When you are in the Philippines, finding a good pizza can be a challenge. In many places, you can be left with Pizza Hut, Greenwich or Shakey’s. However, S&R, the Filipino answer to CostCo has a growing network of pizza restaurant in malls around the country. It is a step up in the world of pizza.
I know that I am going to get some heat for this but I am going to say it: Filipino food sucks. I do not know why but it just does. It might be a step up from Cambodia but that is a pretty low bar. However, one food in the Philippines that I do like is their roasted chicken or locally known as Lechon Manok.
Recently, the government of Samoa kicked out Virgin Australia from using the airport because the government is planning to revive the Samoa Air brand with Polynesia Airlines. The problem with this thinking is they killed the old airline for a reason and those same problem exist but that is a different discussion, I guess.
At the center of the problem is the corruption that is common in Samoa. It seems that the big issue is that the government did not feel they was making enough money off the former partnership with Virgin Australia. They wanted to try and revive the old brand so they could make more of the money. It is also worth noting there is believed to be up to a millions dollars in unpaid fuel used by the government that should be payable to Virgin.
However, the focus of the government is what makes them a buck in the here and now and that means trying to do a move that forces people to use the new developing airline from Samoa. It really does not make sense on many level but Samoa is known to defy logic in their political dealings on a regular basis.
This is a developing story as much of the details are being guarded by the government to not make themselves look worse than they already do.
What happened to Virgin Australia
They use to fly to Apia from Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland. Well, that was until this week when Samoa ban them from landing at the airport for what seems to be no reason whatsoever. The contract for the partnership ended but that would convert to Virgin being just another airline competing in a market? Well, the government does not seem to like that or a free market for that matter.
In the end, the foreign affairs of Australia had to try and get involved to talk some logic into their counterparts about banning the main airline serving the route. It seems in the end they did get flight to Sydney and Brisbane restored or what in the process of getting them restored over the next few days.
However, Samoa refused at all request to restore the service from Auckland. The reasoning is that the new airline will be flying there. The fact that this is protectionism and against the very fiber of free market capitalism does not seem to matter.
This is concerning because the national airline of Samoa has a history of not working. Well, airlines in general have a history of failing there. I have personally flown on Inter Island Air and Samoa Air, both of which do not operate today. What happens when these airlines fails and Virgin is not serving the route?
Just as much as the government wants a monopoly on the route, Air New Zealand does as well. So when this airlines folds, Samoa just gave the national airline of New Zealand a free pass for a monopoly on already expensive flights. Good job, Samoa!
What about the passengers?
As you can think, they are being told they can’t go to Samoa on Virgin Australia and most of them are being picked up by Fiji Airways with a stop over in Nadi. It might not be in the end of the world as Fiji as a great stop over but it does add a few hours to the travel on both ends.
This just does not make sense for a country that is struggling to get tourist to start with to make a decision that makes it even harder for people to come to the islands. It was a douche move and I hope at some point the Samoans wake up to what is happening. The government there is destroying its’ own tourism sector.
This is addition to the increase in terminal fees that the government requires currently. Nickel and diming the tourist to death will not help increase arrivals to the country. Ban whole airlines from landing will directly affect the arrivals numbers for sure.
What is seems that the government misses is that each one of their places had 100 people coming to spend a week in Samoa. If each of them spend $1,000 on average; that is about $100,000 into the Samoan economy and about $15,000 of that will end up in the government accounts for taxation. They literally just shot themselves in the foot here.
I am sure many of them will just go to Fiji now or they will just cancel the trip all together. I full understand the anger of many of the passengers.
Fixing the Samoa Tourism Authority is more critical
The Samoa Tourism Authority is completely broken and ran by people who know little about actual tourism. This is why the country is being overlooked by people that end up in Fiji and French Polynesia. I would think addressing the good ole boy system at the tourism fale on the bay would be far more critical than trying to piss off a major airline and indirectly putting pressure on a major trade partner. I want to be very clear. The tourism authority in Samoa is broken!
Among its sin is the pay for play system they operate with small tourism operators. They basically have tried to force families with beach fales business to book through them and are taken 20% (and sometimes more) from them for “admin fees.” It is not really helping tourism but actually hurting them. $20 out of $100 can be huge for a family with a few fales on the beach in Savaii. It has been rumored for years they are making these families sign non competitive agreements as well so they can’t get up on Agoda and Hostel World. (However, recently some of them have started to show up on these online platforms)
The reason that tourism board in Samoa has been able to operate like this is because the people in control have powerful ties to the ruling government party for the last thirty years. The real need is for the ministry of tourism to operate in connection with the government but not as a ministry itself.
I hope this help people understand what is happening.
