Tourism Talanoa: Commemorating World Tourism Day

Tourism Talanoa: Commemorating World Tourism Day

FHTA, 24 September 2020

Since 1980, World Tourism Day has been celebrated on September 27 by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
While 2020 might not have given us much reason to celebrate in the tourism industry, this Sunday, the global tourism family will quietly commemorate the occasion and continue with our post-COVID planning.
Tourism has been the hardest hit sector by the current health crisis, and it has truly been a global event as no country, regardless of size, has been unaffected.
The border closures and an immediate drop in demand for travel led to new lows in international tourism numbers, which has then affected entire economies and employment figures.
UNWTO states that the global tourism sector has been a major source of employment because of its labour-intensive nature and the flow-on effect on employment in related sectors. It accounts for one in ten jobs worldwide.
Industry experts have estimated that just one job in the core tourism sector creates about one-and-a-half additional or indirect jobs in the tourism-related economy.
The sections that have been hit the hardest have been women, youth and informal workers who have seen their employment or income avenues dry up due to tourism sector job losses and business closures due to the pandemic, that was brought to the fore when countries shut their borders and planes stopped flying.
The chosen theme for 2020 is “Tourism and Rural Development” and will highlight the unique role that tourism plays in providing opportunities outside of the usual hotspots and preserving cultural and natural heritage.
Fiji’s geography and economic forces have moulded the way many of our tourism businesses, especially resort operators have implemented sustainable measures into their operations.
Business ventures in eco-tourism have increased, the inclusion of visitor activities that showcase our marine biodiversity and ways to contribute to its protection have become part of the normal offerings for holidaymakers looking to make a difference or be more interactive with nature.
Small farms and gardens that supplement many resorts fresh produce sources have been the norm for years now, as has recycling waste, water, and the widespread use of renewable energy. Understanding that how you look after your environment reinforces your business’s longer-term sustainability is widely accepted and coupled with reducing overhead costs makes it even more practical.
Other “return to nature” experiences like volunteering for community and school projects in the outer islands or rural areas, exploratory inland walking and biking treks, river rafting, zip-lining through forests and “unplugging” in remotely located ecolodges without Wi-Fi and phone connections are just some of the many new tourism offerings that have gained increasing popularity for Fiji.
These impact the economy in other less noticeable ways like encouraging small locally owned businesses, providing employment to informal workers in the rural areas, while allowing widespread benefits to communities in these areas; thereby spreading that tourism dollar even further.
While tourism is recognised worldwide as being one of the fastest-growing sectors that can provide an indispensable economic boost for holiday destinations, it has also been known historically to have devastating effects on the environment, people and their cultural identities.
Being especially cognizant therefore to find a balance through sustainable tourism calls for a variety of best practices to be observed. Conserving resources and protecting biodiversity, respecting and preserving our community cultures whilst looking for ways to benefit them, and responding to our visitor needs and the industry as a whole while providing the maximum socio-economic benefits for the whole country is the most recognised of these.
Wildlife conservation initiatives around the world and closer to home; marine protection programs have come under threat because of the fall in tourism earnings, the usual visitor support and tourism staff involvement that has cut off the funding for the biodiversity conservation.
With livelihoods at risk in and around protected areas, cases of poaching and looting of protected species and nurseries are expected to rise.
This World Tourism Day, FHTA urges the Fiji tourism family to rethink the future of our tourism sector and in particular how it contributes to the sustainable development goals of the country, through its social, cultural, political, and economic values.
No entity is just another tourism business, whatever your business might be. As an industry we are connected and complex; a supporting network that contributes individually and collectively to the economy.
If there’s one thing that tourism can do, it is that it can eventually help the country move beyond the pandemic, by bringing people together and promoting solidarity and trust – crucial ingredients in advancing the global cooperation so urgently needed during these trying times.
This year’s international day of observation comes at a critical time, as countries around the world look to tourism to drive recovery, including in rural communities where the sector is a leading employer and economic pillar providing jobs and opportunity, most notably for women and youth.
It comes as communities in rural areas also struggle with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Especially as these communities are usually much less prepared to deal with the short and longer-term impacts of the crisis.
However, Fiji and many of our Pacific Island neighbours, have had a far better experience than other communities in developing countries around the world that have lost a critical economic lifeline in tourism.
With unparalleled access to fertile land and surrounded by oceans teeming with marine life, even with borders shut and higher unemployment, we have been able to sustain ourselves with what we have or by helping out one another as island people usually do.
UNWTO estimates that by 2050, 68% of the world population will live in urban areas, while 80% of those currently living in ‘extreme poverty’ live outside of towns and cities.
But with Fiji’s communal living framework, we can work together to ensure that estimation does not happen here.
Tourism is a lifeline, offering workers a chance to earn a living where they live, or get a skill and use it to travel further for a richer experience.
We can use this World Tourism Day to reflect on the work that has been done in the past and continue to put our heads together, to work collectively towards making Fiji the destination of choice.
We deserve to be on top of travellers’ wish lists and it’s up to us to prove to them that they were right to choose us.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 24 September 2020)

