Statement of Economic Strategy.

16Four field visits were undertaken – to Savaii, the south coast of Upolu, Aleipata and in the Apia urban area- in order to understand better the realities of planning for tourism in Samoa, to assess resources and development processes and to gauge the impacts of tourism.Consultation took several forms in order to engage a diversity of stakeholders, obtain information and ascertain their views on the opportunities and challenges facing tourism in Samoa. Formal and informal meetings were held with leading Government and industry officials. Contacts were developed with leaders and team members of other related planning and project teams relating to urban planning, coastal management, Marine Protected Areas and port development. Relationships with other plans and projects is something that is commonly neglected in tourism planning but given the number of cross-sectoral matters that tourism development involves, discussion at an early stage of the tourism dimension of their activities proved invaluable in terms of identifying common issues, sharing information, reducing duplication of effort and responsibility and setting priorities.

17Workshops were organized with a diversity of other stakeholders including: the Samoa Visitors Bureau, government departments, the tourist industry, other businesses, NGOs and other interested parties. The workshops generally brought together six to ten people plus two or more team members who led the group through a series of questions designed to elicit views on the key issues facing tourism in Samoa. This builds on a technique used in the mid-term review (Pearce, 2000) and exemplifies the ‘question-asking’ approach driving preparation of the plan. While some questions were tailored to the interest or expertise of particular groups, in general they followed the content and sequence set out in Table 2. The questions were structured in such a way as to obtain input for goal formulation and to address the core matters raised in the TOR – product development, infrastructure, marketing, human resource development, impacts and institutions- while also allowing broader issues to be raised (Questions 1 and 2). Individuals were first asked to respond to the questions on a sheet of paper then to share in turn their answers with the rest of the group, with the responses being recorded on a whiteboard. This proved to be a very effective means of getting everyone to participate, to offer their views and to debate the emerging points.

Table 2. Questions to identify the issues

What are the three most critical tourism policy issues to be addressed in the period 2002-2006

What are the three most important changes in tourism in Samoa that you would like to see happen by 2006.

What should the basic goals for the development of tourism in Samoa be over the period 2002-2006.

What are the three most critical issues that need to be addressed relating to product development?

What are the three most critical issues relating to infrastructure?

What are the three most critical issues in terms of marketing Samoa?

What are the three most critical issues in terms of human resource development?

What are the three most critical issues in terms of the impact of tourism on Samoa?

What role should the Samoa Visitors Bureau play in the development of tourism over the next five years?

18Such an approach was less appropriate for input from the village level so more traditional meetings were held between the Samoan members of the planning team and the village chiefs, women’s committees and youth groups of selected villages where tourism is a significant activity and where the level and nature of development varies. In this way a number of village-level concerns were raised and opportunities identified. A more general meeting of official village representatives (pulenu’u) from all over Samoa was also organized in Apia to discuss tourism issues.

19This multi-source approach permitted a wide range of material to be compiled and analysed and enabled diverse views to be heard and taken into account. This in turn led to the identification of the key issues and to the formulation of the goal outlined above. In the second phase, a further round of workshops was held to seek input on the formulation of strategies and to clarify options to address the issues identified. This time the workshops were structured not around groups of stakeholders but rather in terms of the themes for which strategies were being developed, namely marketing, product development, infrastructure, land and investment, human resource development, impact management and institutional strengthening. This enabled a more tightly focused discussion on the development of each strategy. The questions varied from theme to theme but in general emphasized priorities and how actions might best be achieved. Tables 3 and 4 outline the approach for two of these areas, marketing and infrastructure. In the case of Savaii, a broader approach was taken to meet the specific needs of the island and to enable the participation of stakeholders there who were unable to take part in the other workshops held in Apia (Table 5).

Table 3. Questions for the Infrastructure Strategy Workshop

In terms of tourism development, what are the priorities for infrastructural improvements?

How can these infrastructural improvements best be achieved?

What information about tourism do providers need to assist them in making infrastructural improvements?

How can infrastructure providers (e.g. telecommunications, power supply, roading, harbour) work more

closely together?

What role might the Samoa Visitors Bureau play in this process?

Table 4. Questions for the Marketing Strategy Workshop

Where should marketing effort in the next 2-3 years be concentrated?

How can levels of awareness of Samoa as a holiday destination be significantly increased in the major markets?

What potential does American Samoa offer as a market for short-break holidays and how can this market be developed?

What forms of tourism in Samoa should be marketed?

