FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Time Will Tell

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Time Will Tell

FHTA, 24 November 2022 – If we sit for a moment and try to find a silver lining about the pandemic closures that dominated 2020 and 2021, we’d be hard-pressed to name a few.

But one of the main upsides to being grounded at home or in Fiji that we found we had lots of, was time.
Good ole Father Time.

Now that life is somewhat back to normal, we have somehow been made aware of just how much time we have and how we want to use it wisely.

Of course, there’s the time we could spend with our families or friends, reading or networking.

But there’s also time to get better and be better at what we do by being prepared for instance for what the cyclone season might bring, despite the deceptively beautiful current weather we’ve been experiencing.

And despite clear blue skies and slowly rising daytime temperatures, the increasing seismic activities taking place around the Pacific do not appear to be causing any unease except for those of us who receive those reports regularly. And they have been a little more regular than usual.

Time will tell if this is simply the time for earthquakes to take place.

In this revitalised age of travel, 2022 is turning out to be a bumper year in terms of recovery, but we know that a dip of some sort in arrival numbers might be just around the corner.

So, how do we prepare ourselves for the expected slowing of our high season, considering there wasn’t quite the expected off-peak season this year?

There are several go-to options. The downtime after the Christmas season has traditionally provided the required “breather” to carry out or complete maintenance projects, review in-house training, change menu cycles, replace engines, or put vessels up for major surveys.

And includes the option of promoting domestic tourism. This would also be the time that hospitality and other essential services workers finally get a break as well – but only if we do not experience a nasty cyclone.

At the same time, marketing promotions might change to attract segments that prefer the low season during which to travel – weddings and special events, conferences and even the very lucrative dive market.

This might also be the ideal time to push out our marketing to niche travel segments that do not usually think of Fiji first as a preferred destination for them. But they might be tempted to consider it with special deals that have a string of value-adds including making the difference between Fiji and Tahiti or even Hawaii.

As we review the product offerings across the country to check our competitiveness with other markets, we are also taking a hard look at where we want to be as a destination offering more sustainable tourism options in response to both what the more discerning travel world is looking for, as well as being able to practice at home what we’re preaching to the world on how to address climate change.

There’s nothing quite like having first-hand experience in living with the impact of climate change, being a part of the real solution and demanding everyone else get on board with it.

Tourism can: and should lead the way in this.

And there are many wonderful ways Fiji already does this and can certainly do more of with sufficient support and the right amount of time spent on ensuring it can be successful.

The time is also right to admit we are experiencing more than our fair share of challenges with accessing skilled staff around the country, in nearly every tourism, manufacturing, finance, transport and retail business.

Although recent media statements would have us believe that our staff were not initially leaving the country to look for jobs overseas at all, and then more recently that they were, but are helping with inbound remittances and will be returning with better skills, so we should all be happy and make do till they all return.

In the meantime, our service and productivity levels are negatively impacted, and the cost of these same services and products continue to increase because we have to work harder with less staff to produce the same outcomes, and this is further exacerbated when we replace local skill gaps with foreign labour that costs the business more.

With 1,000 foreign work permit applications being processed on behalf of Fijian employers here every month now; time will tell if we are successfully filling vacant positions as fast as those overseas work placements are taking place for our Fijian workers taking part in multi-lateral labour schemes.

And when added to the increasing costs of food, fuel and goods from the impacts of supply chain disruptions, port congestions and the ripple effect of the unabated European conflict, will economic growth tied to trade eventually slow down?

Time to review where our economic priorities and opportunities lie.

How will we mark our resilience to overcome our short-sightedness in better preparing our younger population for a changing world that is demanding more technical and vocational skills?

Fiji and indeed the Pacific Islands generally, need more builders, engineers, technicians, craftspeople, carpenters, teachers, nurses, truck and bus drivers, mechanics, chefs and machinery operators. To name a few.

We even need more accountants now because even they are leaving in droves (we used to think we had more than enough).

Even the farmers are leaving to check out these opportunities overseas.

There is no one providing information on which skills are leaving, although noble efforts are currently underway with industry consultations as part of a timely 10-year human capital development plan to get insight into what the demand and supply issues are, which skills are considered critical and what the future demand might look like.

Certainly, no one is looking into the social impacts of separated families or abandoned farms that increased remittances would be able to offset. Or considering the flip side of bringing in foreign workers to plug the skill gaps is that they are in turn sending money back to their own families.

Time has a wonderful way of showing us what matters as a globally shut-down world recently discovered.

And we would be better prepared for the future if we spent more time understanding what is taking place in most workplaces across the country, including stopping to read the often-hand-written signs outside the little restaurants, cafes, retail shops and bars that say quite simply “Help wanted”.

Those little signs and perhaps some shared on social media are the only options available to SMEs unable to afford advertisements in the mainstream media. Those pages are already filled anyway with social media platforms drowning in repeated vacancies being desperately shared.

Time to plan what the next 10 years will look like because things are moving a lot faster now.

Fishing for skills from an ever-shrinking pool of options is not where we want to be.

Time to stop pretending we don’t have a skills shortage problem and admit we need help identifying the future of work so that we can address it at the appropriate speed.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 24 November 2022

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Top-to-Bottom Sustainability at Kaila Na Ua

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Top-to-Bottom Sustainability at Kaila Na Ua

FHTA, 19 November 2022 – .Positioned in the middle of the Sunset Strip on the Coral Coast, sits an intimate boutique resort where unassuming attention to detail weaves sophistication into a relaxed, tropical setting.

It goes by the name of Kaila Na Ua Resort and with its lush, manicured gardens and expansive views of the Pacific Ocean, it’s a perfect home base for exploring Viti Levu or just kicking back and enjoying the view.

Far from the crowds yet in the heart of the Coral Coast, it is easy to miss, and easier to miss after guests have been here.

Though off the beaten path, it’s home to some of the best dining options on the Coral Coast, all within walking distance from the resort.

Or guests can barbecue in a purpose-built Barbecue Bure around the pool after a day of snorkelling, kayaking, swimming, biking, or exploring the adventure capital of the Fiji Islands.

All this with a background of highly sustainable measures being carried out as the resort continues to welcome and farewell guests.

For example, they only offer the use of non-motorised water sports equipment such as kayaks, stand-up paddle boards & snorkelling gear.

They also offer complimentary use of American-style bikes to guests to get to local tourist spots and eating places, if they don’t feel like walking.

For places further away, they encourage their guests to travel by bus to areas of interest by offering complimentary bus cards.

That goes a long way to ensuring the reduction of one’s carbon footprint.

All of their eight rooms are supplied with solar-heated water and each of these rooms has a compost bin to encourage guests to keep vegetable & fruit waste for their gardens.

When doing their laundry, the resort staff ensure that all KNURL linen is air dried in the usually sunny weather.

Kaila Na Ua avoids the use of disposable products like using glasses for welcome drinks with bamboo straws.

They even use wooden key tags for their rooms in keeping with sustainability and the resort décor.

In their kitchen, the management prefers to use local and seasonal produce instead of importing items as it is much cheaper to source local produce.

Where they can, the resort staff maintains their own plantation and grow local & seasonal produce like mangoes, paw paws, bananas, avocadoes, passion fruit and guavas.

On those long dry and warm days, the grounds staff used collected rainwater to water the gardens and shrubbery.

All of these processes and examples show why Kaila Na Ua is entirely committed to providing its guests with a safe space that is both beautiful and environmentally thoughtful.

For information on the above, you can contact FHTA (info@fhta.com.fj) or contact Kaila Na Ua Resort directly.

Published in the Fiji Sun on 19 November 2022

Shazleen Scoops Top Award at Marriott HR Awards

Shazleen Scoops Top Award at Marriott HR Awards

Fiji, 18 November, 2022: Cluster Human Resources team for the five Marriott International Fiji Resorts recently scooped awards at the Marriott International APEC (Asia Pacific Excluding China) Annual HR Awards and ANZP Human Resource Conference. The Fiji portfolio of resorts consists of Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort, Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay, Sheraton Resort & Spa Tokoriki Island Fiji, Sheraton Denarau Villas and The Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa.

Cluster Director of Human Resources – Fiji, Ms Farrah Shazleen is the recipient of the top award as Human Resource Leader of the Year at the prestigious Marriott International APEC (Asia Pacific Excluding China) Annual HR Awards held virtually on October 19th 2022. Ms Shazleen is the first HR leader in Fiji to receive this distinguished award, a testimony to the exceptional efforts executed during the most challenging times of COVID-19 in ensuring associates are well-taken care of, including continued support for existing and new associates throughout this year.

On November 7th 2022, the Cluster Human Resource team also achieved an additional award as Team Resilience of the Year – 2021 in the ANZP Human Resources Conference held at The Westin Brisbane, Australia. The team was up against the best within the Marriott International group

‘These awards are a great achievement for Fiji as it recognizes the calibre of our team and the quality of work undertaken that spearheads our People Strategy. It is a milestone accolade considering the unprecedented challenges presented by the global pandemic and the scenarios that had to be navigated behind the scenes to ensure that our Associates were taken care of,’ said Neeraj Chadha, Multi-Property Vice President Pacific Islands Marriott International, General Manager Westin and Sheraton Resorts.

‘I congratulate Farrah for her outstanding work and dedication along with her team to implement our People strategies across all our hotels.” continued Mr Chadha.

“Farrah is a high-performing leader and role model for the Marriott International Brand Values and Culture. She is a strong business partner and advocator of high ethical and compliance standards; demonstrating resilience throughout the pandemic she volunteered her time and expertise to ensure that the Marriott Fiji properties were able to reopen smoothly and deliver on the Marriott world-renown first-class service. She is truly deserving of this award for her outstanding HR Leadership and remains one of our highly valued Associates,” said Natasha Rasheed, Area Director of Human Resources, ANZP Marriott International.

A key initiative steered by the Management team from the respective Fiji cluster of resorts, Ms Shazleen and the Human Resources Team is the Fiji Marriott Training Academy. It is an intensive program that engages the local community and encourages local talent growth and upskilling as well as cross-skilling across a range of disciplines including the Management Operation Trainee Program. Participants who graduate from the program are provided employment pathways within the resorts as opportunities arise.

“This is a vital component of our People Strategy to encourage talent growth from our local community to be empowered with the right skills before they enter the workforce. We’ve seen tremendous success from the initiation of this program that will continue to grow,” said Neeraj Chadha, Multi-Property Vice President Pacific Islands, Marriott International and General Manager Westin and Sheraton Resorts, Fiji Complex.