Tourism Talanoa: The Tourism Experts

Tourism Talanoa: The Tourism Experts

FHTA, 17 September 2020

Alice Springs in the heart of Australia’s “red centre” is becoming famous for another reason now. The dry climate and low humidity have made it an ideal location for the many aircraft needing to be “parked” to wait out the coronavirus pandemic. With Singapore Airlines recently adding 4 of its A380’s to the many Boeing MAX 8’s there since last year, the estimated $5billion worth of aircraft from around the world, wait in the arid, preserving air for when demand for air travel will take off again.
It is difficult for many to appreciate just how far-reaching the implications of the pandemic is on air travel with government restrictions continuing to decimate passenger demand and force potential travellers to cancel or reschedule trips for the foreseeable future.
Few industries are scrambling to adapt quite like the travel industry, which relies on the regular, safe, and unencumbered movement of people for business and pleasure. In many countries, borders remain closed, cities are still locking down every time infections appear to be getting out of hand, making it especially hard to anticipate how people will move around in the future.
According to the latest data, air travel is down 95%, at least half the world’s aircraft are grounded, famously busy international airports have had no passengers pass through their doors, and worldwide, airlines are estimated to be losing US1.6billion a day.
But it’s not all bad news apparently, with the travel experts predicting all sorts of new trends, industry pundits weighing in with their own theories and no doubt Governments around the world struggling to cope with the economic, medical and political fallouts, simply wanting it all to be over. We all do. Apart from the standard cargo runs that never really stopped, several European airlines have begun commercial operations and although passenger numbers have predictably plummeted, global air traffic volume has seen a steady climb to about 50 per cent of what it was last year.
Flight tracker FlightAware has indicated that in 2019, there was an average of 104,132 flights in a day around the world. As of last month, that daily flight’s figure is currently at 54,308 and that number is growing.
As consumer confidence slowly rebuilds to pre-COVID levels, the race for the vaccine speeds up with pressure building around the belief that most travellers will only truly feel comfortable if there is a vaccine available.
Experts have said that it could be years before such a vaccine is found and circulated globally so, in the interim, the world is having to plan to live with the virus sustainably.
International Airline Group, the parent company of British Airways and Aer Lingus, forecasts that the industry will take a few years to fully recover and their CEO Willie Walsh thinks it will be closer to 2023 which he says is a reasonable forecast while admitting that “this is unlike anything we’ve seen before”.
Travel writers have pitched in with trends supporting staycations (domestic tourism) where travelling without a passport will be preferred over travelling with a passport. There are also forecasts predicting a yearning for open spaces, support for environmental initiatives and all things nature based on a world tired of lockdowns and restrictions.
And where older generations might be wary of immediate travel, there are those that believe millennial travellers will be first to test the new travel requirements.
There is consensus on a few areas though for how things will change. These include that a growing number of countries will promote “travel bubbles” and “corona corridors” as first steps to jumpstart air travel and tourism. These measures involve agreements with neighbouring regions that allow for travel across borders for non-essential trips without quarantining upon arrival. Fiji is looking into these as well, or versions thereof.
Most agree that the vast majority of travellers will need to feel confident the destinations they are travelling to are safe and the companies taking care of them are trustworthy and meet international safety standards. Along with effective contact tracing platforms and reduced or contactless service and touchpoints, crowds and crowded areas will be avoided or minimized as unfortunately for cruise liners, travellers will continue to be wary of travel in confined spaces.
Many also agree that the 14-day quarantine requirements will be an issue for travellers, with airlines around the world monitoring the situation with a magnifying glass and admitting an addiction-like fascination with the numbers of cases every day and wondering when the flow-on effects will be felt by other industries.
This is true even for us in Fiji. While the tourism hot spots like Nadi, the Coral Coast and even further North are reeling from the lack of tourism revenue, most of the other cities and towns have not really felt the economic brunt of the global recession.
While this is being mitigated with FNPF access and Government’s assistance as announced in the National Budget 2020/2021, how long can this assistance last and is it sustainable in the long term as we settle in to wait out the rest of the year?
Our own Fiji Airways continues to prepare for a revised network plan, which will be revealed when the easing of border restrictions is announced. They are also progressing with the implementation of their Travel Ready program, that details measures to safeguard the health and medical safety of their customers and staff when international flying resumes.
Despite the many expert predictions, some things are worth keeping in mind.
Firstly, that seeing as this is our first ever pandemic, there are no actual precedents so no one is a real expert which means we might as well be positive, plan our comeback well and hope for the best.
Secondly, tourism needs a national airline to be strong and ready to get those planes out of mothballs or those arid deserts at the first sign of borders lifting, bubbles agreed to and bookings confirmed. The downside of not having a national airline is that we would have to rely on an international airline seeing the merit of scheduling flights to Fiji that will not be based on Fiji’s economic benefit taking precedent. Fiji would be a stopover and not the hub for the Pacific it currently is. Our imports and exports would be slower, impacting other industries that rely on accessibility to international markets, same-day deliveries as well as lucrative commerce and trade partnerships.
So, let us all get behind our national airline with the same national pride we had when those planes were flying in the thousands of visitors, friends and families because we will need them to do that again very soon. And our way, the Fijian way; has always been to offer a hand when one is down, not kick him.
The tourism industry is down but definitely not out. Not by any means. It is hurting badly but still extremely busy consulting, discussing and planning its way out of this. Our unemployed staff need understanding and support. The thousands of businesses and supply chains and SME’s and communities that tourism has supported for decades will not disappear. They too need understanding and support.
Fiji needs tourism. And right now, every tourism worker, tourism business and supplier that set up their business because of tourism, needs Fiji’s support. Because Fiji needs tourism.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 17 September 2020)

Tourism Talanoa: FHTA Holds Historic 55th AGM

Tourism Talanoa: FHTA Holds Historic 55th AGM

FHTA, 27 August 2020 – The global headlines in the 1960s were dominated by the Vietnam War, the assassinations of the US President John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King and the first man on the moon.
Here in Fiji, amongst other things, the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association also came into being during these historic mid-Sixties.

Originally established to look after the interests of hotel operators, the Association has grown from strength to strength as the country’s premier tourism body that has lent its membership’s collective voice in support of the evolution of the industry as Fiji’s strongest foreign exchange earner, tourism’s exponential growth, related infrastructure development and recognition of the iconic Fiji brand.

An integral part of the industry now; the Association continues to lobby and advocate for its membership interests that progress opportunities and investments through reviewing the ease of doing business and provides consultative input on the cost of doing business in a rapidly developing pacific island country .

In the mid-2000s, membership was opened up to Dive operators and a few years later, Marine operators and eventually Yachting became a part of the Association to embrace the diversified segments that operated under the tourism umbrella.

The membership ranks also include Associate members who are indirectly part of the tourism chain as a supplier or distributor significantly influenced by tourism businesses, their employees, trends and infrastructure.

Later this afternoon (Thursday 27th August), FHTA convenes its Annual General Meeting on Denarau Island in Nadi. This will be the 55th AGM in FHTA’s history, making this our Emerald anniversary; one of several firsts that this AGM will mark.

It will be the first time in 21 years of consistent annual AGM’s that FHTA’s President of 16 years and much-loved mentor will not be gracing with his presence, having left us a year ago with his untimely passing. Dixon Seeto was a titan in the tourism sector with a wealth of experience and fortitude that was immeasurable and still missed.

It will also be the first time that an AGM will be attended via Zoom as well as in person, during a historical and unprecedented time when the tourism industry is in a forced hiatus. And yet, in contrast to how hiatus’ generally go, this one has not only gone on now for almost 6 months, and quite likely to continue for a further 6 months, it has been anything but quiet. Instead, it has also been a time of consistent adjustment, transformation and forced pivoting for the entire industry.

There has never been a time historically, where while negligible or no income is possible, that businesses have had to review their human resource needs, restructure and amend strategic plans, reconsider products and services and plan for the adoption and implementation of new hygiene practices and marketing strategies.

As the global travel lockdown persists, tourism around the world has been affected and Fiji, being so reliant on it, has been spared the tragic health repercussions but has fared no better than everyone else economically.

During FHTA’s historic AGM, we will vote in new and dynamic members to join our board to lend their expertise and diverse backgrounds to steering the industry back to the pinnacle of what private sector as the engine of economic growth must continue to be.

Creating jobs, increasing trade, providing products and services and generating required tax revenue to fund basic public services such as health and education.