How can Samoa best be positioned in the South Pacific regional context?

How can we coordinate more effectively the marketing efforts of all stakeholders: on-island providers, carriers, the SVB, wholesalers and retailers?

What is an appropriate and realistic annual rate of growth for arrivals to Samoa?

What would most help tourism operators in Samoa become more market oriented?

What other key marketing issues need to be addresses in the Samoa Tourism Development Plan 2002-2006?

Table 5. Questions for the Savaii Tourism Strategy Workshop

What forms of tourism development are most appropriate for Savaii?

What is needed to enable the development of these forms of tourism?

What are the tourism marketing priorities for Savaii?

In terms of tourism development, what are the priorities for infrastructural improvements on Savaii?

What aspects of Savaii are particularly vulnerable to tourism influences?

How can we minimise the impact of increased numbers of tourists on Savaii?

What is an appropriate and realistic annual rate of growth for arrivals to Samoa ?

How might the human resource development needs of Savaii best be addressed?

What should be the functions of the Savaii Visitors Association?

20In the first two phases this stakeholder consultation and participation provided invaluable inputs into the identification of issues and development of strategies. A good level of participation was achieved in the twenty workshops and other meetings held, with approximately three hundred people being involved at some stage in the process. The relatively small size of the destination and the communal nature of Samoan society facilitated contact with interested parties and their subsequent involvement in the process. At the same time it should be recognized that this approach is not without its challenges and limitations. Consulting a variety of stakeholders inevitably results in a diversity of views being expressed, not all of which are pertinent, feasible or compatible. Balancing these was not always straight forward. This was especially the case in dealing with the desired level of tourism development for Samoa discussed in the next section. In this regard, the synthesis of the other sources of information in association with the stakeholder input was important in enabling the planning team to come to their recommendations. This was also the case with other topics. Development of the marketing strategy, for example, involved not only feedback from the workshops and meetings with industry representatives but also analysis of available statistical data and market reports, detailed discussion with the SVB’s marketing officers in New Zealand and Australia and a small fax survey of wholesalers in the latter to complement earlier market research in the former (Pearce and Palmer, 2000). Views on the relative importance of different markets were nonetheless still mixed and compromises had to be reached. Estimation of future accommodation needs was based on visitor projections under a range of scenarios and observed ratios of hotel use and room occupancies rather than stakeholder input though that was central to recommendations about the size and location of new accommodation development.

21The final phase, development of the action programme, was essentially undertaken by the planning team on the basis of the information collected and decisions made in the inception and strategic phases. At the end of end of each phase, the planning team reported to the steering committee and responded to suggestions made. Finally, the draft plan was presented to a large public gathering of all interested parties before the document was finalized.

3. Tourism Development Issues

22The key issues that emerged during the inception phase, and which were followed up in the strategic phase, can be summarized as an ordered sequence of four major questions:

  • How much tourism does Samoa want and at what rate should it be developed over the next five years?

  • What will the growth of tourism in Samoa over the period 2002-2006 depend on?

  • What forms of tourism should be developed and where?

  • What are the most appropriate processes of tourism development for Samoa?

23These are fundamental questions that might be raised for any destination, not just Samoa.

24While there was an underlying assumption that some further growth in tourism would occur - after all the preparation of a tourism development plan had been commissioned - careful consideration was given at the outset to determining just how much tourism development was desired and feasible. This is a crucial first step but one which is not always taken nor readily achieved. Often the emphasis in the planning has been on more technical matters such as evaluating resources and markets and identifying opportunities rather than debating what level of tourism development is desirable (Gunn, 1988, pp249-261). A more recent community tourism assessment handbook (Brass, 1996) offers a nine-step guide ‘to facilitate the process of determining whether Tourism Development is right for your community’ and raises issues of scale at the goal setting step. King, McVey and Simmons (2000 p.409) report on the preparation of a tourism plan for Niue, a small island neighbour of Samoa, in which ‘the planning team was informed by community representatives during the course of formal and informal consultations that a ceiling of approximately 5000 tourist arrivals a year should be envisaged at the conclusion of the planning period’. Determining an appropriate scale and rate of growth for tourism is a fundamental issue and one that is complicated by diverse stakeholder views and by questions of measurement.

