FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Castaway’s Collective Action for the Ocean

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Castaway’s Collective Action for the Ocean

FHTA, 30 July 2022 – The hard-working team at Castaway Island, Fiji (Qalito Island) is entirely committed to environmental responsibility – a key value of their operation – in preserving and protecting the island’s lush tropical vegetation, white sandy beaches and vibrant coral reefs, by minimising pollution and managing our human impact.

That’s why each year, they celebrate the ocean throughout the month of June.

This year they focused on the theme ‘Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean.’

Castaway’s collective actions included coral planting, beach clean-up, underwater clean-up, fish house making and coastal tree planting.

The month-long celebration involved hands-on activities that attracted many hosts and guests and these deepened the understanding of the ocean and educated participants on the fact that all the collective actions Fiji can do to make a huge difference in protecting and conserving our ocean.

The ocean connects, sustains and supports us all; yet, its health is at a tipping point and so is the well-being of all who depend on it.

As the past years have shown us, we need to work together to create a new balance with the ocean that no longer depletes its bounty but instead restores its vibrancy and brings it new life.

Castaway Fiji is a founding member of MES Fiji (Mamanuca Environment Society) and both a leading advocate of environmental sustainability in tourism development and is Green Globe 21 accredited.

In this regard Castaway has adopted the goals and objectives of the MES, raising awareness of our fragile environment through the education of their guests, staff and local communities.

They fully comply with all Fiji environmental legislation and constantly monitor and improve the resort’s operation using relevant performance indicators and following best practice techniques.

They continually maintain best practices in the operation and conduct of their business in harmony with environmental and social commitments.

Being an island resort, they appreciate the massive role that the sea plays in the day-to-day operations.

German historian Heinrich Zimmer said this about the ocean; “Limitless and immortal, the waters are the beginning and end of all things on earth.”

The sea will be here long after we’re gone but we can surely leave it better than how we found it.

For information on the above, you can contact FHTA (info@fhta.com.fj) or contact Castaway Island, Fiji directly.

Published in the Fiji Sun on 30 July 2022

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: The Road Less Travelled

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: The Road Less Travelled

FHTA, 4 August 2022 – The data on visitors to Fiji is collected then dissected, categorised and analysed consistently as part of many invaluable tools for identifying preferred travel options, understanding market demands and improving customer experiences.

This is practised globally and allows interested stakeholders to review trends, make more informed decisions based on visitor behaviour and preference and run more effective marketing campaigns.

Data can also support plans to increase or amend supply, influence decisions to review product offerings and allow businesses to change how they interact with their customers for membership benefits and loyalty or reward programs, among a vast range of other benefits.

For the most part, it is the warm climate with the promise of endless days of bright sunshine, swaying palm trees and frothy cocktails by scenic beaches that are the biggest enticements for holidays in tropical islands.

Visitor data can tell us what we already know and also what we should plan for if we knew how to read it. Especially data that tracks visitor sentiment and insights, monitors why and how they made a selection and what data they were interested in well before they made an actual purchase.

Essentially tracking your decision-making.

Creepy?

A little perhaps. But, consider that as consumers; we check out advertised specials, posts from friends and family (and all those “influencers” we follow, including the music and Hollywood stars we secretly stalk online), admire the holiday snaps, daydream about perfect escapes from our deskbound jobs and begin to form our own perceptions about how we choose what we will do, buy, consume and call a holiday.

Like it or not – we leave digital footprints of where we “travel” as we surf online options.

A growing number of visitors, therefore, know exactly what they want by the time they get around to booking and there has been an increasing trend to head off the beaten track to parts of Fiji that hardly get mentioned in mainstream media.

They head up to the mountains, explore hidden valleys or make their way out to the furthest islands to be closer to nature and people living more closely with the land and sea so that they in turn can feel more connected.

Or maybe they just want to get far enough away from everyone else.

While we were already aware that visitor behaviour was a crucial factor for sustainability, the use of international tourist arrivals as the parameter for measuring the environmental impact of the tourism industry is now even more relative.
Especially as the impact of tourism is projected to increase as a result of greater affluence, lifestyle and demographic change, and growing incomes.

This may be curbed somewhat by predictions of rising inflation in some regions, but with wellness experts advising stressed-out workers of the importance of taking holidays to live healthier lives; we can expect this projection to continue with only a few noticeable troughs here and there.

COVID and its impact on restricted movement and border closures simply exacerbated the demand for holidays that appreciated nature more. Where open spaces and pristine environments demanded increased respect for leaving a place better than we found it.

The resultant reinforced efforts to ensure that sustainability remains at the forefront of all our tourism activities are a direct response to both accelerated climate change experiences and recognized demand from data being shared.