COVID-19 might have thrown us all for a loop and businesses may not be the same again for a long time. We understand implicitly how severely our members and their employees have been impacted and will be working with all of them to implement the new normal of COVID Safe standards expected around the world to instil the levels of confidence needed by potential visitors to confirm travel when the world opens up for travel again.

We continue our consultations and discussions with the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport and the Ministry of Health & Medical Services to set the standard for Fiji’s new health guidelines in terms of what is expected of all tourism operators in the country. It is difficult and often complicated work, but people’s livelihoods depend on the new framework being approved, implemented and in operation as quickly as logistically possible.

Our economy depends on getting these practices becoming second nature in our places of work, homes and public spaces. As does the alignment of the new marketing strategies also being developed and planned concurrently by the national airline and all tourism operators keen to be first cabs off the rank when those borders open.

We also continue our collaborations and consultations with the Ministries of Fisheries, the Maritime Safety Authority (MSAF), Ministry of Transport and the Land Transport Authority (LTA), Investment Fiji, the Immigration Department, the Department of Environment, the Fiji Revenue & Customs services (FRCS), the Fiji Higher Education Commission, USP, FNU, the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC), the Fiji Commerce & Employers Federation (FCEF), Fiji Competition & Consumer Commission (FCCC), the Consumer Council, the Accident Compensation Commission Fiji (ACCF) Fiji Airways, Tourism Fiji, Society of Fiji Travel Associates (SOFTA), South Pacific Travel Organisation (SPTO), Fiji Independent Travel & Backpackers Association (FITBA), Airports Fiji Ltd, the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, the Employment Relations Advisory Board, the various legal fraternity, the Unions, the Ministry of Economy and Departments of Energy and Communications, EFL and Water Authority, the iTaukei Land Trust Board, the Fiji Bureau of Statistics (FBoS), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), ADB, the Reserve Bank of Fiji and the Association of Banks in Fiji (ABIF), the many High Commissions and foreign embassies.

These are just some of the many platforms the Association meets with to navigate tourism’s business processes, obtain legislation clarity or amendments, or develop partnership programs and support with.

FHTA continues to work on understanding what the changing key membership priorities and challenges are in the current economic environment to enable the most advantageous partnerships and cooperation for viable and sustainable solutions.

We will remember Dixon’s timeless legacy by ensuring we continue to work towards that which he had the most passion – “it was good for tourism only if the whole economy benefitted”; a conviction that defined who he was and one that we continue to support with the same passion.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 27 August 2020

Tourism Talanoa: Planning For Opening of Borders

Tourism Talanoa: Planning For Opening of Borders

FHTA, 10 September 2020 – Our Blue Lanes have resulted in a positive turnout with 62 yachts of various sizes choosing to take advantage of one of Fiji’s COVID Safe economic Recovery initiatives implemented on 01 August 2020.
Port Denarau Marina has reported many yachts and pleasure craft sailing into the harbour to quarantine themselves for the balance of the required 14 days if the sailing time was shorter and the Marina team have indicated that there were likely to be more vessels due to pass through in the coming weeks.

While the quarantine period remains at 14 days, the good news for sailors is that travel time from your destination is counted in that period provided you had uninterrupted travel from your departing port. Many visitors, with the means, have taken advantage of this offer to berth and enjoy Fiji’s currently quiet cooler season.

With the cyclone season in the Pacific looming, however, yacht owners will have the added challenge of being able to move from Fiji to Australia or New Zealand to wait out the season in time as insurance cover becomes invalid if a vessel remains in a recognised cyclone area anywhere in the world.

One of the required documents that visitors must bring with them is a negative RT-PCR test for COVID-19 from an official laboratory.

RT-PCR stands for Reverse Transcription s- Polymerase Chain Reaction. It is a method for detecting the presence of specific genetic material in any pathogen, including a virus.

The test detects the genetic information of the virus, the Ribonucleic acid, which is only possible if the virus is present and someone is actively infected.

It is not yet clear how long an immunity period after a Covid-19 infection will be.

Research shows that those who survived the 2003 sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak had antibodies in their blood for years after recovery.

Both SARS and COVID-19 are caused by coronaviruses, but it is unknown whether COVID-19 will generate a similar immune response. There have also been some cases where people have been infected twice with COVID, meaning these patients did not develop any immunity at all.

So right now, the world waits with bated breath for scientists, as one portion races to find a vaccine while another portion studies the genetics of the COVID virus to find out more about it and its legacy.

It seems so long ago that Fiji made the tough decision of closing the borders at the end of March but the focus on keeping the Fijian population safe has remained steadfast.

The tourism industry understands implicitly that we will be ready for visitors when we are sure we can continue to keep our people and our communities safe.

It is not difficult to understand therefore that discussions with New Zealand and Australia about committing to any Bubble talks, Bula or otherwise, maybe still some time away.

We know that more than 75 per cent of visitors to Fiji in 2019 were from New Zealand and Australia and with tourism’s multiplier effect throughout the economy, there is a heavy reliance on these markets from all sectors. All the more reason, therefore, that the industry is fine-tuning its efforts on COVID safe guidelines and practices and the concerted efforts to establish visitor confidence as part of a comprehensive safe opening strategy.

With cautious optimism building for when those borders eventually get opened, preparations are also underway for the Fiji Airway’s led Bula Bubble Campaign and the competitive holiday packages they will develop and oversee with tourism partners.

Fundamental to these initiatives being considered is the adoption and practice of the COVID safe guidelines, the competitive value for money packages being offered and the acceptance and practicality of how the VIP Lanes will operate.

What is equally essential is the training of our tourism workers in the new normal and the support of the entire industry and supply chains.

FHTA is currently working on a standard document regarding new COVID-safe operation guidelines for the industry, that is a collaborative effort with Tourism Fiji and the Ministries of Tourism and Health & Medical Services. All aspects are being reviewed, including the required commitment from tourism operators, staff and Wellness Ambassadors training, supply chains involvement and adherence to expected protocols and enhanced Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) for everyone involved.

It is clearly understood by all of tourism’s many segments – accommodation, air, land and sea transport, activities, tours, restaurants, and bars; that every facet of a visitor’s journey must be covered.

Critical to this is our tourism workers’ health and wellness and ensuring that we maintain our newly adopted standards so that we can continue to keep our communities and our people safe.

It is one thing to have the framework guideline in place and it is another thing to see that it really is being committed to, enforced and practised; so here too FHTA will be working with our partners and the authorities to make sure that all of this is widely practised and adhered to.

There must be no room for complacency and there will be absolutely no acceptance of excuses for why anyone in the industry has not adopted, accepted and is ready to practice the new guidelines when they are rolled out.

It has been mentioned in our many Tourism Talanoa columns in previous months, and we say it again – we can only achieve this through collaboration and teamwork.