The Human Resources Team also spearheads the Solia Lesu program which is the Marriott International Fiji Resorts’ local volunteer program led by Ms Shazleen and the senior leadership team to distribute hot meals and ration packs, shopping vouchers, school stationery, linen and beddings to health centres, hospitals and orphanages. Through the program, the HR team is inspired by the local Spirit to serve the communities.

Ms Shazleen is also the driving force for projects championed by the respective Human Resource team within all five resorts throughout the past 4 years through careful planning and execution. Multiple projects implemented include People Strategy, Alignment of Roles and Levels, One of a kind Collective Agreement for all Marriott Resorts in Fiji, Women in Leadership, Employee Journey including Revamped Recruitment strategy that suits the hotel operations, New Onboarding Plan, and New Employee Training Plan. These strategic projects have made the 3 hotel opening in 2022 a success.

Since the opening of the newly renovated Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort in March, along with the back-to-back opening of two other resorts (Sheraton Denarau Villas and Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island Fiji) earlier this year, more than 1,000 associates have been recruited across the cluster of resorts in Fiji and the HR team will undertake continuous training and onboarding program for Associates. Through innovation and local stakeholder partnerships, the team persists to focus on and support initiatives such as Pride Week, Blood Drive, Pinktober and Movember.

The team will be coordinating its annual program ‘Road To Give’ on Denarau Island on Saturday, November 19th, 2022.

IHG Hotels & Resorts in Fiji Donate $20,0000 for Cancer Cause

IHG Hotels & Resorts in Fiji Donate $20,0000 for Cancer Cause

18th November 2022 (Natadola, Fiji): IHG Hotels & Resorts (IHG) in Fiji donated FJ$20,000 to the Fiji Cancer Society today at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva. The donation was part of fundraising activities and sales efforts throughout October at the three Fiji properties. The funds handed to the local non-profit organisation will strengthen and support their efforts to create a cancer-free Fiji and drive education, awareness, and patient support.

The collection efforts were part of fundraising within the three hotels by placing collection cans at different locations within the properties. Guests and colleagues pitched in and gave whatever they could in the cans as a cash contribution. With this, Spa and Restaurant & Bars organised their activations, from which part of the sale of Pinktober items throughout October was for Fiji Cancer Society. To top this up, IHG matched every dollar and doubled this to show its passion for making a difference in the lives of people and communities.

“IHG is proud to play a part in making a positive impact in the area of health and well-being. Our commitment to active involvement in the local communities around our hotels means being a valued, responsible community partner by ensuring that our business objectives enhance the quality of life in the community.” commented Lachlan Walker, Area General – South Pacific, IHG “We want to show our sincere gratitude to the Fiji Cancer Society, who have been active in their awareness work and patient support. We hope this contribution and any help or encouragement we can provide to them and cancer patients during or after their treatment will make an impact.”

With its central office in Suva, Fiji, the Fiji Cancer Society is dedicated to assisting those diagnosed with Cancer. Established in 1993, the Cancer Society aims to engage, educate the community and facilitate services that fight against cancer in society. They work to raise awareness, improve cancer prevention, provide support to cancer patients and provide active survivorship.

“We are grateful to IHG Hotels & Resorts for partnering with us for Pinktober. This signals greater strength for those battling this who are not alone in the fight against cancer. It is a tough battle for the patients and the carers equally,” commented Belinda Chan, Chief Executive Officer of Fiji Cancer Society. “As an NGO, contributions as such helps our support services and assistance from transportation, medication to groceries for patients, dressing materials, facilitating weekly home visitations in partnerships with Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MOHMS) and the survivorship programme focusing on post recovery.”

InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, Grand Pacific Hotel Suva and Holiday Inn Suva continue to collectively make a positive contribution, drive lasting change, and show the world just what True Hospitality for Good means to us all at IHG.

Together IHG Colleagues can do so much. With hotels spanning over 100 countries, IHG is proud to be at the heart of the communities and recognises the opportunity this global reach brings to make a positive difference. To help guide the actions as a responsible business and our aims with respect to the people, communities and planet, we created Journey to Tomorrow: our 10-year action plan.

Together with those who stay, work and partner with IHG, IHG will shape the future of responsible travel and ensure we deliver on our purpose of True Hospitality for Good.

As IHG continues this exciting and important journey, it will take a truly global team effort to achieve the ambitious targets. Each colleague has a part to play, and initiatives are an excellent way for the hotels to all come together and work towards our Journey to Tomorrow goal of improving the lives of 30 million people.

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Smile with Us

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Smile with Us

FHTA, 17 November 2022 – Visitors to Fiji label us the ‘friendliest people in the world.’

From when they board our national carrier to making their way around the many experiences and exciting places they stay at, to when they check in to depart our shores, they are inundated with big smiles and a hearty ‘Bula’ from everyone they meet.

Where does that stem from, that friendliness? That veilomani, that duavata that is both inquisitive as well as genuine interest?

It could be cultural norms because where we each hail from is always of interest as this determines your background, who your people are, and what your name might mean and often sets the scene for how we interact with one another because of cultural and traditional relationships.

Whatever the case, it is very much a Fiji ‘thing’ that has garnered Fiji a reputation second to none.

As World Kindness Day was celebrated earlier this week, it seems fitting that Fiji can hold its head up high when remembering all that is friendly and kind in the world.

World Kindness Day was introduced in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement, a coalition of nations kindness NGOs and is usually commemorated on November 13.

It is a day that is set aside to highlight good deeds in the community focusing on the positive power and the common thread of kindness for good that binds us.

Kindness is a fundamental part of the human condition which bridges the divides of race, religion, politics, gender, and location.

Despite the strife and trouble around the world or even on our doorstep, Fiji continues to make sure that visitors and guests are made to feel the warmth of our welcomes

As locals, many of us might be immune to the big Bula smiles by now but for visitors, it is a beacon of welcome and inclusion that is rarely shared where they are from.

It lets them know that they will be safe, their families will be safe, and that they are amongst friends that can even treat them like family.

Because at the end of the day, that’s what we all yearn for – to be safe with the ones we love.

On the global stage, the nation’s tourism industry has slowly but surely cemented its position in the Pacific as a preferred holiday destination.

The Fiji ‘brand’ is firmly framed by its idyllic beaches, swaying palm trees, and smiling, friendly people. It has become a recognized force in itself and is buoyed by fellow famed foreign exchange earners like our natural mineral water, a strong national airline, coconut-based beauty products, and a seemingly unending supply of extremely talented rugby players.

Growth in the industry has become broader-based, with increasing demand for local products where quality and nature-based goods get exposed to international markets and provide more employment opportunities with steady growth.

The trickle-down effect to the grassroots level expands even further with the growing interest in eco-tourism and focus on protecting and conserving natural environments through tourism exposure and the demand for experience-based travel.

Before the pandemic struck, the rapid growth in international visitor arrivals was anticipated to continue growing into record numbers, with us missing our aim for the magical one million mark in visitor arrivals that we came very close to.

But is it really about increasing visitor numbers that should be the key element by which we judge our success?

Based on this year’s performance thus far, there are several areas that need to be considered when planning where tourism development needs to be taken to and what measures we use to determine its continued success.

Data shows hotels are at capacity currently and have been at high levels like this since reopening, including every Air B&B or homestay option around the country and that visitors are staying longer and spending more on food and beverage, as well as experiences and activities.

Fijian school holidays are going to take place at the same time of the year as Australian and New Zealand school holidays, so flights will be fully booked and hotels will have no space, both for the upcoming school break and in the year ahead.

There is currently a high demand for room inventory riding the successful reopening and Fiji’s envied position of doing things right – a highly vaccinated population in the shortest possible time, consultative approach to getting a well-supported reopening framework out, confidently reopening early with consistent destination marketing activities, and a key focus on community and visitor safety through quickly incorporated enhanced hygiene protocols along with widespread testing.

But large accommodation providers (200 to 450 rooms) with globally recognized brands while smaller in number with the largest share of room inventory, have the biggest challenges with accessing consistent supplies of power, and water and managing waste.

Having no downtime where occupancy dropped as it has always done during troughs in previous years, has maintained pressure for services – food and beverage supplies, laundry turnover, demand for power, water, and waste management.

And of course, for staffing.

The only consistency is dealing with these challenges on an ongoing basis and the rising costs of mitigative measures having to be applied whether during normal times or during adverse weather conditions.

Despite many plans to introduce other hotel brands in this “large’ room inventory range, Fiji has not been able to convince investors that this model will work anymore, and yet we recognize at all levels that if airline seat capacity will continue to increase, we will have a situation where we do not have sufficient room numbers.

So are there better hotel investment models that we could promote, that require a smaller environmental footprint, requires less infrastructure development, or even allow a progressive increase in room numbers based on viability and sustainability?

And would this modelling also address where we would prefer to see tourism progress and develop – being truly sustainable, using less water and power resources, and allowing better-managed waste services?

Smaller hotels or resorts planned along strata titled or single ownership options offer the flexibility of reduced investment set-up costs, faster builds depending on the use of renewable and recyclable alternatives, as well as the ability to be located away from already heavily built-up tourism hubs.

This has the potential to pave the way for more local and foreign investment opportunities and consequently more jobs, without increasing the current high demand for power and water, especially in areas that we can barely supply consistently.

The industry is also the largest employer in the country with over 150,000 employed directly or indirectly in the sector, with more women and young people than other industries.

We are now seeing this number of workers decrease as all industries in Fiji deal with increasing labour migration, whether skilled or not and tourism is feeling this acutely, as no doubt every other industry must be.

Regardless of whether we have plans to increase our room inventory by building more hotels, identifying larger and larger commercial office spaces to set up business processing services, or increasing our manufacturing factory floors; our people are taking their Bula and their smiles overseas and we will continue to see these gaps grow.

They are quite rightly in high demand overseas and we recognize the positive side of this where inward-bound remittances rise to the predicted 1 billion, while individual opportunities for better skills, international exposure, and improved livelihoods are elevated.

Consequently, what does a lower unemployment figure really mean for Fiji if the reality is that every industry and public sector can confirm increasing vacancies that may eventually result in poor productivity, or poorer services and products?

As you make an effort to be kinder to one another and return a smile and Bula headed your way, take the time to enjoy the beauty of our country and think about how much you know about her and how much of this beautiful country you have really seen and appreciated.

And we apologize in advance if your call or email is not answered immediately, your order comes late, your room isn’t ready for you, your bags didn’t arrive or your bus is late.

We are more than a little short of staff these days, but still big on delivering our best Bula!

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 17 November 2022

InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa named Fiji’s Best MICE Hotel

InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa named Fiji’s Best MICE Hotel

17th November 2022 (Natadola, Fiji): The World MICE Awards, a global initiative to recognise and reward excellence in the MICE industry, has announced InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa as “Fiji’s Best MICE Hotel 2022” at the star-studded Gala Ceremony in Amman, Jordan held last month. The World MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) Awards recognise excellence in MICE tourism and the annual awards programme aims to foster growth, innovations and best practice on a global scale.