25In the case of Samoa, stakeholders varied in their views of how much tourism development was desirable and at what rate the sector should grow. Government had signalled the importance of the tourism sector in its Strategy for the Development of Samoa 2002-2004 and highlighted the sector’s contribution to the national economy. Industry members had a range of views. Some favoured substantial growth, others appeared concerned about additional competition or were content with the lifestyle that current levels of demand afforded. A degree of ambivalence or indifference to tourism was apparent in the wider community and a village level. The single most significant recurring message to emerge from all the stakeholder consultations was that the growth of tourism in Samoa must not occur at a scale or rate that would endanger the fa’a Samoa. However, quantifying the latter is not easy as the impact of tourism on the fa’aSamoa is a function not just of scale and rate of growth , but also of the forms of tourism promoted and the ways in which these are developed, as well as of the elements of the fa’aSamoa being considered.

26Moreover, the scale of tourism can be measured in different ways, for example visitor arrivals or bednights, number of hotel rooms, foreign exchange earnings, contribution to Gross Domestic product (GDP), jobs in the tourism sector… Each of these dimensions provides some understanding of the size of the sector and together they provide a good overview of the level of tourism development in a destination as Table 1 showed. However, in Samoa, as in many other small emerging destinations, comprehensive and reliable longitudinal data on all of these indicators on which change could be measured and projections based were not available. A decision was therefore made to focus on visitor arrivals as the key indicator as much more comprehensive statistics were available for this and the measure could be used with respect to a variety of issues such as marketing, product development and impact assessment. Where possible, a distinction was made between all arrivals and holiday arrivals.

27Visitor projections for the plan period (2002-2006) were derived on the basis of variations on the rate of growth over the five years to 2000. Over this period all arrivals grew by 5.1% per annum and holiday arrivals increased by 4.8% a year (Table 6). As existing occupancy rates and use were reportedly low, with much plant under-utilized, much of the increase in visitor numbers, particularly at existing or intermediate growth rates, could be absorbed within the existing capacity if this were upgraded to meet visitor needs. Moreover, the Sustainable Tourism Indicators Project showed that although there were warning signs in areas such as waste-water disposal and efficiency of water use, if these areas were addressed there was still scope for further tourism development. On balance, over the period 2002-2006, annual growth in total visitor arrivals and holiday arrivals within the band 5-10% was considered both realistic and sustainable if the strategies developed were actively pursued.

Table 6. Visitor projections to 2006

All arrivals

Holiday arrivals

Annual Growth Rate (%)

2006 Estimate

Average Annual Increase in Arrivals 2001-2006

Annual Growth Rate (%)

2006 Estimate

Average Annual Increase in Arrivals 2001-2006



















Source: Samoa Tourism Development Plan 2002-2006

28A key notion underlying the development of strategies in the plan is Gunn’s (1988) concept of a hierarchy of dependency. He argues (p.218) that planning involves predicting the consequences of the manipulation of many development factors and that it is essential to determine which factors depend upon which others in a hierarchical fashion. Thus, the ‘regional development of tourism …generally must have an increase in the volume of participation’ which in turn depends on heightened demand and expanded supply, these being respectively a function of expanded markets and resource development.

29In the case of Samoa, the attainment of the levels outlined in Table 6, particularly in the mid to upper ranges of the 5-10% band, was seen to depend on meeting a set of inter-related conditions, namely:

  • Increasing demand by raising awareness of Samoa as a holiday destination. This in turn necessitates a more focused marketing approach and a common vision, a clearer regional positioning, greater market orientation and more effective coordination of marketing efforts.

  • Providing adequate and appropriate services and facilities through product enhancement and new product development, especially in terms of improving and extending activities and attractions to make Samoa a more appealing place to visit. Continued infrastructure development, the resolution of land issues and a supportive investment climate are also needed.

30Maintaining and improving access, both external and internal. Developing a human resource programme to provide sufficient well-trained staff, increase levels of professionalism and enhance tourism awareness in the villages.Enabling the sustainable growth of tourism by identifying and managing the impacts of tourism, particularly specific areas of fa’aSamoa sensitivity and environmental pressure points. Developing an appropriate institutional framework to support the activities of government agencies and the private sector.

31It was also recognized that tourism development in Samoa would be affected by broader environmental conditions, within the country and elsewhere, over which the Samoan tourist industry might have little influence but whose impact they would need to recognize and react to. Internal factors here include the absence of tropical cyclones and dengue fever and the presence of political and economic stability. Broader external uncertainties were seen to result from a volatile civil aviation environment, regional and international instability and economic conditions in the major markets.