Because together, Fiji can do this.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 10 September 20207

Tourism Talanoa: Our New Board

Tourism Talanoa: Our New Board

FHTA, 3 September 2020 – 2020 marks the 55th year in operation for the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA), making this year our Emerald anniversary.

After being delayed due to the current pandemic, our Annual General Meeting finally took place on Thursday 27 August, in line with our FHTA Constitution and following consultations with the Registrar of Companies regarding the timeframe for AGMs.

The highlight of every AGM is the election of members to the FHTA Board of Directors. After several departures in 2019 and earlier this year some through contracts ending and some departures totally unexpected, there were eventually nine open director vacancies during the 55th FHTA AGM.

The AGM paid a fitting tribute to tourism icon and past President Dixon Seeto whose notable absence since his untimely passing last year was felt by all who knew and worked with him. This somber reminder was echoed in the address from Association Life Member, Hafiz Khan, who fondly recalled Dixon’s vast experience and deep passion that was always available to guide and steer the industry.

The full board of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association for 2020-2021 are as follows:

  • Allan Gortan – representing Paradise Taveuni Resort
  • Azam Khan – representing Hexagon Group of Hotels (Hexagon International Hotel Villas & Spa, Suva Motor Inn)
  • Bradley Robinson – representing Raffe Hotels & Resorts (Lomani Island Resort, Fiji Gateway Hotel, Plantation Island Resort)
  • Brian Kirsch – representing Robinson Crusoe Island Resort
  • Francis Lee – representing Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa
  • Lachlan Walker – representing Intercontinental Hotel Group (Holiday Inn, Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa)
  • Narend Kumar – representing Tanoa Hotel Group (Tanoa Plaza Hotel, Tanoa International Hotel, Tanoa Apartments, Tanoa Skylodge Hotel, Tanoa Waterfront Hotel, Tanoa Rakiraki Hotel)
  • Neeraj Chadha – representing Marriott International Inc (Sheraton Fiji Resort, Sheraton Denarau Villas, The Westin Denarau Island Resort, Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay)
  • Nicholas Darling – representing Volivoli Beach Resort
  • Patrick Wong – representing Viwa Island Resort
  • Robert Speed – representing Captain Cook Cruises Fiji
  • Steven Andrews – representing Castaway Island Fiji
  • Tammie Tam – representing Warwick Hotels & Resorts (Warwick Fiji, The Naviti Resort, Tambua Sands Beach Resort, Tokatoka Resort)
  • Tarun Patel – representing Vision Investment Ltd (Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa, DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji, Sonaisali Island, Tadrai Island Resort)
  • Viliame Vodonaivalu – representing Grand Pacific Hotel, FNPF
  • Vincent Macquet – representing Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa (Novotel Suva, Novotel Nadi, Pullman Nadi Bay Resort, Mercure Nadi)

The officers elected during the AGM were Brian Kirsch as President with Tammie Tam and Tarun Patel serving as Vice Presidents.

The Board Directors come from diverse backgrounds and experiences and represent members from the northern, central, eastern, and western divisions; further broken down into the Mamanuca & Yasawa Island areas, the Coral Coast, and Sun Coast, as well as representing the now approximately 60% locally-owned tourism businesses in Fiji. The mix of large, medium, and small operators also ensures all member interests are covered comprehensively.

“The last twelve months have been extraordinarily challenging for our industry, and our members are still navigating a broad range of issues that range from keeping our employees and customers safe, managing cash flows, reorienting operations in the new normal to planning for reopening in a still unknown timeframe,” newly elected President Mr. Kirsch had noted at the AGM.

He also added that supporting the membership in addressing these challenges, providing clarity and advice on constantly changing situations, and ensuring that communication was efficient and proactive, was even more critical for the Association to provide now, more than ever.

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association Secretariat and membership extends our heartiest congratulations to the 2020-2021 appointed Board members and Office Bearers and wish them well for their term on the FHTA Board.

This board has its work cut out for them as they will lead FHTA through what is undoubtedly one of the toughest times of Fiji tourism as it navigates itself out of the current doldrums brought about by COVID-19 and border closures.

However, buoyed by Government’s targeted relief from import and excise duties as well as reforms in its tax structures from the National Budget, FHTA has been actively planning for the return to business pending the restart of global commercial travel.

There are general optimism and a firm belief amongst tourism stakeholders that there are unique opportunities to invigorate the economy with the introduction of policies that provide stimulus and can accelerate growth by incentivising job retention, sustaining tourism SME’s and protecting vulnerable groups, while also promoting more investment in the industry. Once international tourism recommences, every effort will need to be made to generate much-needed revenue for the flow-on effect to be felt throughout the economy.

And while no-one is under any illusions about the hard work ahead of the industry to pull itself back up, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the effort must be collective, consistent, and done with the same perseverance that this industry is renowned for in dealing with set-backs from climatic, economic and political upheavals. Even though, this crisis will take out all the records for being the most unpredicted, the hardest to recover from, the longest, and the most devastating.

Only with this collective effort can Fiji tourism look to begin earning its pre-COVID share of Fiji’s National Gross Domestic Product, which stood at 46 percent in 2019.

Another highlight of the FHTA AGM was the passing of a Special Resolution to apply a fifty percent discount on Annual Dues for 2020 for all members of FHTA. This discount is applicable to all members on the member’s registry as at 01 January 2020.

Done in consideration of the financial hardships faced by all the Association’s members due to the downturn in the economy caused by the international pandemic, while taking into account the continued work of the FHTA Secretariat, members welcomed the initiative that would assist with cash flows and operational costs.

Members were also updated at the AGM on the Association’s continued efforts to create opportunities, consult widely, and lobby strongly for its members as it has been doing over the last year.

This included liaising with relevant Government Ministries, agencies and statutory bodies, consulting widely with tourism stakeholders in both the private and public sectors, and ensuring that all tourism businesses get the support they need to be compliant, develop in the industry and grow the economy.

While it may be considered a far more difficult challenge for the industry to get back on its feet now, the work has started in earnest, preparations are well underway and while the real struggles of our smaller members are recognised, the industry remains hopeful by continuing its collective efforts to prepare, respond and recover with anxious expectations on international travel commencing by early next year.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 3 September 2020

2020 FHTA Annual General Meeting

2020 FHTA Annual General Meeting

The Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) has successfully held its 55th Annual General Meeting on Thursday27 August.

Held at the Radisson Blu Resort, the AGM was well-attended by members and associate members who heard a recap of the Association’s past twelve months of activities and took the opportunity to raise queries and vote in new board members.

Brian Kirsch of Robinson Crusoe Island Resort has been unanimously voted in as the FHTA President and he will be assisted by Vice Presidents, Tammie Tam of Warwick Resorts and Tarun Patel of the Vision Group.