Award-winning InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, which features outstanding conferencing facilities and is located on one of Fiji’s best beaches, was nominated among four leading MICE properties in the country. The voting process ran for 12 weeks, from 1st June 2022 – 26th August 2022, during which the MICE community, industry experts, and consumers were invited to vote online for their preferred resort.

Lachlan Walker, Area General – South Pacific, InterContinental Hotels Group, said: “It is an honour for our flagship property, InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, to be recognised by the global voting audience as the leaders of Meetings & Events in Fiji and to be a part of a community of premium MICE hotels worldwide. We are proud of the high standards we have set to deliver the best MICE experiences for our local and international delegates. I want to thank the senior leadership team, our colleagues, local suppliers, and vendors for achieving the outstanding service delivery that brings to life IHG’s vision of True Hospitality for all.”

Hidden away from the main resort, InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa’s Watercourt Conference Centre is the hub of dedicated meeting spaces, offering maximum privacy for events whilst conveniently located close to key resort spaces. The resort features eleven flexible and versatile conference and meeting rooms, all featuring natural lighting and built-in audio-visual. The main features are a pillar-less ballroom seating up to six hundred guests, three separate one hundred and twenty-five delegate theatre-style meeting rooms (each of which is dividable into two rooms), and plenty of pre-function space for breaks, displays or trade exhibitions.

The resort earlier this year introduced ActivePure technology, which is now in place & proven to reduce over 99.9% of the virus that causes COVID-19, both on surfaces and in the air. The biodefense air purification system has been used in NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) spaceships and space stations for several years and has received the prestigious award of being inducted into the Space Hall of Fame in 2017 and is one of only 75 technologies to receive such an honour in 30 years.

Additionally, Encore Events Technologies, the in-house service provider for audio and visual services, has just completed a quarter-million-dollar upgrade set to impact the overall event experience at Natadola Bay positively. The enhancements include new wider 4K projectors and drop-down screens in its meeting rooms that enable a much larger viewing surface, upgraded 75-inch TV screens, digital concierge systems for meeting facilitators and event planners, and rewiring event spaces for a premium audio experience. Together with this, state of the art Video over IP (VoIP) system has been installed to distribute vision throughout the space and installed wireless access points allow vision routing through smart handheld devices.

The World MICE Awards™ aims to drive up standards within the MICE industry by rewarding the organisations that are leaders in their field. It was developed in reaction to overwhelming demand from the MICE sector for a fair and transparent; programme with a mission to serve as the definitive benchmark of excellence and help foster a new era of growth, innovations and best practice on a global scale. World MICE Awards™ is the sister event of World Travel Awards™, launched in 1994 to celebrate excellence in travel and tourism.

For more information, please visit www.fiji.intercontinental.com or social media @InterConFiji.

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: For Science and Peace

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: For Science and Peace

FHTA, 10 November 2022 – This week is annually commemorated by the United Nations as the International Week of Science and Peace.

First observed in 1986 as part of the International Year of Peace observance, the organizers sought to encourage the broadest possible international participation in its observance.

With the various hostilities happening around the world, not least of all the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the United Nations continues to urge Member States to encourage relevant bodies to sponsor events and activities related to the study and dissemination of information on the links between progress in science and technology and maintenance of peace and security.

The annual observance of the International Week of Science and Peace is making an important contribution to the promotion of peace.

The week encourages greater academic exchanges on a subject of universal importance while also generating greater awareness of the relationship between science and peace among the general public.

Based on either sheer luck or the universe’s wisdom, we find ourselves in a region where wars or civil unrest aren’t commonplace.
Thus, it doesn’t play a large part in how our daily lives progress unlike other areas around the globe.

We can be forgiven for feeling guilty quite often, that we have glorious sunshine, splendid beaches and infectious smiles while others are not so lucky. That we have bounty from the sea, lots of fresh vegetables and exotic fruits that many can plant or harvest from accessible land or sea

However, we still feel the repercussions that trickle down to Small Island Developing States like Fiji.

As noted by the Asian Development Bank, there was minimal impact on trade in the Pacific with a lower dependency on the European/Russian market currently feeling the effects of the conflict in the area.

Indirectly though, is where the real shockwaves are being felt in the Pacific.

For Pacific Island Countries (PICs), demand is exacerbated by our smaller populations, distant locations and lower demand drowning out our collective voices as we watch the steady increase in cost for everyday food items.

We have a high dependency on imports like fuel, food and manufactured items because while PICs have many resources and raw materials available, we lack the infrastructure, technology and often the required production volume to make manufacturing or value-adding cost-effective, especially to suit demand or for longer shelf life.

And despite this high dependency, we ignore the available opportunities to grow more of our fresh produce to ensure we are generally a healthier population.

The much-maligned recent price hikes for fuel in Fiji, while not well received, were correctly forecasted particularly for a predominantly maritime region that relies on large fuel supplies for air and sea transportation.

While there are opportunities for Government subsidies for essential items like fuel, these are targeted to ultimately create more affordable transport options for the general public using public transport services like buses and inter-island ferries, to name a few.

We often forget that our remoteness from each other and the rest of the world compound the impacts of commodity price shocks, primarily for fuel and to certain extent food items.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has emphasised the need for countries to manage inflation, target fiscal assistance to the needy, make sensible use of macroprudential tools and undertake vital reforms for public debt management.

Level advice in times of growing uncertainty with private sector businesses doing their own belt-tightening, much of which was already in place because of prior strategies that were being applied when moving from border shutdown to reopening, especially where their individual financial situations were at below emergency levels.

But Fiji is currently riding on a wave of popularity as a destination – perhaps boosted by those higher costs to travel long distances that are tinged somewhat by the fear that the more time spent in a plane or at airports, the higher your risk to still catch COVID.

As one tourism operator exclaimed last week at the concurrently run HOTEC Trade Show and the Tourism Talanoa Symposium, “These are fabulously busy times! I am still pinching myself at how well things are going for us and Fiji and hope it can continue.”

The high numbers of visitors post-reopening have been a result of much discussed and expected pent-up demand and the need for people to get out of their homes and closed-up spaces, towns and cities, and to make use of the often-generous spread of COVID support international governments provided while they waited for vaccination levels to move up.

Family reunions and the Fijian diaspora, along with first-time travellers to Fiji are part of the holidaymakers choosing to visit, as are thousands of people looking for a reason to have their conferences somewhere sunnier, happier and warmer.

Our individual vaccination layer of protection was never meant to be a long-lasting solution, but simply the impetus for reopening safely. But we can see the long-term impact it is having.

We are all meant to have annual doses of booster shots for the foreseeable future and this has been a critical aspect for Fiji and its economic sectors like tourism, to instil a sense of safety coming off a global tragedy that took far too many lives.

By all accounts, the tourism sector around the Pacific region is growing from strength to strength with more island states fully reopening now, dealing with the subsequent but initial effect of COVID spreading through communities in ever-decreasing impacts, while every week visitor numbers appear to continue increasing.

According to the latest UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, international tourism saw a strong rebound in the first five months of 2022, with almost 250 million international arrivals recorded globally.

This compares to 77 million arrivals from January to May 2021 and means that the sector has recovered almost half (46%) of pre-pandemic 2019 levels. And those figures certainly reflect Fiji’s last few months of visitor statistics.

While consumer confidence is back and tracking well here, elsewhere we can see that slower reopening (because of slower vaccine uptake), slowly returning connecting and long-haul flights, long-distance travel hesitancy and still shut borders still have some way to go.

With over 2 million travellers choosing to visit the 17 Pacific Island countries pre-COVID, Fiji receives the lion’s share of these visitors with most island states attracting between 3,000 to just under 200,000 visitors annually, while Fiji hosted almost 900,000 by 2019.

Marsh’s recently released Global Risks Perception Survey (GRPS) 2021-22022 which lists some interesting changes to their risk report for the top five short-term global risks.

The scars of COVID-19, where “social cohesion erosion”, “livelihood crises” and “mental health deterioration”; have moved to the top of the list of imminent threats.

Coming in second on the list was looming debt crises with debts expected to worsen over the next 3 to 5 years. Something our economists can continue to enjoy mulling over.

The third highest short-term risk is listed as “extreme weather”, “climate action failure” and “biodiversity loss”, with 5 of the most severe long-term listings all being environmental.

No surprises there for us in the usually serene Pacific.

The last 2 short-term global risks list digital inequality and geo-economic confrontations.

The future is what you make it, but it still needs the ability to plan well for it so you know you’re heading in the right direction and to determine where you must plan for buffers or be more creative with diversification and cost mitigative efforts.

Despite reports of another variant rearing its ugly and unwelcome presence, we continue to plan and prepare for the future.

The science says we should expect variants to keep cropping up from time to time, so we continue to advise tourism stakeholders to maintain their enhanced sanitation processes and monitor their staff and guest wellness.

These are not just peaceful times to be grateful for. They are also bustling times for the industry as it continues to welcome full planeloads of visitors.

But not yet time to let our guards down, or our peaceful times in Fiji may waver. Again.

Let’s get those boosters, keep washing those hands and remain vigilant!

And be grateful for the Science that enables our Peace in the region.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 10 November 2022

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Connections

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Connections

FHTA, 3 November 2022 – After the longest two years in history during which the inability to meet without masks, crowd restrictions and distancing requirements were part of the then-normal business requirements; the Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) hosted the HOTEC tradeshow.

Hot on the heels of the last fireworks from the Diwali festival, you could be forgiven for thinking some stray fireworks were ringing in our long-awaited return, but there was far too much noise, spirited negotiations and clanging and banging throughout the competitions and sample tastings that were going on to have been noticed anyway.

It was certainly a wonderful sight to see suppliers and industry come together for a couple of days at the Sheraton Fiji Golf and Beach Resort to talk about new products, improved designs, better quality and increased value options.

And we have no doubt there was ample opportunity for making new connections, learning new things and becoming acutely aware of the need to lift one’s game with a heightened sense of competition between suppliers and resorts and restaurants looking for products and services that would exceed customer expectations.

Driven by the response from the tourism industry on challenges to locate supplies in sufficient quantities, at levels of premium quality aimed at their more discerning customers, or simply to have options for alternative or new products to enhance the customer experience; loyal local suppliers were joined by suppliers of meat, dairy, wine, white goods, appliances, kitchen and resort equipment from Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Singapore and even Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

The event venue was humming with the sounds of networking and business connections being made and the exchange of positive statistics that reinforced the Fiji-wide post-pandemic tourism boom that appears not to be adhering to the traditional downward trend of visitor numbers we should be experiencing right now.