32Particular attention was also given to the question of what forms of tourism should be developed in Samoa, that is what forms are the most appropriate and what is the right product/market mix for the country. Previous development had been limited by a lack of clarity regarding the destination’s product and image (Pearce, 2000). Market analysis and resource evaluation indicated that Samoa was best placed to compete as a destination offering a combination of opportunities for culture, nature, adventure and coastal tourism underpinned by the distinctive elements of the fa’aSamoa rather than in promoting any one form of tourism alone. Small to medium operations were seen to be most appropriate given levels and types of market demand, availability of investment capital and social, cultural and environmental considerations. For similar reasons accommodation would continue to be concentrated in Apia but with the development of attractions and activities, small scale accommodation and supporting services being located in five designated coastal areas on Upolu and Savaii.

33The plan also advocates a move away form the product led process of development to a much more balanced approach that matches demand and supply and takes account of the diverse impacts tourism may have. There is also a call for developing a common vision and fostering better coordination among stakeholders in order to avoid the fragmentation of effort that had characterized much previous development. Scope was seen for the participation of a wide range of stakeholders in the development process, including Samoan developers and entrepreneurs, expatriates and foreign investors, more community participation and a continuing role for Government.

34The core strategy by which these issues might be addressed was summarized as ‘a Focused Future’. Samoa was recognized as having the potential for further growth but for this to occur a much more concentrated and coordinated approach is needed, with an emphasis on getting the basics right. As in other small, developing countries, limited resources cannot be dissipated by a lack of focus whether in terms of core functions, product development, marketing or interdepartmental activity. Supporting this core strategy, six thematic strategies were formulated to provide this more focused approach in terms of marketing, product development, institutional strengthening, human resource development, impact management and land, infrastructure, business and investment. For example, the central thrust of the marketing strategy is to raise levels of awareness in selected markets and to develop a stronger image of Samoa based on the combination of opportunities outlined above, all underpinned by the fa’aSamoa. That on product development aims first and foremost to upgrade and extend the attractions and activities while also making provision for increased accommodation and ensuring accessibility, both external and internal. As these strategies essentially take a national perspective, an area development strategy was also prepared to outline what needs to be done in the six key tourism development areas, including Apia, where development will be concentrated geographically. The area strategy was particularly aimed at increasing village participation in the development process and was presented in a practical format consisting of a set of checklists relating to the theme, stakeholders, issues, opportunities and possible solutions for each area. Each strategy was accompanied by a list of specific recommendations, with a total of 61 recommendations resulting from the plan. Finally, these strategies are all brought together in an action programme that outlines on a year-by-year basis the necessary actions needed to implement them over the plan period.


35As the broader literature and the case of Samoa have shown, tourism development raises many issues for small tropical islands. One way of identifying and tackling these issues is to take a ‘question-asking’ approach to tourism planning. This chapter has outlined a methodology for how this might be carried out. In the case of Samoa four major questions were identified in large part from a series of more specific but open questions systematically directed at a wide range of stakeholders during the inception phase (Table 2). These were essentially ‘what’ type questions. Input into the strategies for tackling these issues was then derived in a further round of consultation from a second set of questions which emphasized more the ‘how’ dimension of tourism development (Tables, 3, 4 and 5). This high level of local participation in the planning process was nevertheless balanced by the consultants’ structured analysis and evaluation of complementary data and information for all technical inputs did not emerge from the consultation process and planning expertise was required to integrate the often varying views and disparate material obtained. Local participation is invaluable in plan preparation but by itself is insufficient.

36While the strategies outlined are specific to Samoa, the four broader issues raised here have a more general application. Planners in all destinations would do well to consider explicitly at the outset just how much tourism development is desirable and feasible. Should further development be sought, and in some cases it may not be, then utilization of Gunn’s (1988) notion of a hierarchy of dependency is a fruitful way to proceed as it clarifies what the key factors are which need to be addressed in subsequent strategies. Finally, the diversity of possible forms of tourism and processes of development needs to be recognized if the most appropriate path forward is to be followed and if the generalized mass ‘sun sand sea’ model of tourism is not to be adopted by default.

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Titre Figure 1. Samoa: location and place names
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Douglas G. Pearce, « Tourism planning in small tropical islands: methodological considerations and development issues in Samoa »Études caribéennes [En ligne], 9-10 | Avril-Août 2008, mis en ligne le 15 août 2008, consulté le 19 avril 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Douglas G. Pearce

Professor of Tourism Management in the Victoria Management School, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

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