“The last twelve months have been extraordinarily challenging for our industry, and our members are still navigating a broad range of issues that range from keeping our employees and customers safe, managing cash flows, reorienting operations in the new normal to planning for reopening in a still unknown timeframe”, the elected FHTA President, Brian Kirsch noted.

He added that supporting the membership in addressing these challenges, providing clarity and advice on constantly changing situations and ensuring that communication was efficient and proactive, was even more critical for the Association to provide now, more than ever.

Other new board appointments were: Lachlan Walker (Intercontinental Hotel Group), Brad Robinson (Raffe Hotels & Resorts), Robert Speed (Captain Cook Cruises Fiji), Viliame Vodonaivalu (Grand Pacific Hotel/FNPF Properties) and Azam Khan (Hexagon Group of Hotels).

The full 16-member board will take the helm in tourism’s fightback during the most difficult period that the industry has ever faced.

However, buoyed by Government’s targeted relief from import and excise duties as well as reforms in its tax structures from the National Budget, FHTA has been actively planning for the return to business pending the restart of global commercial travel.

FHTA firmly believes that there are unique opportunities to invigorate the economy by introducing policies that provide stimulus and accelerate growth by incentivising job retention, sustaining tourism SME’s and protecting vulnerable groups, while also promoting more investment in the industry.

FHTA CEO, Fantasha Lockington said the Association continues drive efforts to create opportunities, consult widely and lobby strongly for its members by liaising with relevant Government Ministries, agencies and statutory bodies to ensure that all tourism businesses get the support they need to develop in the industry and grow the economy.

Tourism Talanoa: Our Peak Season

Tourism Talanoa: Our Peak Season

FHTA, 21 August 2020 – Had it not been for COVID-19, tourism in Fiji would be enjoying its annual peak season right now as indicated by the 2019 arrival figures of 592,705 visitors that had arrived in Fiji by August, that made up 66% of the total year’s arrival figures.

A good performance in this period would have reinforced tourism’s premier standing as the number one foreign revenue earner for Fiji, bringing in almost half of Fiji’s Gross Domestic Product.

Most of the resorts, activities, transport providers and other tourism stakeholders would have made their targeted revenue during this period that would have sustained them for the rest of the year especially during the off-peak timeframe of January to March.

A sizable chunk of our projected visitor arrivals would be arriving into the country through our Nadi International Airport and looking forward to getting pampered at their intended accommodation providers and planning their activity options around the country.

A good portion of them would have come from Australia and New Zealand and they would have undoubtedly enjoyed their holiday stay of typically five to eight days.

That all seems like a distant memory now as the Fijian economy continues its forced hibernation and remains, for the most part, closed, from the consequences of border closures due to the global shutdown.

COVID-19 will have a lasting effect on the world, no matter how long it lasts or until a vaccine can be produced and tested and approved. And there is no doubt the eager daily scanning of international news media to check updates on this front is not just confined to the tourism sector.

Until then, the uncertainty and slowed pace of tourism businesses and its supply chains look set to continue.

Expert predictions put the initial stages of the resumption of travel at around September and November this year but with the persistent infections inside the various national bubbles, the most optimistic prediction has been shifted to March 2021.

Pacific neighbours Australia and New Zealand, not only popular travel destinations as well as markets for the region but also key influencers of how island governments measure economic activity, travel trends and best practices, are dealing with their challenges.

However, with their countries also closed to foreign visitors and discussions over travel bubbles being put on hold, they have had to look to their domestic markets for the foreseeable future, just like Fiji has.

Here in Fiji, we are being cautious with our reopening and for now, only the Blue Lanes for yachts and pleasure craft has commenced and this is seeing a steady rise in the number of vessels entering our borders having undergone the necessary COVID-safe requirements.

The managed lanes allowing yachts to come into Fiji to enjoy our COVID-contained status should increase Fiji’s visibility amongst the yacht-owner communities and encourage a growing stream of visitors to experience Fiji safely.

In workplaces around Fiji, we have all had to make adjustments to how we conduct business in the new COVID safe environment. From heightened hand and workplace sanitation practices, tracking employee and visitor temperatures and attendance, to meeting size and working from home options.

Initially, due to lockdowns and the inability to travel and now more intrinsic to the natural development of workplace norms, as well as cost-saving responses, unnecessary travel and meetings have been almost totally replaced by digital means.

Even though fatigue might have already set in regarding the use of digital communication mediums like Zoom, Cisco Webex Meetings, Skype or Google Hangouts Meet, these have become necessary tools for businesses evolving in the new normal.

The integration of digital tools and systems into the company’s processes have many obvious benefits, especially now, in these uncertain and dire economic times.

At a time when many consumers are not travelling, businesses have faced or executed difficult decisions regarding staffing and as new competitive challenges loom, concentrating some time and budget to digital transformation is gathering momentum.

A whole suite of digital-based solutions is being tested across all sectors including education and training organisations. Turning lectures into webinars and holding corporate meetings on web-based platforms can make organizations more buoyant in the face of unexpected business challenges, help them be nimbler in responding to swings in demand, provide new insights into company processes and consumers, and even allow them to run more resourcefully and save money in the process.

Tourism businesses are going all the way by also preparing with a complete buy-in of safety practices and training guidelines that is being incorporated into their standard procedures, policies, and marketing information.

To survive the long drawn out crisis for which no end is predicted, tourism businesses of all sizes have had to cope with forced closures, releasing staff either temporarily or permanently, manage operational costs with little or no revenue streams, deal with bank loans and due payments, tap into savings or access further credit lines and if they are still able to survive all this; prepare to operate in a new business environment that demands addressing the safety of trained staff and future customers as a key priority. They have even endured a cyclone that added sea wall and tidal surge damages to an already complicated set of challenges at the height of the lockdown, marine travel ban and curfew period.

The challenges have not abated. They have simply changed focus or moved up or down the priority list as we continue to navigate our way to survive this mother of all crisis.

But, as we are learning each day, the resilience of our people and how we respond in the worst times of crisis requires that we discuss our challenges for shared solutions, acknowledge that there are others like our SME’s who are struggling to survive and stay focused on where we want to be at when those borders open, as they inevitably will.

If everything moves in the right direction, especially in Australia and New Zealand, our next peak season could be back to as close to normal as we can still remember. And this might not be influenced by what time of the year it is, but simply by the fact that a COVID weary world is ready to travel to their nearest destination.