By now our source markets of Australia and New Zealand are expected to be back at work and school, with a slow trickle of visitors still coming in from the US and other smaller markets. But this has not been the case at all.

Instead, on the back of Fiji’s successful reopening and the expected initial pent-up demand; we are still seeing continued interest from those same markets that may have travelled further distances to Europe and Asia, or returned to their usual holiday stomping grounds in the cheaper and more accessible South East Asian destinations.

There are many reasons for the extension of our “high season”.

These include the ability of Fiji’s tough little national airline to be ready from the get-go to steadily increase its seat capacity as demand increased, the national tourism office maintaining its steadfast belief that continued brand awareness pre and post-reopening were key to keeping the Fijian brand and its commitment to safety firmly in sight in our key markets, and a determined industry accepting the stringent reopening requirements with that “can do” attitude that has seen it get through other economic and climatic upheavals.

Reopening early and with a vaccinated and confident population was another driving factor, along with the Fijian Governments’ unwavering support that was aided by the international partner governments throughout this period.

But while these provided a strong country readiness background, many other factors have played out around the world that have also worked in Fiji’s favour.

Rising fuel costs exacerbated by increasing supply chain challenges that eventually drove up food, travel and energy costs, the Russian invasion, labour shortages that have created their domino effects for reduced agriculture exports, transport (train, plane & shipping) cancellation and delays, the uneven distribution or support of vaccines that in turn changed entire country’s reopening plans and eventually impacted economies.

It appears that for many holiday planners, and given the above situations – Fiji was deemed as closer, safer, affordable and accessible.

We’re certainly happy with their choices.

Visitors are coming for the first time or returning more often. And when they’re here, are staying longer, travelling further around the islands and demanding more experiences.

We were happy to play a little part in reinvigorating the supply chains and possibilities for our exhibitors with an often deeper insight and understanding of what the demand is and why.

And we have this insight because we are constantly looking for ways to stay in touch with the industry and to understand what the challenges are before we can attempt to look for, or offer solutions.

Across from that HOTEC tradeshow, we saw the inaugural FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium kick-off to consolidate our knowledge and expertise and to discuss “Where to next for Fijian tourism?”

There are so many areas in this industry that we have seen a variety of changes in, and others that have been completely flipped from where they used to be. And having been hit once by the longest-ever curveball that was COVID; it was time to review what the next set of challenges might look like.

As an industry, we have fully experienced the way the almost tectonic shifting of the pandemic freight train moved at several speeds and know that we no longer have the luxury of leisurely contemplation of any complicated situations; what with the hopes of a nation far too reliant on tourism resting on our collective shoulders for a full economic recovery.

Carving out some time to get together as an industry and talk about the next steps – with our critical network of suppliers, the many public sector regulatory agencies we work closely with, and the private sector and development partners that support investment, training, and resourcing, seemed to be the right thing to do.

Especially right now before the Pacific’s official start of the cyclone season.

The Tourism Talanoa Symposium was the perfect opportunity to share experiences, discuss challenges and recommended solutions; and give attendees the platform to learn of the changing dynamics in an industry that has had to constantly re-evaluate what it’s doing and how.

The “when” can still catch us by surprise. But we continue to try and work it out.

Along with the upper-management attendees, we were graced with the presence of the Minister and Permanent Secretary of Tourism. This provided some welcome and relevant input into the discussions, as questions earmarked for the Government were posed for answers and resolutions or consideration.

There were six power-packed sessions over two days that addressed all areas of the industry that affect its further development, where its limitations are, and where we perceive the opportunities might lie no matter how long it’s been sitting in that “too hard basket”.

More importantly, how businesses might be able to improve their productivity, lower costs or make business operations simpler.

What could we learn?

What must we toss out or re-evaluate?

How do we continue the success trend while managing the inevitable challenges we know await the industry?

Our key outcome was that industry stakeholders used the forum to be heard, hear others and come away with a better understanding of where we should be going collectively.

That was certainly achieved with one thing that came out very clearly.

Supporting the industry to reinvest or entice new investments, and expand and grow sustainably requires working closely with every government agency it interacts closely with – energy, water, waste management, environment, land access, agriculture, roads, transport, tax, immigration, infrastructure and marine.

And for all those agencies to achieve their long-term strategies, complete their plans and access required budgets that seem almost always out of reach; a lot more inter-agency consultation must take place, apart from talking with us more often, so that the industries they work for and with, can support them to achieve their own goals.

Tourism’s success ultimately translates into higher revenue streams that eventually flow into tax coffers. And then in turn those agencies need to complete their annual activity plans and longer-term strategies.

Connections must work more creatively between the industries and the agencies that support them, in the same manner, that industry supply chains cannot exist without both the supplier and the buyer.

We owe our deep gratitude for the success of the last week’s events to our sponsors and event partners; another connection stream we work hard to maintain.

Vinaka vakalevu also to those agencies that came to talk and to listen to us.

Until next time, sota tale.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 3 November 2022

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Planning Tourism’s Next Step Carefully

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Planning Tourism’s Next Step Carefully

FHTA, 27 October 2022 – Today sees the return of our HOTEC Tradeshow and the first-ever instalment of the Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) Tourism Talanoa Symposium, which aims to consolidate our knowledge and expertise to discuss where “Where to next for Fijian tourism?”

The timing is right.

There are so many areas in this industry that we have seen so many changes in, and others that have been completely flipped from where they used to be. While other areas still manage to surprise us or turn out that despite best efforts, still need shoring up or improvements.

Some start out as glitches that we eventually count as learning moments and move on. We must. But we are learning as we go.

Far more often, it is in direct response to the changing demands of visitors that have added to the impact of the pandemic crisis that appears to have remained at more “tolerable” endemic levels, despite reducing from the critical levels that so damaged this industry here in Fiji, in our Pacific Islands and around the world.

The crisis has been recognised an opportunity to rethink how tourism interacts with our societies, other economic sectors and our natural resources and ecosystems; to measure and manage it better; to ensure a fair distribution of its benefits and to advance the transition towards a carbon neutral and resilient tourism economy.

As an industry, we have fully experienced the way the almost tectonic shifting of the pandemic freight train moved at several speeds and know that we no longer have the luxury of leisurely contemplation of any complicated situations; what with the hopes of a nation far too reliant on tourism resting on our collective shoulders for a full economic recovery.

We are therefore, carving out some time to get together as an industry – with our critical network of suppliers, the many public sector regulatory agencies we work closely with, and the private sector and development partners that support investment, training, and resourcing.

The 2022 FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium scheduled for 27-28 October at the Sheraton Fiji Resort in Denarau will provide the opportunity to share experiences, discuss challenges and recommended solutions; and give attendees the platform to learn of the changing dynamics of an industry that has had to constantly re-evaluate what it’s doing and how.

But now, even faster than we imagined we would have to.

We have six sessions lined up over two action-packed days that address all areas of the industry that affect its further development, where its limitations are, and where we perceive the opportunities might lie no matter how long it’s been sitting in that “too hard basket”, and how businesses might be able to improve their productivity, lower costs or make business operations simpler.

And we want to ensure we talk at length about how in Fiji at least, where we are already interacting with our communities, this can move to be far more inclusive and take our environmental processes to the next level.

In Session One, we’ll look at Compliance and how the tourism industry can better work with regulatory bodies, licensing boards and ministries to provide an improved understanding of compliance requirements and any changes to policies or regulations.

Essentially encouraging dialogue around the ease of doing business and associated costs.

As an Association, we have long advocated for extensive awareness to pave the way for wider compliance. At the same time, we work hard on pressing home the need to make compliance requirements pragmatic, with simplified processes that do not sacrifice productivity and eat up operational costs unnecessarily.

Session Two sees a much-looked-forward-to presentation and discussion on Online Tools for Research and Marketing come to the fore.

This is where technology and marketing experts discuss the use of current and emerging tools to leverage trends to maximise returns because businesses have to consider innovative options to understand and capture their target markets while always thinking of their bottom line regardless of the industry they’re in.

Our third session will shine a spotlight on Human Resources – Recruitment, Retention and Training, something currently at the top of every industry’s list of challenges.

The nationwide shortage of manpower has not only adversely affected hundreds of our tourism operators; we know it has also impacted the efficiencies in countless other industries, including the quietly suffering public sector. And while we recognise the opportunities for employment overseas, we do not believe there has been effective discussion at any level about what we can collectively do about addressing those gaps. And to do so with a great deal more urgency than we can see right now.

Expert panellists will explore the current skilled-labour shortages and discuss key recruitment, retention and upskilling considerations to counteract outward labour mobility.

Session Four will focus on Aligning Industry Progression with Infrastructural Development for tourism.

Government statutory bodies like Fiji Roads Authority, Water Authority of Fiji and others, have confirmed their attendance to outline their short and medium-term development plans and discuss how these align with industry needs and possible expansionary plans.
If you are already in business and considering expansion, are a potential investor or simply want your existing business operation to improve current accessibility to energy, water or recycling; this session will be right up your alley.

For the penultimate symposium session, another expert panel will lead the discussion on Sustainable Economic Policies and Recovery.

Panellists from the financial sector will examine the economic outlook for Fiji and its current state as well as projections for the future, discussing how the measured industry recovery and response may be structured in order to ensure continued sustainability.

Finally, we will round off the FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium with an Industry Dialogue session to talk about “The Way Forward”.

This is where we unpack everything that has been discussed over the previous sessions and discuss with influential tourism stakeholders like Fiji Airways, Tourism Fiji and SME voices, what the way forward should and will look like, and discuss where there might be opportunities for more public-private partnerships in order to achieve our collective goals.

It has certainly been the long road out of Eden, as the Eagles have crooned with dulcet tones and classic guitars, and having (almost) gotten through a year mixed with the excitement of reopening, the fear that no one would come, and the dizzy exhilaration of dealing with the far higher numbers of visitors than even our most positive expectations eventually resulted in; we are making time to recap our struggles and successes and discuss how we continue this current high into the next year and the next.

What did we learn? What must we toss out? How do we continue the success trend while managing the inevitable challenges we know await the industry?

This is a small example of what delegates of the Symposium will experience and contribute to, but we hope our key outcome will be that industry stakeholders use the chance to be heard, hear others and come away with a better understanding of where we should be going collectively.

When the tourism industry is busy and humming, so is the Fijian economy so come and be part of the solution.

On the HOTEC Tradeshow side, we will have all the tourism suppliers together in one room for the tourism industry to see their latest range of products and services and to negotiate new contracts and networks.