Sustainable tourism practices are principles that refer to the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development.

We know that a suitable balance must be established and capitalising on this can only benefit Fiji in the long run.

These practices have been intertwined with tourism intermittently over the last decade but they have since been ramped up to the front of the queue in light of the environmental and climate issues gaining more global recognition, and perhaps demanding more of our attention.

However, to be truly sustainable, diversity and inclusion must be considered as they will be critical as our economy looks for ways to bounce back from a pandemic that exposed our already existent challenges.

We cannot simply rely on the ways of old to entice potential visitors and industry studies during and post-pandemic has shown us that these travellers will continue to demand far more from their destinations.

Fiji must adapt itself to these new expectations because when we celebrate what is both common and different, we become a smarter, more inclusive and successful industry.

This will need to be an across-the-board effort from all tourism stakeholders so that our efforts are consistent, measurable and effective.

Data, therefore, allows us to understand visitor demand and expectations, which is telling us that they want to see more of Fiji’s natural beauty, share our rich diversity, experience different cultural offerings and appreciate our history.

We already knew through these shared data for example, that feeling safe was the highest priority when travel restarted and borders reopened.

And we better understand the demand for “bucket trips” being taken now rather than later, along with expectations for wellness programs being offered, longer stays being preferred and more pre-trip research being conducted online.

But interestingly, it is the sustainability programs that many resorts were already quietly involved in that have garnered the most interest from our visitors.

There is genuine curiosity and hunger even, to take part in efforts to restore reef systems, help nurture marine ecosystems, plant more trees and protect or support endangered species.

To travel further into less travelled areas and gain a better appreciation of the environment around us that we might be able to genuinely give back to.

Did the global “pandemic pause” create this appreciation or is it the increasing impacts of climate change being felt more severely everywhere now? Or perhaps a combination of both?

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association has begun highlighting its members’ sustainability efforts and has had a wonderful response from industry partners looking to showcase what they’re doing and why.

These can be quite diverse; from running large vegetable gardens that provide fresh produce to their restaurants, coral planting to repair damaged reefs, reinforcing seawalls against coastal inundation or supporting communities to reclaim their financial independence through innovative cultural or cultivation projects.

Sustainability correlates well to our national economic success to counter our emergence from an unprecedented period of high unemployment, low revenue and reduced demand.

As we move slowly to a point where Fiji has a more diversified economic base and less dependence on tourism, there are opportunities already being created through this demand for the road less travelled and the growing interest in reinvesting in our natural environments.

Opportunities that can be developed further for wider participation from SME interests to deliver products and services that support and responds to this growing demand.

There is a lot of work going on in the background to ensure our current and future visitors receive wonderful experiences that will continue to positively influence Fijian holiday insights.

From increasing our food experience opportunities, researching accessibility into those hard-to-reach places, innovative ways to reduce our reliance on imported materials or simply ensuring safety remains a key priority regardless of how far one travels.

There is always wide consultation where we listen intently, share challenges, recommend pragmatic solutions and consistently check available data to track, learn and plan.

All part of ensuring the Fijian tourism industry remains resilient, relevant and responsive to change.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 4 August 2022)

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Style Meets Sustainability at New-Look Wyndham Denarau Island

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Style Meets Sustainability at New-Look Wyndham Denarau Island

FHTA, 23 July 2022 – Positioned absolute waterfront, Club Wyndham Denarau Island is a holiday paradise perfect for sipping cocktails, enjoying authentic Fijian culture and letting life’s pressures float away.

The resort is part of the Club Wyndham South Pacific collection, the region’s largest vacation club with close to 60,000 members, and is one of the club’s most popular resorts.

Here, it is easy to relax and enjoy Fiji’s laid-back pace with the resort’s spacious and stylish one, two, and three-bedroom apartments and luxurious Grand and Presidential Suites.

The resort also boasts outstanding facilities including a large lagoon-style swimming pool, outdoor spa, swim-up pool bar, adults’ pool, kids’ club, restaurants, day spa and a host of onsite activities free to club members, such as stand-up paddleboards, kayak safaris, dive-in movie nights and much more.

After the lockdowns of 2021, Club Wyndham Denarau Island reopened last December unveiling refurbishments, enhanced guest experiences and a host of initiatives centred around sustainability.

“Right from check-in, our guests and club members are presented with a thoughtful sustainable bamboo key card instead of plastic,” said the resort’s General Manager, Kaydee George.

A digital in-room experience has eliminated most paper collateral.

Plastic biros that were once delivered to the resort in individual wrappers have been replaced with biodegradable wheat straw pens. Bulk bathroom pump dispensers using local products are now offered in place of small single-use bottles.

