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Ketesemane Sefo: Continuing Se’eti Beach Fale Traditions

Samoa Country Magazine takes a closer look at the stories behind the resilient people in Samoa’s tourism industry who have been most affected by the downturn in tourism due to the global pandemic.

The iconic Beach Fale’s of Samoa allow visitors to go deep into the rural areas where otherwise they would not be able to experience traditional village life and enjoy the country’s hidden gems. They are also an important source of income and employment for families and the communities who live in remote areas away from the main business district of Samoa.

As the youngest of six siblings, 26-year-old Ketesemane Fanoga Sefo or ‘Mane’ has been working in the family owned Se’eti Beach Fales located in Falealupo-tai, where some of Savaii’s most stunning beaches are found. Here he talks about the humble beginnings of their business and the strong bonds of ‘āiga (family) that keep the business going and improving despite the impact of Covid-19. This is his story.

Growing up, we lived in Apia before we moved here to my Dad’s village of Falealupo. At first we created an outdoor eatery in 2013 so that tourists could have a taste of home-made island food. We then added 3 fales and one unisex bathroom but there was no kitchen or in-house dining.

Since then we slowly grew the business and today we still have very simple accommodation but there have been many changes to make our guests comfortable.

When I was at school, I studied economics but I chose to stay behind to help better and build up our family business. I didn’t study tourism in school but most of what I cook and prepare are all my own creations, I enjoy using my imagination to make everything well-presented and beautiful for our guests.

I attend a lot of Savaii Samoa Tourism Association trainings which helped me gain more knowledge and understanding about my role on the beach fales. I was given an opportunity to go to China for three months to learn more about tourism and hospitality and I gained ideas on how to better what I do for our family business.

I always find ways to get better at what I do for my family and to help boost my family’s business because this is our livelihood. I am the youngest of six siblings and before Covid hit there would always be three of us working here at the beach fales.

All the food is freshly harvested by my mum and sister. My dad is a fisherman so he provides fresh fish everyday that I cook and serve for our guests. I write up the menu with what we have in stock, when you live this far out from town you become very resourceful and understand that self-reliance for food is quite important.

The name Se’eti Beach Fales comes from an old family story about how this unique beach cove was formed. The tale goes that an elderly man was swept back and forth by strong winds between the sand and sea which formed a channel and an islet. The name Se’eti comes from the word “Se’e” (to be swept).

It’s a story that has been told through the many generations of our family and my dad understood and learned of what it meant from his aunty who already had a sign with the name Se’eti so we named the Beach Fales after the legend to revive and keep the story alive.

My parents mean the world to me and running this business under their direction and guidance is a way for me to honour them for all their hard work in providing for our family. My father is a fisherman and my mother is a vegetable farmer; both of them are my main advisers for what I need to improve in our business to make it more attractive, welcoming and comfortable for our guests.

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