Local and international exhibitors have participated in this event in the past and the interest level has increased exponentially on the back of supply chain challenges, and increasing visitor numbers with more discerning demands and expectations.

There are competitions, training opportunities, and information and awareness dialogue opportunities with industry stakeholders, government and the private sector being incorporated into, or simultaneously in this two-day program.

Check this link to see a list of the exhibitors – https://fhta.com.fj/hotec-2022/visitor-info/exhibitor-profile/

Entry is free so come down and see for yourself!

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 27 October 2022)

IHG Wedding Show Brings Planners from Key Destinations

IHG Wedding Show Brings Planners from Key Destinations

02 November 2022 (Natadola, Fiji): Combining luxury Fiji weddings with some of the world’s top wedding planners under one roof, InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa curated a wedding exhibition at the five-star property last weekend. Fifteen luxury Wedding Planners, public relations, and media representatives from Australia, New Zealand and North America were flown into Fiji for an immersive destination itinerary and one-day trade show between planners and local wedding vendors.

Hosted by InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa and supported by industry partners, the exclusive event included two days of personalised wedding setups, curated dining experiences and face-to-face meetings with the Resort’s key vendors and partners. Fiji-based vendors ranged from Wedding and Event Theming, Photography, Hair and Makeup, Group Tours, Sustainable and Luxury Gift Supplies and more. Held at the Resort’s meeting spaces, the event brought together all the critical elements of a seamless destination wedding.

Lachlan Walker, Area General – South Pacific, InterContinental Hotels Group, said: “We are thrilled to be hosting the IHG Wedding Show at our flagship InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa. This is a great opportunity to showcase our unique Resort and work with our local vendors and partners to highlight why Fiji is the ideal destination for weddings.”

Launch of Revamped Wedding Packages

The multi-award-winning Resort announced revamped wedding packages and offerings for couples looking to celebrate their special day in paradise. From small wedding packages for less than ten guests to grand celebrations, the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa’s Weddings Team launched new options designed to bring dream weddings, honeymoons, vow renewals and anniversaries to life.

The Resort also launched a new Club InterContinental buyout package for those looking for the ultimate in privacy and exclusivity. A Club InterContinental Buyout dedicates the entire Club team to the Bride & Groom’s guests, securing all 50 suites poised high on the plateau overlooking Natadola Beach.

Wedding Planners and Attendees

Travel Managers Wedding Travel

Bon Voyage Travel

Hideaway Holidays

Travel Managers

Poni STUDIO

DK Weddings and Events

Run Away with Me

H&L Lovely Creations

Tropical Occasions

Master Plans Events and Designs

Wedding Business Educator & Planner


Vendors and Partners at the Wedding Show

InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa

Grand Pacific Hotel

Tourism Fiji

Fiji Airways

The Wedding & Events Atelier Fiji

Rosie Holidays

Nama Fiji

Hot Glass Fiji

Wedding Hair/Makeup Perfectionist Fiji

Lodo Hair & Makeup Services

MeSovu

Victoria Wines

Balance Fiji

Encore Fiji

For more information, please visit www.fiji.intercontinental.com or social media @InterConFiji.

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji donates $10K to Fiji Cancer Society

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji donates $10K to Fiji Cancer Society

The earmarked International Pinktober Month; is celebrated by many across the globe in the hopes of spreading awareness and advocating the realities of breast cancer patients and survivors alike.

This year, on the auspicious 30th of October 2022, the team at Radisson Blu Resort Fiji as part of Responsible Business celebrated the event by organizing a Walk-a-thon with the inclusion of willing guests as participants for the long walk to Denarau Industrial Park.

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji General Manager, Mr. Charles Homsy, had the honour of handing the donation cheque of FJD$10,000.00 to the Fiji Cancer Society representatives; raised with the help of resort staff (purchasing a Denarau Island, Fiji, 31 October 2022 pinktober merchandise) and guests during the special month.

The General Manager said, “While it is unfortunate that we have loved ones suffering from this terrible disease, we must not withhold our hands in trying to help.

Nonetheless, I am proud, that through our combined efforts, the Radisson Blu Resort Fiji has been able to act and position itself as a supporter in the fight against breast cancer.”

A panel of representatives from the Fiji Cancer Society was present and were very vocal about the advocacy of the significance of Pinktober. Margaret Rounds, a representative shared in detail how important it is to get an early check-up if there are any irregularities and continue to be persistent if you are not satisfied with your health results.

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: HOTEC is Back!

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: HOTEC is Back!

FHTA, 20 October 2022 – There isn’t any need at all to rehash the tourism industry’s challenges over the past few years.

As a tourism-reliant economy, every Fijian either experienced it directly or indirectly.

But we KNOW everyone felt it in some way, and many continue to be affected!

Whichever industry you are in, public or private, there was no doubting tourism’s far-reaching effects on our people and our beautiful islands.

If you hadn’t known then, you most certainly knew now, just how important tourism is to Fiji and its friendly populace.

That’s why it feels surreal that this time next week, the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association HOTEC Tradeshow 2022 will be open to the public and more importantly to the tourism operators, who for the most part have not been able to take a breath from the pre-reopening border preparations of late 2021 to the almost overwhelming response from visitors returning to Fiji over the last 11 months.

Supplier display booths didn’t take long to sell out and this was largely due to the eagerness of tourism suppliers to showcase their updated products and refreshed services directly to the Tourism Industry.

HOTEC is Fiji’s leading annual hospitality tradeshow and in its 17th iteration, it continues to grow, albeit with a two-year gap.
It’s a space where suppliers can meet and pitch to potential clients and even create business contracts.

But our key outcome for providing this space is to challenge the industry to consider more productive business options, cleaner energy and greener processes, and to challenge local and international suppliers to provide alternative and innovative solutions to the current issues created by supply chains that have not been able to recover from the pandemic induced shipping and manufacturing backlogs.

During and post-pandemic, we have heard through consistently highlighted news from the media of the supply chain disruptions. With endless footage of shipping bottlenecks as container vessels full of parts and raw materials were stuck at sea, unable to unload their cargo in ports. Even if the shipments finally made it to shore, ground transportation wasn’t available to move them to the next destination.

Manufacturing facilities and warehouses closed down, while distribution centres and retailers couldn’t obtain or move along the materials they needed. Consumer demand shrank as people stayed at home or struggled with their financial difficulties. The situation has not improved and where it has improved, has often resulted in higher costs to the consumer because of increased labour costs, storage, longer routes and rising insurance premiums covering every aspect of the supply journey.

As economies struggle to recover, this situation has given rise to a whole new way to re-examine supply chain management strategies as experts in the business predict at least another year of supply chain problems.

Having heard that a year ago, industry sceptics continue to grow.

It was time therefore to review where we were getting our products from and if costs were rising anyway, considering our options in terms of quality and accessibility.

Suppliers, new and old, have found that HOTEC is a great platform to market new and innovative products or services and new ways to do business.

Sometimes our exhibiting suppliers even learn from their fellow exhibitors about the latest trends, so a win-win all around.

We have actively engaged with local suppliers of fresh produce, manufactured goods and importers or agents to encourage them to bring their game face to what will be a competitive environment.

Here is an industry that has gotten off its knees and is ready to soar but the cost of all things associated with the industry has also soared – replacing skilled staff, ensuring heightened sanitisation processes are in every aspect of a hotel, resort, hired vehicle, vessel or plane, purchasing meat and seafood for everyday menus, accessing quality beverages, dairy products, linen, crockery or glassware.

If you are refreshing your furnishings, interior design or updating your kitchens or simply changing your tiling; you have probably had to wait for materials, have been delivered half of what was promised and paid for and have probably cancelled the orders in frustration.

We have invited what we believe is a cross-section of suppliers to be able to showcase their wares because we welcome anyone genuinely interested to do business with tourism.

If the supply can be consistent and of a high standard, maybe a long-term relationship can be conjured up among the many dealings that will take place under the roof of the HOTEC venue, the Denarau Island Convention Centre.

We believe this is a step in the right direction to support businesses to establish or re-establish supply chains for quality goods and services to the entire tourism industry and maybe put suppliers on notice that they need to lift their game.

HOTEC promises to bring together many local and international suppliers willing to create business relationships with the hospitality sector and visitors will be spoilt for choice over the two days, in terms of the variety and quality of the goods and services on offer.

The emphasis is on reviewing and reimagining tourism’s needs.

From fresh food, and produce to dry goods, cleaner energy opportunities and newer recycling methods, as well as introducing cost and energy-saving information.

All interested parties are welcome to walk through our exhibition space and see for themselves what HOTEC is all about. Perhaps even consider where the gaps are that they may be able to supply in the future.

Local SMEs have also been supported to bring their products and services out to showcase what they can do. However small and fledgling they might currently be, niche products that epitomise their Fijian branding are always more than welcome – after all, many a local and now familiar export brand has been launched and tested on the tourism market

Entry is free to all.

Everyone is welcome to come down and see what’s on offer and take advantage of the HOTEC-exclusive deals, immerse themselves in the industry atmosphere and perhaps learn a thing or two about what food and beverage products (amongst many others) are the popular mainstays of an industry that is having to adjust to each challenge as the year has progressed.

FHTA is super keen on providing the right platforms to reach our industry stakeholders and key supply chains, having seen the many changes in travel post-reopening with expectations on food, service and products, as well as the pre-requisite safety elements that must now be built into all aspects of travel.

HOTEC 2022 and the FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium being held alongside (where industry, regulators and interested stakeholders discuss where tourism is moving to in the future and how we prepare for it) are our contributions to ensuring that tourism in Fiji continues to better itself tomorrow from what it was yesterday.

Understanding the challenges first, building strong collaboration and partnerships, using reliable data to make decisions – all in place in some form or other, but there’s still nothing like having to explain that there’s no tonic to go with that gin to mar your visitor’s very first Fijian sunset. Or denying them that butter-simmered lobster from the menu.

To deliver that dream holiday, we need strong supply systems that can deliver.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 20 October 2022)

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Joining the Discussion

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Joining the Discussion

FHTA, 13 October 2022 – Last month’s World Tourism Day focused on its theme of “Tourism for inclusive growth” under the World Tourism Organisation.

As we seek to understand more and more about the fragility of the global market and how one incident can throw a large spanner into the works, we also approach the last few months of the year with both some trepidation and excitement.

It may appear that we have time yet to consider and plan for the new year but the end of this month leads us inexorably into the beginning of the traditional cyclonic season for the tropics.

As recently as the last week, we kept a watchful eye on the higher-than-normal tides, and strong winds, and heeded the warnings to be on the alert for destructive coastal inundations. We have had cyclones start as early as October before and we watched with knowing concern as Category 4 Hurricane Ian, battered Cuba and then Florida only a few weeks ago.