“Travellers today are keen to leave a lighter footprint and we are proud to say that Club Wyndham Denarau Island offers the chance to enjoy a holiday that is both memorable and sustainable,” said Ms George.

In addition to big changes upon check-in, and within the resort’s apartments, the maintenance team have planted vegetable and herb gardens, with the produce now used in the resort’s restaurant kitchens.

“We turn our recycled green waste into quality mulch and compost, which has reduced our water consumption and helps our gardens flourish,” said Ms George.

In its quest to eliminate harmful plastics entering Fiji’s marine environments, balloons have not been used for celebrations at the resort for close to five years now.

Plastic straws are also a thing of the past. Biodegradable eco-straws are offered at the resort’s food and beverage outlets and bio packaging is used for any takeaway items.

There is also a bottle recycling program in play, in which resort guests are encouraged to take part. The robust recycling program extends to upgrades and refurbishments. Resort staff used the 2020 and 2021 COVID-related closures as an opportunity to progress major projects.

Works included upgrades to the resort’s infrastructure including its water tanks, gas services and installation of energy-efficient lighting in public areas, apartments and balconies to ensure its utilities are operating as efficiently as possible.

Bures were re-thatched and all building exteriors repainted. A newly refurbished pool bar, updated playground equipment and an outdoor cinema area at the kids’ club were just some of the initiatives designed to help club members and guests enjoy enhanced experiences at the resort.

During refurbishments, any quality used furniture or materials are donated to local schools and villages.

When bures are rethatched, the thatching is repurposed at the resort or donated.

Replacement items and materials are also purchased through a sustainability lens – for example, scatter cushions within the resort apartments have fillers made from recycled plastic bottles.

Understanding that many travellers are passionate about sustainability, resort staff organise regular beach clean-ups where club members and guests are encouraged to take part.

The team’s next focus is the introduction of filtered treated-water stations and refillable bottles to reduce reliance on plastic single-use bottles and the addition of solar to further reduce the resort’s carbon footprint

“Our team is committed to inspiring our club members and the surrounding community helps us to protect Fiji’s natural environments for future generations. We are proud of what we have achieved so far and will continue to look for ways to operate more sustainably,” said Ms George.

For information on the above, you can contact FHTA (info@fhta.com.fj) or contact Club Wyndham Denarau Island directly.

Published in the Fiji Sun on 23 July 2022

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Recognising Tourism Linkages

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Recognising Tourism Linkages

FHTA, 28 July 2022 – The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) predicted in 1997 that the twenty-first-century global economy would be dominated by three industries: telecommunications, information technology and tourism.

Since then, the travel and tourism industry has grown a whopping 500 percent.

Here in Fiji, there was probably very little reason to celebrate if you were part of the tourism industry and spent 2 years negotiating the slippery slope where closed borders snatched business out of your grasp, put debt collectors at your door and decimated your business.

Then after great expense to refurbish, refresh and reopen after a long closure; had to deal with a cyclone and strong storm surges had done their best to level you, followed closely by COVID coming at you with sick staff and a complicated testing regimen that kept changing; you’re probably blessed with a resilient and stubborn streak if you’re still around like the rest of us.
An understanding bank manager probably helped as well.

But if you persevered with some unyielding optimism that there simply had to be some light at the end of that seemingly unending tunnel, then you’re probably yielding some high-end gains right now that are helping you repay your balance of 2020 debts with the very real possibility of getting stuck into your 2021 debts.

So, there might just be something to smile about now, or at the very least to breathe a little easier.

It is widely accepted (in tourism anyway) that we’re not out of the proverbial woods yet with the external global pressures still in play of the Russian/Ukraine conflict, rising inflation, rising costs of fuel and food prices and the supply chain constriction we keep hearing will end soon (but continues unabated anyway).

Having banded together as an industry, along with the relevant authorities and bodies, planned a pragmatic comeback that took a concerted effort to pull off; we’ve now been humming along for about eight months and counting.

And while the pressure has not eased (more on why below), hotels are more focused on providing the value for money their brand or product is all about, entertainers and artists are in high demand again, and activities and experiences are vying with each other looking for that superior competitive edge and all the peripheral suppliers (and their suppliers) are buzzing around with more purpose and motivation.

Those peripheral suppliers are not just the actual or more direct suppliers of food, beverages, office, hotel, vehicle or vessel equipment. They are the manufacturers, the transport providers, the supermarkets and wholesalers, clothing shops, retailers, restaurants, cafeterias, bars and taverns.

The more visitors we bring in; the more airline seats on planes that are sold, the more hotels rooms used and the more staff you need to operate and fix equipment, welcome and entertain, transport around, fix planes, cars and vessels, serve food, change the laundry, pour drinks, cook meals, wash dishes, provide tours and operate back offices (manage supplies, hire and train staff, count the money, pay the banks, suppliers, wages and bills).