The Philippines is known for places like Boracay, Bohol and of course, Palawan. However, the country has some other amazing places off the beaten path if you want to venture out and find them. As someone who has been about everywhere (besides Batanes), I want to give you seven places you might think of trying where you are not just a walking ATM card.
Many people look at me and think I am just another guy. I might seem a little odd to a few but to most, I am just another nomad. However, what most do not know is that I have a medical disability. I am 100% disabled according to the US Government due to Epilepsy. I have a seizure disorder and hardly anyone knows about it until something goes wrong.
Calling the Pacific can be quite pricy. While sometimes, using applications like Skype can save you some money, the truth is that calling the Islands is still going to cost you a pretty penny in many cases.
Travel the Fire is a website committed to helping people travel to the Ring of Fire and nothing is changing but the road has seemed to come to an end. I have traveled in some pretty far out places like Tuvalu and Kirbati. I have lived in American Samoa and Fiji. I love the islands and being in the islands has been the adventure of my life.
However, there has been two events that had shaped the road ahead for the website and I want to make that clear to all the readers. I also want to tell you what is coming to the website in the future. That is the least I owe the people who have followed this project. That includes over 3,000 people on Facebook and just under 5,000 people on the mailing list.
Out of the gate, I am a disabled American. I am not sitting in some home because of it. However, the issue of decent medical care has become a major issue and this is something that just downright sucks in the Pacific. The best hospital in the Pacific is the world hospitals in America. I need to be close to quality doctors and that is just not an option.
The options for a good doctor are to live in Tokyo, Hong Kong or Singapore if I want to be in the region. Having high quality neurologists is a requirement that I have at this point and that rules out living in most of the Pacific region, including the Philippines. Literally. it is either Hong Kong or Tokyo. Both of these options are very expensive for daily life.
The second issue is related to an American that took the liberty to insult the youth of America claiming that 90% of them could not survive 72 hours. This is not factual and even the most liberal stats put majority of our youth with scouting skills. However, for someone to even believe this, especially someone who is former military, is concerning. Last Kodiak is my response to this challenge.
What is the future of Travel the Fire!
It is not likely that there will much new content coming as long as I am out of the Pacific. It is possible that something in the news cycle needs to talk about, such as when American Samoa changed the visa rules for Australians. Otherwise, there will not be new content as I will not be in the region to review things and tell you how to do this or that anymore.
I will continue to work on making it a better website and getting the domain to preform better in search engines. The domain authority of Travel the Fire has over 150% in the last 90 days! I expect that to continue.
The other issue is when I do visit the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii; I will update the website with new adventures and stories. Given that I work with several missionary groups in the region, visits from time to time are very likely.
What will become of the Facebook page, group and mailing list?
This is a logical question and one I think deserve an answer. The short answer is I will keep them and use them for Last Kodiak as much of the vision is similar, just a different niche. I understand that we will see a few hundred people leave the mailing list but that is fine. In fact, I expect it to happen. However, the bulk of the thousands will enjoy the new direction, I am positive.
If there is a question about this, I don’t mind the discussion about it. I thought this would be best as that will be where I am most active in the coming months. As I said, this website will be mainly dormant and used just for historical purposes.
Is blogging about the Pacific profitable?
One of the harsh realities about running a blog is that at some point, it needs to become profitable. The money that comes in from Adsense and affliate marketing is good but I could not live on it. One day, adsense had a $54.00 payout. That sounds great and you might be saying that that is over $1,600 a month. It would be but most days are closer to $5 than $50 for the website.
Part of the issue is that Adsense is based on cookies and location. If you are in the Philippines searching for something in the Philippines, the ads served up will be related to the Philippines that is a low paying market. Mainly, ads based in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom pay much better than ads served from Asia and the Pacific.
It just makes sense that blogging about the United States would attract more readers from the United States. More readers that are American will result is more traffic from ads related to the United States and that become better pay days from Google Adsense. It is just logical business sense to focus where the money is, not where you want it to be.
If you are needing to get around Metro Manila from the old Manila area out to the Las Pina (Alabang) past the airport, using the PNR (train system) in the Philippines is an option for you. Philippine National Railroad has been gutted but it still does run one route every hour until really late.
A question that people ask a lot is about to travel from the airport in Tokyo to the airport in Osaka. The reason being that most airlines from the United States and Europe serve Tokyo but most of the regional airlines use the Osaka airport in the south. The good news is that Cebu Pacific Air and Air Asia are now adding directly flights to Tokyo so this trip might be a thing of the past.
Several months ago, I wrote about Lotus Garden Hotel in Ermita, Manila had one of the best breakfast buffet in Manila. However, this article will replace that and no matter of good cooking will excuse what this blog is about. Customer Service is the worst I have ever experience in all of the Philippines.