So just 3 months before the end of a whirlwind year of restarting tourism from a medically forced shutdown, we know that there is nothing quite like a natural disaster to suddenly wind up the last few months of the year with no time to review what we have learnt, decide where we want to go as an industry, and consider the possible solutions to challenges or improvements to business in our relentless quest for better productivity.

There are many lessons to be learnt from the past two years, not least among these is the fact that regardless of how prepared we are, we can still get tossed the odd curve ball to toss us down the most convoluted of rabbit holes.

Planning and strategizing. Anticipating and researching. Modifying and communicating. Yet, despite all this, we still got flipped flat on our faces.

We have lived and breathed resilience models and trialled or discarded the usually well-intentioned advice on how to prepare, survive, revive and thrive.

There are areas in the tourism sector in which we have noted various stages of changes in, and others that have been completely flipped from where they used to be. While other areas still manage to surprise us or turn out that despite best efforts, still need shoring up or improvements.

Some start out as glitches that we eventually count as learning moments and move on. We have to.

As an industry, the luxury of leisurely contemplation of any complicated situations is certainly not ours; what with the hopes of a nation resting on our collective shoulders for a full economic recovery.

We are therefore carving out some time to get together as an industry – with our critical network of suppliers, with the many public sector regulatory agencies we work closely with, and with the private sector and development partners that support investment, training and resourcing.

The inaugural 2022 FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium scheduled for 27-28 October at the Sheraton Fiji Resort in Denarau will provide the opportunity to share experiences, discuss challenges and recommended solutions; and give attendees the platform to learn of the changing dynamics of an industry that has had to constantly re-evaluate what it’s doing and how.

But now, even faster than we imagined we would have to.

We have six sessions lined up over two action-packed days that address all areas of the industry that affect its further development, where its limitations are, and where we perceive the opportunities might lie no matter how long it’s been sitting in that “too-hard basket” and how businesses might be able to improve their productivity, lower costs or make business operations simpler.

In Session One, we’ll look at Compliance and how the tourism industry can better work with regulatory bodies, licensing boards and ministries to provide an improved understanding of compliance requirements and any changes to policies or regulations.

As an Association, we have long advocated for extensive awareness to pave the way for wider compliance.

Session Two sees Online Tools for Research and Marketing come to the fore.

This is where technology and marketing experts will present and discuss the use of current and emerging tools to leverage trends to maximise returns because businesses have to always think of their bottom line regardless of the industry they’re in.

Our third session will shine a spotlight on Human Resources – Recruitment, Retention and Training.

The nationwide shortage of manpower has not only adversely affected hundreds of our tourism operators; we know it has also impacted the efficiencies in other industries as well as in the public sector. And while we recognise the opportunities for employment overseas, there has not been effective discussion at any level about what we can collectively do about addressing those gaps.

Expert panellists will explore the current skilled-labour shortages and discuss key considerations for recruitment, retention and upskilling to counteract outward labour mobility.

Session Four will focus on Aligning Industry Progression with Infrastructural Development for tourism.

Government statutory bodies like Fiji Roads Authority, Water Authority of Fiji and others, have confirmed their attendance to outline their short and medium-term development plans and discuss how these align with industry needs and possible expansionary plans.

For the penultimate symposium session, another expert panel will lead the discussion on Sustainable Economic Policies and Recovery.

Panellists from the financial sector will examine the economic outlook for Fiji and its current state as well as projections for the future.

They will also touch on how the measured industry recovery and response may be structured in order to ensure sustainability.
Finally, we will round off the FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium with an Industry Dialogue session to talk about The Way Forward.

This is where we unpack everything that has been discussed over the previous sessions and discuss with influential tourism stakeholders like Fiji Airways and Tourism Fiji what the way forward should and will look like, and discuss where there might be opportunities for more public-private partnerships in order to achieve our collective goals.

This is a small example of what delegates of the Symposium will experience, but we hope our key outcome will be that industry stakeholders use the chance to be heard, hear others and come away with a better understanding of where we should be going collectively.

When the tourism industry is busy and humming, so is the Fijian economy so do put your hand up and be a part of the solution.

We have proved that we deserve to be on top of travellers’ wish lists and we must continue to work together to ensure we’re living up to our potential as a destination.

Understanding the direction we should be heading in is part of a simpler journey because having recovered from a situation many considered impossible, one of our key learnings has been that you can never be prepared enough.

Join the discussion.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 13 October 2022)

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Understanding Demand and Supply

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Understanding Demand and Supply

FHTA, 6 October 2022 – .The beautiful island nation of Fiji celebrates 52 years of independence this weekend and what a journey it has been and continues to be.

Resilience for a Pacific Island country such as ours, shaped by nature’s ability to provide beauty and hurl mighty cyclones at us with equal ease, has been part of this exciting journey.

Let us pause to acknowledge all those that have shaped our country’s path – good, bad or indifferent; they have all impacted this enduring resilience to continue to harden our resolve to persevere, overcome, and succeed.

Our resurgent tourism industry has grown in leaps and bounds from the early days and has risen to become an undeniable force in Fiji’s revenue-earning potential, even after the forced pandemic-induced stoppage.

Over 40 percent of Fiji’s total Gross Domestic Product in 2019 was from the tourism industry and this speaks to how heavily we have come to rely on tourism in Fiji, perhaps by default because of our ideal location and naturally friendly people, sometimes at the cost of our environment, but always a welcome source of revenue, employment and generation of other side industries and supply chains nevertheless.

Accentuate the positives to eliminate the negatives, as Bing Crosby happily sang.

On the global stage, the nation’s tourism industry has slowly but surely cemented its position in the Pacific as a preferred holiday destination.

The Fijian brand continues to develop and extend itself to supply chains that have often started out responding to demand from tourism, then developing naturally into the domestic and export markets once these products have evolved and matured into proud versions of “Fijian Made”, making their way into the world.

These are classic examples of growth in the industry becoming broader-based, with increasing demand for local products specifically identified for their quality and unique nature-based origins that get exposed to international markets and provide more employment opportunities with global recognition and steady growth.

Beauty products, soaps, oils, gift items, jewellery, souvenirs and clothing are just some of the supply lines that get launched by, through or because of tourism.

The trickle-down effect to the grassroots level expands even further with the growing interest in eco-tourism and focus on protecting and conserving natural environments through tourism exposure and the demand for experience-based travel.

The industry is also the largest employer in the country with over 150,000 employed directly or indirectly in the sector, with more women and young people than other industries.

We have seen an increasing number of workers choosing to look for opportunities overseas as all industries in Fiji adjust as best they can, to the crippling demand for skills overseas to replace gaps left by workers choosing not to return to full-time work in those markets, as well as those left by the reduced number of international students, backpackers and other workers who returned to their homes during the pandemic.

Planning for keeping our pipelines ready and supplied for critical workers is required now if we are serious about ensuring we are looking ahead for the next ten years or more.

Demand for many other supplies is also impacting the delivery and quality of service, completion of infrastructure and buildings on time as well as catering to the discerning visitors or domestic shopper expectations.

Everything from the supply of fresh produce, seafood, dairy products and meat supplies in the quantities required and the high quality demanded is currently not sufficiently met or provided in quantities that only last a short time.

This has been a key part of bringing the Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association’s HOTEC trade show back to create more connections to suppliers offering alternatives or better options.

It also puts industry stakeholders in direct contact with suppliers to better understand industry challenges, create discussions and awareness around what is possible and can be made available, and in turn provide fresh solutions, ways to reduce operational costs and opportunities to improve how we make our businesses greener.

The trade show will not just be a forum to host suppliers showcasing their products but provides them opportunities to have hospitality staff taste wines, cheeses and locally produced coffee, as well as learn new ways to serve, preserve, protect and be more productive.

In partnership with the Fiji Chefs Association and alcohol suppliers, there will be cooking and cocktail competitions to show us the new levels you can take your bread making, gourmet planning or cocktail creation skills, with the option to learn from some masterclasses being offered over the two days.

International suppliers will be on hand to provide cleaner alternatives to cleaning, air conditioning and air purifying, while local agricultural producers will showcase their fresh produce to gain insight into hotel demand while connecting to chefs looking for fresh local options.

There will be technology and telco experts on hand to introduce the latest gadgets in security, software, connectivity and communication, as well as several suppliers bringing their latest technology and hardware to show what’s new for restaurants, hotel rooms, maintenance, water and power productions.

In the larger ballroom, just across from the tradeshow, and open to anyone working in or with the industry, the inaugural Tourism Talanoa Symposium is taking place over the same two days. The focus of the two-day “talanoa” type event is to provide operators with the opportunity to engage with a range of stakeholders to generate dialogue that promotes positive momentum as the industry continues its recovery post-pandemic.

A wide range of panellists are invited to share various challenges and opportunities within the industry, research and development insights and initiatives, digital and traditional marketing tools, and our corporate and strategic goals in moving the industry forward.

HOTEC and the Tourism Talanoa Symposium will take place from the 27th to 28th of October 2022 at the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort on Denarau in Fiji and will be centred around the theme “Working towards a Sustainable, Marketable, Agile, Resilient and Travel-ready (SMART) Industry “.

This is one just of the ways we are looking critically at the current list of supply challenges, to better understand how demand is tracking and work together to ensure we can continue the current positive momentum.

We’re looking forward to seeing you all there.

Happy Fiji Day, everyone!

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 6 October 2022)

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Rethinking Tourism

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Rethinking Tourism

FHTA, 29 September 2022 – .There’s nothing like the mother of all challenges to force you to review how you do what you do. And for governments, industries, and businesses around the world, this has meant dusting off strategies and reframing them with a post-pandemic lens considering that many things have changed including consumer behaviour, the wide spectrum of digital solutions available and the hunger for online experiences influencing everyday choices.

Globally, tourism also changed once the experience of being forced to stay still (or in the same place) resulted in people’s enlightenment and appreciation for nature and the human potential to destroy or preserve it.

Hence the reviewing or rethinking of tourism, where as an industry we have the inherent capacity to be a leader in rebuilding back sustainably and conscientiously.

This week saw the celebration of International World Tourism Day on September 27.

The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) initiated World Tourism Day celebrations in 1980 and this was to promote awareness of the value of tourism among all individuals and communities worldwide.

The theme for WTD 2022 is “Rethinking Tourism” and the ultimate focus for this year is to evaluate and then commit to how the industry can inspire and promote sustainable growth in the sector.