So, we must all be ready.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 21 August 2020

FHTA Member Update on MSAF Survey Certificates

FHTA Member Update on MSAF Survey Certificates
FHTA has been meeting with senior management at MSAF to discuss 2 issues regarding tourism vessel certificates that have been difficult to obtain quickly resulting in tourism businesses being affected, with the following positive outcomes:
1. For the usual annual renewal of the Coastal Trade License (CTL) that is often difficult to get approved sign-off for, FHTA has requested MSAF and the Ministry of Transport to consider including tourism vessels for extended validity periods for this license in a similar manner to the current consideration for commercial passenger franchises. In this respect, FHTA has requested that CTL’s be considered for a period of 5 years.
  •  MSAF has confirmed that they are looking into the required legislation changes for 5 year CTL licenses for tourism purposes
  • This would only apply to vessels that are less than 20 years old
  •  Safety inspections would still continue to take place, as required annually
FHTA will provide an update on this legislation once confirmed and understand that this process has commenced.
2. For the late provision of Safety Inspection Certificates which required on a 6 month basis, FHTA has requested that MSAF and the Ministry for Transport consider an annual (2 month) license validity period and requested the provision of Interim Certificates to ensure tourism vessels could continue to get insurance protection and cover without interruption to tourism businesses.
  •  MSAF has agreed to provide Interim Certificates immediately after an approved inspection, pending the confirmation by the Senior Surveyor
  •  Members are reminded that it is a mandatory requirement to provide your vessel’s ownership documents for every inspection to avoid delays
  • This will only be for on-going safety inspections and not for vessels that have just entered service or are brand new
  •  A copy of the inspection certificate may be obtained by the owner of the vessel with the Interim Certificate for the purposes of complying with insurance requirements and/or renewing insurance cover
  • The Interim Certificate will be valid for 1 month. It is the responsibility of the vessel owner to get the final Inspection Certificate before the end of the 1 month validity period
  •  Senior Surveyor contact: Pene Manueli 9904524, pmanueli@msaf.com.fj
  •  Contact for certificate issuance status : Iliseva Karusi (PA to MSAF CEO) 3315266, ikarusi@msaf.com.fj
3. Insurance agencies and the Insurance Association of Fiji has confirmed that Interim Certificates are acceptable for insurance cover validity
  • A copy of the Inspection Report is required by insurance agents with the copy of the Interim Certificate
Please feel free to contact the Secretariat if you have any queries or require further follow up, but do ensure you have provided ALL the required documentation to MSAF beforehand.
MSAF’s list of requirements can be accessed  HERE.

FHTA Members Notice – Courtesy Vehicle Licensing

FHTA

11 February 2020 – Members are advised of the update below following FHTA’s meetings and on-going discussions with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and our previous advice here of 11 January 2020.

1. Courtesy vans used for guest and staff pick up and drop off – regardless of the number of seats – must be taken to LTA to apply for a COMMERCIAL LICENSE CLASS.

2. LTA will provide a 1 year EXEMPTION PERMIT for the Commercial License Class;

  • this exemption will allow Fiji Airports Ltd (FAL) to provide access to their bus bays per their usual requirements (application of the “”Blue Stickers””)
  • the exemption timeframe is to allow LTA to amend the current legislation to include tourism specific requirements, not currently covered that will also address tourism’s preferred seating capacity for courtesy vehicles based on prudent operational and economic requirements.
  • FHTA will continue to consult with LTA on the legislative amendments to ensure our business processes are better understood

3. Owners (hotels/resorts/tourism businesses) must provide proof of ownership of the vehicle(s) when applying for the Commercial License Class.

  • if the vehicle has a Private License – this must be changed to a Commercial License
  • if the vehicle ownership is under a person’s name – confirm if this person owns that tourism business
  • where the business registration differs from the trading name (T/A), provide business ownership details
  • if the hotel/resort/tourism business is outsourcing guest or staff transfers to someone else – the owners of that transport business/vehicle must have a PSV license class

4. Please use the attached copy of the LTA confirmation on Hotel Courtesy Van Licensing to take to your nearest LTA office for the above

  • if your vehicle has not been deemed non-compliant yet and you are not sure, please contact the LTA Standards & Engineering Team sne@lta.com.fj to avoid your vehicle being taken off the road
  • do let the FHTA Secretariat know if you are unable to get a response or your response is not in accordance with the above details or the attached letter HERE.

Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association on the Coronavirus Outbreak in China

FHTA

Suva, 29 January 2020 – The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) has been closely liaising with the Ministry of Tourism and tourism industry stakeholders to carefully monitor the Coronavirus’ current and potential impact on visitor arrivals from China and other countries as the virus moves out of Asia.

FHTA members, along with industry stakeholders are working together to support travellers affected by the Chinese Government suspension of outbound group travel by allowing flexibility with rebookings with no fees to be applied subject to specific travel conditions.

The Association is maintaining its communication channels with tourism industry businesses and suppliers and is providing guidance and assistance where required, including reminders on safe hygiene practices and recommended
reporting of any suspicious cases.

FHTA is aware that the Government is working on strengthening Fiji’s border security and strongly recommends that this includes thermal inbound screening processes for all inbound flights to ensure we maintain a consistent vigilance on this medical emergency from all possible directions.

FHTA Membership Update on LTA Requirements for Tourism Courtesy Bus Licensing

FHTA
22 January 2020 – The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) has been in on-going discussions with the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) senior management since October 2019 on their new interpretation of an existing LTA regulation that now makes it illegal for courtesy vans with more than 8 seats or less than 16 seats to operate as courtesy pick up vans.
 FHTA’s key role has always been to ensure our members are assisted to comply with regulations and where they do not; to find a way to ensure that they can comply by working with the relevant authorities. This supports your business so that you can continue to contribute positively to the tourism industry and Fiji’s economy.
FHTA has been advised by LTA that in the recent review of the interpretation of the Land Transport Act (Sections 53(b), (ii) & Section 63(3),(d)&(e)) it was determined that tourism was not considered when the Act was initially put into place and therefore requires legislation amendments that the industry must await.
 The Ministry of Tourism is providing their sincere support to the industry in trying to find a solution and the Association has also reached out to the Ministry of Transport and the Board of LTA for their assistance.
 In the meantime, members are advised that their courtesy vans that fall into this category will not be provided with the required “B” license plates to pick up or drop off customers and staff or be allowed entry passes for AFL’s airport bus bays.
 We understand that this will cause disruptions to your guest services, however FHTA recommends complete compliance of the requirement by not using any courtesy vans in this category where licensing has not been approved by LTA and to make alternative arrangements where possible with appropriate explanations provided to guests and customers.

Please contact me directly for queries or questions on the above.

FHTA Update: Credit Cards – Administration Fee Policy Recommendation

FHTA

(Revised 20th November 2019)

In light of Booking.com’s recent advice to Fiji tourism operators that they would remove the credit card fees set up in their systems effective 21st November 2019, FHTA advises all members that the recommendation below, initially sent Feb 2014, remains in place.

The charging of the Administration Fee on Credit Cards is recommended to continue as current on all invoices settled with Credit Cards with the provision of a Credit Card Disclosure.

