"Pure and unspoiled" Samoa hangs on fiercely to its native culture. Its hospitality industry relies primarily on small, boutique resorts that have not altered the island’s sense of place. All is not perfect, however. Irresponsible fishing jeopardizes the health of offshore reefs, and the country's tourism infrastructure has not yet fully recovered from last year's tsunami.
Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:
"Samoa is more than another island destination—it is a way of life. Every visitor becomes aware of this upon visiting a fale—the local version of an open beach house. Accommodation development along the coast has largely been in line with the local architecture. There are very few large resorts on the island."
"Fa'a Samoa (the Samoan Way) is very strong. Tourists who do not conform to traditional values (e.g. dressing modestly in public places) will encounter problems. It is reaching a turning point in development. Will it follow the casino and big-hotel route that Fiji has followed? Or, will it work to protect and enhance its superb natural environment and strong sense of tradition? These questions have yet to be answered."
"I was in Upolu Island last year, two months after the tsunami hit the country. The tourism sector was badly hurt and is still in the process of recovery. The high dependence on imported diesel for power production is a major hindrance to sustainable tourism development. The country should seriously investigate using renewable energy."
"Overfishing is endangering reefs and various marine species. Poor infrastructure hinders improvements to education and conservation."