Most countries around the world are still experiencing lower than usual numbers in their visitors’ numbers, due to the pandemic-forced global economic crisis being further intensified by the Russia/Ukraine conflict, supply chain disruptions, rising costs for fuel and increasing skilled labour gaps.

These factors have not granted Fiji any sort of immunity despite our distance a world away from where these challenges first started. We were hit as hard as any other tourism-reliant small island developing state (SIDS) economy, but perhaps unfairly so – we feel the impact more distinctly because of our heavier reliance on imported products, including the heavy reliance on tourism.

The UNWTO recognises that the remoteness of economies like Fiji’s affects our ability to be part of the global supply chain, therefore increasing import costs – especially for energy – and limiting our competitiveness in the tourism industry.

Many SIDS are increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – from devastating storms to the threat of sea level rise and we are all too familiar with the other added threats to our economic comeback, as positive as it is currently looking.

Tourism has grown in leaps and bounds from its early pioneering days and rising to become an undeniable force in Fiji’s revenue-earning potential and is now recognized as a fundamental cornerstone of the country’s economic development.

Contributing $3.8b to the country’s total Gross Domestic Product in 2019, $1b to the government’s tax revenue, over $2b in foreign exchange earnings and employing around 30 percent of the total workforce (and impacting employment levels almost as much indirectly); Fiji’s heavy reliance on tourism received a devastating blow when the pandemic closed borders.

Ten months on from reopening, the industry has had to continually adjust to a changing business landscape like shifting sands, where even the expectations and demands of travellers have evolved.

The ‘Fiji’ brand is distinctly recognized by its idyllic beaches, swaying palm trees and smiling, friendly people, reinforced by other strong export brands and large foreign exchange earners like our natural mineral water, a bold and intrepid national airline, coconut-based beauty products, naturally talented rugby players and a rising, tech-savvy SME movement.

Adding to this ever-strengthening mix of industries that are developing and growing at a formidable pace are a consistently delivering manufacturing sector, business process outsourcing and IT, among others.

The ‘Zoom’ fatigue is very real as Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association has been inundated with interest for our own events – HOTEC 2022 and the Tourism Talanoa Symposium 2022, while in the last 3 months alone; every conference and large meeting room around the country have been booked solid by both local and international participants.

With all the lessons we’ve learnt this year since our reopening, are we as an industry prepared for what the next few years have in store for us, and what does the new version of tourism look like?

With our planning and strategizing, as well as anticipating, researching, and modifying our steps to getting here; the key to the main learnings has been the ability to be flexible and to elevate communication efforts.

Connectivity to work, family, travel, news and the world has never been more critical regardless of weather, location and even lockdowns.

Being risk savvy is top of the list of changing priorities. This includes recognising the critical disaster risk resilience strategies that ensure your business is prepared, has trained staff and has included checklists for these in your day-to-day planning.

This will keep customers and staff safe while ensuring your business can navigate climatic and pandemic risks, while being ever prepared for the day-to-day crises of power or water cuts, flooded roads or delayed boats, planes or supply deliveries.

Crisis resilience is about using our experiences and learnings to better prepare for the risks we know are out there and even coming, budgeting for these along with the usual additional areas of staff health priorities, sick leave policies, marketing, insurance and being aware that the costs for constant training are going to continue to rise.

And these are only part of the operational adjustments that tourism businesses are having to make.

Rethinking tourism is more about where we’re taking the future of tourism with the acceptance that while Fiji already does many of the now better identified preferred travel or holiday options, we do not market these options so clearly.

What are these preferred travel options that the travelling world has made known with their online screening times, reading selections, FB clicks and Tik Tok or Instagram viewings and the new phenomenon of “sharing”?

Visitor experiences, cultural interactions, revitalising and regenerative holidays, wellness and healing, participating in sustainability programs, giving back to communities, forest and reef explorations, diving, hiking and trails exploration and tasting local cuisine.

This list is not limited to those noted and provides an opportunity to tap into the growing demand for all things natural and cultural that are already available in abundance, but most of the time you need to know where to look for them, so tweaking our communication efforts, promotions and marketing will help to better influence visitor choices.

Having a tech-savvy, social media geek onboard also helps.

We can become transformative agents of change to provide those needing to unwind and connect to nature by offering inspirational and regenerative opportunities to connect with our natural environment – much of which we take for granted because we see their beauty every day.

Those picture-perfect sunsets and pristine beaches need more than just token appreciation and shared images.

They also need support at a national level to continue being beautiful and remain sustainable by ensuring we’re taking care of the land and the oceans by keeping them clean, and waste-free and maintaining their balances when we take their bounties out as we are so fond of doing.

How we plan to utilize the vast opportunities that present themselves and how long we have them available, is up to us.

All of us. The industry, our communities, staff, government, and visitors.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 29 September 2022)

Live Fully Recruitment Drive Hosted by Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay

Live Fully Recruitment Drive Hosted by Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay

NADI, FIJI – 28 September 2022 – Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay is one of the most sought-after places to work, proven by the outstanding turnout at the resort’s recruitment drive last week. As the first resort to host a recruitment drive along the coral coast, the event was a great success with over 500 attendees in total, resulting in more than 250 attendees applying for roles across Food & Beverage, Culinary, Front Office and Housekeeping.

The resort team had department representatives present at the recruitment drive to speak of their career journey with the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay and to also showcase their work at Lawaqa Park in Sigatoka where the recruitment drive took place. Encouraging Fijians to ‘Live Fully’, the requirement drive showcased how employment at the iconic resort in Momi Bay will help people live life to its fullest, whether that is seeking to grow in new opportunities, work beside teammates that feel like family or to make a difference in the world.

The number one leader in hospitality worldwide, Marriott International strive to build on its 93+ year history of service, innovation and growth. Marriott International’s mission is bridging cultures and inspiring discovery around the world, with the purpose to open doors to opportunity for people, customers, owners, franchises, investors and shareholders.

Embodying the values of putting people first, serving the community and career growth, is these values that make Marriott International’s culture more vibrant and sets them apart from other employers.

“At Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay, we offer unmatched opportunities for associates to grow personally and professionally. We take pride in inspiring our associates to make someone else’s day better and empower them to be a force of good in the world. We’re really pleased with the success of our recent recruitment drive at Fiji Marriot Resort Momi Bay, and are proud of our ability to provide opportunities for local talent in Fiji, benefitting individuals but also the local economy” commented Silvano Dressino, General Manager at Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay.

Marriott International offers competitive benefits such as unrivalled travel perks, recognition and acknowledgement for leadership, exceptional service and hard work, along with growth opportunities and professional development. These employment benefits and the overarching culture at Marriott International have been extensively recognised as best in class, including:

· ‘Best Place to Work’ and ‘Best Workplaces for Women’ by FORTUNE

· ‘Top 50 Companies for Diversity’ by DiversityInc

· ‘Best Employers in the World’ by Forbes

· ‘Most Innovative Companies’ by Fast Company

Applications are still open for various opportunities at the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay. Visit: https://careers.marriott.com/

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Believing in Ourselves

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Believing in Ourselves

FHTA, 22 September 2022 – .This week saw the end of an era with the funeral of the Late Monarch of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Regardless of where you stood on the Royal Family, one cannot simply look past the fact that Her Majesty had brought about change to an inherited position, modernising the monarchy, its interaction with, and relevance to, the citizens of the Commonwealth.

She has been a part of the Fijian fabric of life for so long and she is the only monarch that Fiji truly respected with such reverence; reverence that trickles down to the other members of her Royal Family.

She will surely be missed by her subjects.

Her Majesty had visited Fiji a handful of times during their 70-year reign and one could say she had an affinity for our islands. One hopes that if she had visited again, she would have been quite impressed with our progress as a nation.

Although her imagery has been replaced on our currency and the celebration of her birth removed from the list of annual holidays, there are still some reminders of the British colonial handprint in our society as we converse in English while welcoming international visitors and travelling along Queens Highway or Kings Highway.

As World Tourism Day looms next week with its theme of “Tourism for Inclusive Growth” under the World Tourism Organisation, we seek to understand more about the fragility of the global market and how one incident can throw a whole industry in disarray.

Before the pandemic, Fijian tourism relied heavily on international guests but had to pivot to domestic tourism during the era of the closed international border.

Locals and expatriates who remained in-country were offered holiday options that, while sporadic and less profitable, allowed tourism properties to keep the lights on and keep some staff employed.

It may seem to some that the tourism industry has now left locals in a lurch but this is our Peak Season and international guests are highly welcomed to our shores during this time because they pay a premium rate for their Fiji experience; welcome revenue that will benefit the country as a whole and that will support recovery and growth across the Fijian economy.

To capitalise on the travel demand, local operators have sought to develop appealing experiences to complement the traditional “sun, sand and sea” offering while also balancing the need to protect the local communities, culture and environment.

Sustainability has become a new buzzword post-COVID and FHTA is fully supportive of sustainable growth that also promotes resilience and responsible conservatorship of our natural assets while not limiting the opportunities for our local communities and people.

With only three months left in 2022, our good fortune continues while our planes keep flying in at full capacity, and most of our hotel properties are announcing large guest numbers or are even at full capacity themselves.

A notable concern has been a lack of manpower which has adversely affected several tourism operators, in particular the larger properties that need many hands to help move their operations along positively and to the standard expected of a Fiji experience.

Labour mobility schemes that have attracted our workers to jobs in Australia and New Zealand have meant that as an industry we are losing workers faster than we can replace them, often having to invest in training recruits to restore the skills lost through their departure.

This is one of the key discussion points that will be addressed during the inaugural FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium in Denarau on the 27th and 28th of October and we do encourage tourism stakeholders to register and add their voices to the conversation which will actively look at possible solutions to ensure that our tourism industry retains its much-needed skilled workforce.

The current workforce, as part of the frontline that deals directly with incoming visitors, continue to ensure that they are as protected as they can be against COVID-19 with masking and hand sanitization practices still being encouraged.

The industry welcomed the further easing of restrictions with the removal of mandatory in-country tests for visitors but FHTA has encouraged operators to remain vigilant and maintain a strict symptom screening process for visitors and staff, testing of symptomatic individuals and isolation for those that test positive.

Additionally, FHTA recommends that all tourism staff are up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccine boosters because these can further enhance or restore protection that might have decreased over time after the primary vaccination.

Our Vuvale partner Australia continues to be our strongest market followed by New Zealand and the United States of America.
These markets remain our largest tourism revenue sources so we must ensure these visitors are kept safe whilst travelling.

The Ministry of Health envisions that as more of the population receives the booster dose the better the level of protection, and the safer it will be to further reduce the remaining public health measures.

As we work toward that, FHTA is again looking at all aspects of the tourism industry and how to best support those businesses that are directly or indirectly involved in it.