Prior notice:

20 February 2014
You will recall that on 25 Nov. 2013 a “Credit Card Fee Policy Recommendation” was made to Members. A confirmation was received from Banks that “International Debit Cards” attract up to 3% Processing Fees, therefore the Board of Directors has approved the following amended Policy Recommendations: –

It is noted that the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) on 05 November 2013 has rescinded its “Credit Card NO Surcharge Rule” – effectively immediately. The RBF has not stipulated any system for Credit Card Surcharges. However, the RBF will closely monitor any credit card surcharging practices applied by merchants and commercial banks have been requested to liaise with their clients to ensure such surcharges are appropriately displayed.

We leave it for individual members to decide if they wish to apply an Administration Fee for the use of Credit Cards. The Board is of the opinion that a generic administration fee based on cost recovery is an appropriate charge provided that there is no element of “profiteering” on an annualized basis. It is recommended that members set their Administration Fee on an average of actual fees charged by the various card companies and weighted by volume plus an element that would cover the tax components (HTT and STT), leasing, rental and ancillary costs. It is envisaged that the maximum fee would be 3.5%. (Note: A Generic Administration Fee means that the same fee is applicable to ALL Credit Cards. There should NOT be any differentiation between different cards.)

The Authorities have indicated that profiteering or gouging will NOT be tolerated and that the surcharge process may be audited. Members therefore should be able to explain how their fee was set and what the total fee excess or shortfall was over a 12-month period.

Debit Cards. “NO Administration Fee is chargeable for the use of Local Debit Cards”. A generic administration fee of maximum 3.5% for all INTERNATIONAL Debit Cards is chargeable.

It is a RBF requirement that any Administration Fee is prominently displayed for guest information at
appropriate touch points. Suggested wording… “At this Establishment there is an Administrative Fee of XX% on the use of any Credit Cards or International Debit Cards. There is no fee for the use of any Local Debit Card.”

This Administration Fee Policy Recommendation replaces the previous issued on 20 February 2014. It is the commercial prerogative of individual members to follow or disregard this Recommendation.

Please contact the Secretariat should you have any queries.

Vinaka,

Fantasha Lockington

Chief Executive Officer

FHTA Member Notice on the Security Industry Act

FHTA

Members are reminded that per the Security Industry Act 2010, organisations employing security officers must either have a Master License or outsource its security services to businesses that hold a Master License.

These licenses are provided by the Security Industry Registration & Licensing Board (Ph: 3211613/3211621, mcakau@govnet.gov.fj).

Security Industry Act:

[SI 13] Requirement to hold a licence

(1) No person may employ or provide other persons to carry on any security activity unless that person –

(a) is the holder of a master licence; and

(b) employs or provides no more than the number of persons authorised by the master licence.

FHTA VMS Update to Members No. 6 – VMS Deadline Extension Confirmed

FHTA VMS Update to Members No. 6 – VMS Deadline Extension Confirmed

This is the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association’s (FHTA’s) 6th VMS Update to members since the confirmation of the Fiji Revenue & Customs Services (FRCS) announcement of the Vat Monitoring System (VMS) or Electronic Fiscal Device (EFD) Roll Out on 29 May 2019.

The due date for businesses included under Phase 3 the VMS/EFD Regulations to install, implement and operate an EFD has been extended from 31 July 2019 to 30 April 2020.

Groups of businesses included under Phase 3 of the VMS/EFD Regulations are as follows:

Groups of businesses
Description
Accommodation Includes hotels, boarding houses, lodging houses, guest houses and any building, vessel, premises, structure, caravan or house on wheels not being a public institution used for the business of receiving guests or travellers for any period of time or to which persons are entitled to resort for accommodation for hire or reward of any kind.
Architecture and engineering
Includes architectural and engineering activities and related technical consultancies. Commercial health care services Includes the provision of health care services on a commercial basis such as private hospitals, general or specialty medical and surgical hospitals, sanatoria, nursing homes, asylums, rehabilitation centres, medical practices, dental practices, allied health practices and optometry practices that are profit oriented businesses.
Construction Includes contractors and subcontractors in the construction or maintenance of buildings, construction of other civil engineering projects, demolition and site preparation, electrical installation, plumbing, heat and air-conditioning installation, other construction installation, building completion and finishing and other specialised construction activities.
Food services Includes the provision of food or drink whether alcoholic or otherwise in exchange for money or consideration such as restaurants, bars, nightclubs, taverns and catering services.
Freight operators
Includes freight transport by road, sea and coastal freight water transport, inland freight water transport, freight air transport, warehousing and storage, service activities incidental to land transportation, service activities incidental to water transportation, service activities incidental to air transportation, cargo handling, other transportation support activities, postal activities and courier activities, including customs agents.
Real estate agents
Includes all real estate agent activities in relation to owned or leased property and any real estate agent activity on a fee or contract basis.
Service stations
Specialised stores involved in the provision of the retail sale of automotive fuel and other goods, servicing of vehicles and other services provided at service stations.
Wholesalers and manufacturers
Includes dealers, traders, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributers of goods for sale that purchase great quantities of goods for resale. This also includes hardware companies, supermarkets and pharmacies that are wholesalers or manufacturers.
Do contact the Secretariat if you have any queries.

FHTA VMS Update to Members No. 5 – 31 July 2019

FHTA VMS Update to Members No. 5 – 31 July 2019

This is the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association’s (FHTA’s) 5th VMS Update to members since the confirmation of the Fiji Revenue & Customs Services (FRCS) announcement of the Vat Monitoring System (VMS) or Electronic Fiscal Device (EFD) Roll Out on 29 May 2019.

FRCS understands that many of our Members will require more time to implement the VMS compliance practices into their systems and business process and that this implementation may exceed the due date of 31 July, 2019.

Members are therefore reminded that they must urgently do the following by TODAY for consideration of the deadline extension for them:

1. Go to the link: https://eservices.frca.org.fj/EFD
2. Register your Business

If you are having issues registering your business, if may be that you do not have an authorised person on record with FRCS. In this case, you will need to follow the additional steps below:

3. Businesses should provide their most feasible implementation plan as to when they will become EFD compliant, IN WRITING, by TODAY to FRCS. This can be sent via email to EFDCompliance@frcs.org.fj copied to deepika@frcs.org.fj. Or let the FHTA Secretariat know so that you are included in their list, or ensure their suppliers have provided this information already.

The extension of the 31st July 2019 deadline time will ONLY be considered if the above is carried out.

We therefore urge all members to consider the advice above and prepare their businesses accordingly.

We continue to work closely with FRCS to develop the Standard Interpretation Guidelines (SIGs) or tourism industry specific VAT regulations that would effectively and best address scenarios that capture tourism business processes. Additionally, we are working towards a consensus on where the fiscalisation points will be to assist members and software providers with confirming their solutions for compliance.