A step in this direction is to support businesses to establish or re-establish supply chains for quality goods and services through the FHTA HOTEC Tradeshow that will be running alongside the Symposium in October.

This tradeshow will bring together many local and international suppliers willing to create business relationships with the hospitality sector and visitors will be spoilt for choice over the two days, in terms of the variety and quality of the goods and services on offer.

Fiji continues to be known for the friendliness of our people and our Fijian smile, in addition to being a beautiful destination.

FHTA hopes that 2023 will bring more reasons for those Fijian smiles as we continue to work together to ensure that as Fiji tourism recovers its footing, it is pulling everyone up along with it.

To quote the late Queen of England, “It’s worth remembering that it is often the small steps, not the giant leaps, that bring about the most lasting change.”

So with small steps, let us effect change and encourage growth in a more sustainable and resilient Tourism industry.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 22 September 2022)

FETA Announces Opening of Entries

FETA Announces Opening of Entries

Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards (FETA) today announced that entries would open for submission on 23rd September 2022. The registration period will also close next Friday to allow registered applicants to prepare and submit their entries online.

FETA Chair, Debra Sadranu said industry stakeholders have shown encouraging support for the 2022 season, especially with the introduction of new categories this year.

“We continue to encourage all individuals and organisations in the tourism industry to register on the FETA website before the closing date of registration so that they can prepare and submit their entries in support of this prestigious event that recognises and acknowledges excellence in tourism”.

Sadranu mentioned that the new categories include “Dive Operator of the Year”, “Spa Operator of the Year” and “Wedding Operator of the Year”. Top individual performers in the industry have the opportunity to win an award for “Cultural Tourism Champion” and “Employee Excellence in Service” in addition to the individual awards for “Dixon Seeto Tourism Leader” and “Rising Star”.

The 2022 FETA season is one of the most anticipated events on Fiji’s calendar and is anticipated to be bigger and more inclusive this year in celebration of the tremendous effort of the industry despite the unprecedented challenges faced due to Covid.

FETA will be making further announcements leading up to the awards in the coming weeks

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Testing and Taxes

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Testing and Taxes

FHTA, 8 September 2022 – .The long and arduous ride through and out of the pandemic – and we agree it’s not quite completely behind us just yet – has led Fiji to get to its current “new normal”.

Where we’re still keeping a wary eye out for signs of increasing infections, but also taking the time out now to ramp up vigilance and support for other medical infections and diseases we were initially too busy or simply unable to manage. 

From the border reopening 10 months ago to the relaxation of the mask-wearing directive, Fiji has taken another significant and applauded step in the right direction with the recent, welcome announcement of the removal of the pre-entry booking and post-arrival testing for COVID-19.

Anyone arriving in Fiji will now no longer be required to produce evidence of test bookings to board flights to Fiji or disembark at any of our seaports. No more stressing about when to take the test between dive lessons, snorkelling or day trips and locating that test provider in or near a hotel.

This, along with the confirmation that confirmed positive cases have their isolation reduced to five days from the original seven; is truly a culmination of many various factors that make Fiji a shining regional example for a successful reopening that has seen progressive pandemic mitigative measures allow for a gradual easing of COVID restrictions.

While the mandatory in-country test no longer applies, anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms is still required to get tested.

However, those who test positive will now be required to isolate for a minimum of five days. If they continue to be symptomatic after five days, then they must complete seven days of isolation.

There is no doubt that removing the post-arrival testing requirements and reducing the isolation period further simplifies travel to Fiji and will boost visitor confidence to select Fiji for a holiday, wedding, meeting or conference, that in turn positively impacts economic recovery.

By now, increased hygiene protocols have been inculcated into tourism services, standards and training with the widespread acceptance that consistent sanitization protocols generally reduce cross-contamination.

Plus, it makes for common sense practice as well – you reduce the chances of your staff getting sick and improve your service offering and productivity, and if you reduce the chances (as much as possible) of your guests getting sick, you better guarantee their positive experience while here before returning safely home and hopefully with great memories that will ensure they book a return trip.\

This puts the responsibility of staying safe on each of us individually.

So, onwards and upwards, even if we have to remain vigilant to protect this current happy state where the sunnier, milder temperature days with their deeper-hued sunsets complete the picturesque delivery of a holiday in paradise.

But even in paradise, we must pay the Taxman.

And said taxman in the form of the very accommodating CEO of the Fiji Revenue and Customs Services (FRCS) gave freely of his and his senior executive’s time over the last few days to front a few industry sessions to talk about all things taxes.

The 2022/2023 National Budget, announced a few months ago, provides many incentives for tourism that will undoubtedly help the industry achieve its targets for this year and beyond.

Often criticized by other industries for getting far too much attention in the budgets of late; tourism has always understood its place in the Fijian economy and realized far earlier than most; the impact a closed international border was going to have on its 150,000 employees, its myriad number of suppliers both large and small, and on the untold number of communities it has symbiotic relationships with that go back for many generations.

And while that impact was proven correct, we were also primed and ready for a strong comeback.

To help industry operators and suppliers acquire a firm grasp of the tax policies, incentives and changes outlined in the 2022/23 Budget, the Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) ran awareness sessions with FRCS that also included discussions on their digitizing progress and how this supported wider and simplified compliance.

The strategy for these awareness sessions is simple.

Having survived the worst possible scenario for an industry that relies on the freedom for unfettered travel, and then revived despite much pain, through collective resilience and widespread compliance to required health protocols as well as support from the government in many forms, it has re-emerged with all engines firing.

But this is an industry well versed in all manner of economic, climatic, geo-political and political challenges made more extreme by our size and location. And experience has taught us that it is critical to plan now – when things are humming- for the longer term and prepare for what might be just beyond the horizon.

So while things look like they’re well and truly on track with resorts full, tourism activities and supplier businesses humming and planes taking off and landing more often with fuller loads all the way to the end of the year; we want to ensure we are prepared for next year.

And the next.

FRCS delivered a welcome and an interactive session that didn’t just discuss tax policies.

Tax collections have now surpassed even their own positive expectations and speak volumes for a widely compliant industry that has not until now been as appreciated. And this is where a consultative relationship with policymakers can work to ensure tax policies are relevant, understood and easier to implement.

As the industry’s “voice”, FHTA works diligently to understand and discuss the specific challenges of each of the many varying segments within the industry because hotels have different issues just based on their size and location, while marine or dive operators, tour, rental and transport businesses, activities and experiences and suppliers of different products and services, each have their own very specific, but equally relevant operational issues.

Tax policy application and therefore compliance expectations might look slightly different for each operator.

The willingness to listen therefore and the gradual acceptance of moving from an “authority” demanding strict, standard acceptance regardless of your specific differences, to a service-driven organization that works to understand your issues and develop solutions with and for you, have significant opportunities for FRCS.

Surpassing budgeted tax collections is just one of these, because the more compliant the biggest contributor to Fiji’s GDP is, the more widespread the economic benefits of these collections our population will be able to experience.

There has never been a better time for the tourism industry and its suppliers to talk about all things tax related with the tax experts and discuss any existing or expected challenges, and as we always do; discuss how we can work together on pragmatic solutions.

The industry wants to better understand newly implemented online systems and their intended simplification of tax processing while sharing each business’s specific issues, but they also want to know how to better plan for the future.

We also ask many questions, because that is how we better understand changes and assimilate them.

Can we reduce cost more effectively and channel this instead into further development or new projects that better drive productivity, value for money and efficiency?

The increase in VAT provides a broader tax-based coverage but does the VAT Act and pending Vat Monitoring System (VMS) take tourism’s many, very unique revenue recognition systems into consideration that currently requires substantive backend realignment?

What is the purpose, practicality and applicability of each of these taxes and who are they specifically designed for?

In an industry that best understands never to implement a “one size fits all” concept because it recognizes the subtlety and uniqueness of individual demand, we really do try hard to understand how to apply general taxation rules to ensure the various business types find where they fit in.

Kudos therefore to the taxman and his high-level team for the willingness to listen and understand.

It is a work in progress and one we have always been willing to be part of.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 8 September 2022)

IHG Appoints New Area Director of Sales, Marketing & Revenue

IHG Appoints New Area Director of Sales, Marketing & Revenue

IHG 9 Sept 2022 – IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) Hotels & Resorts in Fiji has announced the appointment of Akshay Singh, Area Director of Sales, Marketing & Revenue – South Pacific at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) South Pacific.

Akshay will be responsible for leading the Commercial team to drive performance and produce excellent outcomes across IHG’s four properties in the South Pacific in his new role. He is an experienced professional with over 14 years of knowledge in commercial roles in the hotel sector and directing various teams in sales and marketing in regional settings.

Lachlan Walker, Area General – South Pacific, IHG, commented: “We are extremely thrilled and excited to have Akshay join the IHG team in the South Pacific. His key areas of competence include creating and implementing successful sales and marketing strategies, ensuring focused guest satisfaction, excelling in revenue targets, and tracking financial success for optimized performance. His fondness for resort hotels sparks from his love for Fiji and the authenticity of Fijian hospitality that is unmatched worldwide.”

He joined IHG from the position of Cluster Commercial Manager with Hilton – looking after the DoubleTree by Hilton Perth Northbridge and Hilton Garden Inn Albany.

On his appointment as the Area Director of Sales, Marketing & Revenue – South Pacific, Akshay Singh commented, “I am excited to be a part of the IHG family. The top-tier InterContinental brand redefines premium luxury, with Holiday Inn being an iconic brand that is the world’s most recognized hospitality brand. In my stint here, I will work alongside the dynamic Commercial team to make IHG Hotels in South Pacific lead the way for commercial success as we increase our footprint in Fiji and the Pacific.”

Singh was also the Group Director of Sales & Marketing for Raffe Hotels & Resorts in Nadi, Fiji overseeing Plantation Island Resort, Lomani Island Resort, and Fiji Gateway Hotel.

Akshay’s proven commercial and revenue experience extends to roles prior; Group General Manager – Sales & Marketing with Pacific Resort Rarotonga, Pacific Resort Aitutaki, and Te Manava Luxury Villas & Spa, Pacific Resort Hotel Group in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, as well as with Flight Centre Travel Group for over five years.

Akshay holds a Diploma of Commerce, Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing & Accounting, and a Master’s Certificate in Hospitality Management.

In previous roles, Akshay actively contributed to various South Pacific associations, most recently as Chairman, Marketing Committee Mamanuca Island Chapter, Fiji Tourism Association. Outside of work, Akshay loves family time with his wife Lisa and two children, Taj and Ivy, along with reading, playing golf, the support and promoting animal welfare, and championing environmental sustainability and mindfulness.