Do contact the Secretariat if you have any queries.

FHTA VMS Update to Members No. 4 – 19 July 2019

FHTA VMS Update to Members No. 4 – 19 July 2019

This is the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association’s (FHTA’s) 4th VMS Update to members since the confirmation of the Fiji Revenue & Customs Services (FRCS) announcement of the Vat Monitoring System (VMS) or Electronic Fiscal Device (EFD) Roll Out on 29 May 2019.

FHTA has been in consultation with FRCS and the VMS Unit to discuss the VMS compliance requirements, provide background into our members’ business processes and discuss the way forward for meeting the required compliance by the 31st July 2019.

FRCS understands that many of our Members will require more time to implement the VMS compliance practices into their systems and business process and that this implementation may exceed the due date of 31 July, 2019.

Members are therefore reminded that they must urgently do the following for consideration of the deadline extension for them:

1. Go to the link: https://eservices.frca.org.fj/EFD

2. Register your Business

3. Businesses should provide their most feasible implementation plan as to when they will become EFD compliant, IN WRITING, by 31 July 2019 to FRCS. Or let the FHTA Secretariat know so that you are included in their list, or ensure their suppliers have provided this information already.

The extension of the 31st July 2019 deadline time will ONLY be considered if the above is carried out.

We therefore urge all members to consider the advice above and prepare their businesses accordingly.

We continue to work closely with FRCS to develop the Standard Interpretation Guidelines (SIGs) or tourism industry specific VAT regulations that would effectively and best address scenarios that capture tourism business processes. Additionally, we are working towards a consensus on where the fiscalisation points will be to assist members and software providers with confirming their solutions for compliance.

Do contact the Secretariat if you have any queries.

FHTA Update No. 3 for 2019 – Fiji Hyperbaric Chamber

FHTA Update No. 3 for 2019 – Fiji Hyperbaric Chamber

Monday, 15 July 2019 – FHTA has been following up on a monthly basis with the Ministry of Health on the commissioning of the new Hyperbaric Chamber that has now been installed. However, an electrical issue has further delayed the commissioning and we have been advised that this has now moved to August.

FHTA will provide further updates on when the chamber will be operational as soon as we have been formally advised.

Related:

Update No. 2 for 2019 (20th May): https://fhta.com.fj/fhta-update-no-2-for-2019-fiji-hyperbaric-chamber/

Update No. 1 of 2019 (26th February): https://fhta.com.fj/fiji-hyperbaric-chamber-update/

FHTA VMS Update to Members No. 3 – 12 July 2019

FHTA

This is the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association’s (FHTA’s) 3rd VMS Update to members since the confirmation of the Fiji Revenue & Customs Services (FRCS) announcement of the Vat Monitoring System (VMS) or Electronic Fiscal Device (EFD) Roll Out on 29 May 2019.

FHTA continues to meet with FRCS and stakeholders to better understand the VMS compliance requirements, implication to our members’ business processes and how to address specific challenges, including the required compliance by the 31st July 2019.

If you have not read up on the VMS Update No. 2, that was shared on 28 June 2019, it can be viewed here.

FRCS has advised their understanding that some taxpayers may require more time to implement the VMS and that this implementation may exceed the due date of 31 July, 2019.

Where VMS/EFD compliance is expected to be delayed, FRCS will consider the business request if the following is carried out:

  1. The Business is registered for EFD. PLEASE DO THIS IMMEDIATELY IF NOT ALREADY DONE.
  2. The Business or solution provider has commenced work and made significant changes for accreditation of their software via the Tax Core administration portal (https://www.frcs.org.fj/our-services/vat-monitoring-system-vms/efd-accreditation-instructions/).
  3. Businesses must provide their most feasible implementation plan as to when they will become EFD compliant, IN WRITING by 31 July, 2019.

The extension of the 31st July 2019 deadline time will ONLY be considered if the above is carried out.

We therefore urge all members to consider the advice above and prepare their businesses accordingly.

We continue to work closely with FRCS to develop the Standard Interpretation Guidelines (SIGs) or tourism industry specific VAT regulations that would effectively and best address scenarios that capture tourism business processes. Additionally, we are working towards a consensus on where the fiscalisation points will be to assist members and software providers with confirming their solutions for compliance.

Do contact the Secretariat if you have any queries.

FHTA VMS Update to Members No. 2 – 28 June 2019

FHTA VMS Update to Members No. 2 – 28 June 2019

Members are advised that since the update by the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) on the Vat Monitoring System (VMS) or Electronic Fiscal Device (EFD) Roll Out on 29 May 2019, the Association has been conducting on-going meetings with all the relevant stakeholders to better understand FRCS’ requirements, implication to our members’ business processes, their specific challenges and what will be needed to ensure compliance with this regulation within the 31st July compliance timeframe.

If you have not read up on the VMS requirements, information on the FRCS website that was shared earlier can be viewed here (https://www.frcs.org.fj/news/2019-2/vms-phase-3-rollout/).

We are working very closely with FRCS and on-going discussions with FRCS’s CEO and his VMS Unit, system software & hardware suppliers, members and their Financial Controllers as well as accounting firm reps have thus far provided the following information that we now share with you, to assist with understanding the compliance requirements and ensuring our members prepare to be compliant now:

1. Businesses that must comply.

2. Meeting the 31 st July Timeline

3. Understanding Tourism Business Processes

  • We have reached out to members to draw up a list of the many systems in use and discussed possible solutions with suppliers
  • We are working with FRCS to complete a list of the many “scenarios” that capture the various tourism related transactions that take place as part of normal business processes to determine at what points fiscalisation must be recognised
  • We are also working closely with FRCS to develop Standard Interpretation Guidelines (SIGs) or tourism industry specific VAT regulations that would effectively address these scenarios
  • If you do not think your business process would have been captured by us, please let us know your specific challenges

4. What Options Do Small Businesses Have?

  • We realize that many of our members are small operations that run on intermittent power supply and/or are off the grid for power and internet and that manual processes could be how things are being done currently. After all, being isolated and “unplugged” is probably what your visitors are seeking in the first place. We are working to find available options for this category of business but reiterate that you should also consider talking to an already accredited supplier noted in No.2.
  • We are also seeking clarifications on the support being offered by FRCS towards businesses with an annual turnover of less than $500,000 (referred to in their Tax Talk Article 28 June and the 2019-2020 Budget Supplement to the Budget Address, Part 2 Indirect Tax Measures, (i) Value Added Tax Act) where they discuss a free POS system.

5. Feedback

  • Members are reminded that they should provide the FHTA Secretariat with feedback on the specific challenges they are experiencing in trying to comply with this new VMS requirement or any other information they believe is relevant to the SIG’s we are compiling.