You get the picture. Although, not many do.

Everyone knows that remittances are huge for Pacific Island countries and Fiji is no exception. In fact, it is Fiji’s second highest foreign exchange earner after tourism. But it is not as widely understood that our tourism staff employed all over Fiji also send money “home”.

Home to villages in the rural and maritime areas, home to families in communities and towns and cities where relatives look after their children and help to send them to school. Home to pay for rent, transport, uniforms, bills, food, medicine, funerals and weddings.

Tourism is not just one of Fiji’s highest employment industries (150,000 direct & indirect), it is also a key foreign exchange earner (over $ 2 billion in 2019), stimulates infrastructure development, is a key contributor to GDP (46% direct & indirect), increases tax revenue (over $1billion in 2019), stimulates domestic industries and helps to diversify the economy (increases the demand for fresh produce, local products and services, etc).

And while the industry looks like it’s getting its mojo back, it is doing so while dealing with the new (and some old) challenges as part of its journey back into what we hope is a brighter future.

Key amongst these are the supply challenges that include accessing quality seafood to meet the current high demand with hoteliers noting a 70 percent increase in certain items, whilst only getting half of the items delivered of what is ordered.

Local fish supplies have also seen a distinct drop off with a recent explanation from a local fisherman advising that he wanted to capitalise on the current beche-de-mer sales reopening, so could not provide his usual hotels with fresh fish.

This also includes the yo-yo supply of items most of us would not even give a second thought to that are in huge demand with hotels so full now, that either cannot be supplied consistently or in the amounts required – including tonic water, chicken (local, frozen) dairy items (yoghurt, cream and even local butter) and pork (especially bacon) amongst many other items.

Fresh produce has its share of supply issues that are far too long to go into here and even with many hotels planting their own small, supplementary fresh produce gardens; these are often obviously, far smaller crop yields, so there is a heavier reliance on imported fresh produce to provide the expected consistency, quality and quantity.

Having said that, it should also be pointed out that there is a growing number of hotels (and restaurants) that have taken to farming far larger plots; using their herbs, fruit and vegetables in their restaurants, sometimes selling the excess (as is done in island-based resorts that have supermarkets, for example), encouraging guests to visit the farms as part of introducing the visitor to local food experiences and taking a keen interest in the ability this provides in responding to healthier food choices, increasing demands for organic options and the rising popularity of juicing.

Last but not least, is ensuring we have sufficient numbers of staff with the right skills. Our people are the most important of all our resources.

There cannot be tourism in Fiji without Fijians so it is not like we can replace our local people with thousands of non-Fijians looking for jobs. This is therefore currently high on the industry’s list of challenges – ensuring there is sufficient local staff to provide the real Fijian experience.

And to do this, all over the country, training has been stepped up in earnest to replace the widening gaps being created by our trained and skilled staff going overseas for better opportunities.

It isn’t always smooth sailing in hospitality.

Especially here in the tropics with climate change coming in like a tide, where despite our distant location, we still feel the ripples of global issues tug ever more urgently on our shores.

But when you’re based in the most amazing locations that can go from perfect to paradise, where sunrises and sunsets change from picturesque to heaven-sent, where oceans and forests can still look like they did before we got here, and the people we work with are simply the most amazing because of their genuine warmth and a deep sense of belonging; it is so very difficult to leave.

And despite the setbacks, it is still easy to keep smiling those Bula smiles we’re famous for.

So, we keep doing what we’re good at – making everyone happy they came here for a holiday.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 28 July 2022)

ANZ renews as Sponsor for 2022 Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards

ANZ renews as Sponsor for 2022 Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards

ANZ today announced it has renewed its naming rights sponsorship of The Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards (FETA) at the 2022 season launch at ANZ House in Suva.

Newly appointed FETA Chair Debra Sadranu said the continuing support of ANZ as a naming rights sponsor is deeply appreciated by FETA’s new board of Trustees and will assist the passionate and enthusiastic action team in preparing a bigger and more inclusive event that celebrates the diversity of the tourism industry.

“The season also marks a new and exciting time to celebrate the high standards of excellence achieved by individuals and organisations in the tourism industry despite the unprecedented challenges faced by the industry due to Covid”.

“FETA will also be broadening the event categories for all stakeholders that have contributed to the reopening of borders and who have continued with business after a challenging two & a half years”.

ANZ Fiji Country Head, Rabih Yazbek, said: “ANZ’s ongoing support of FETA recognises the immense contribution that the tourism industry makes in Fiji and is a symbol of our commitment to the local tourism sector”.

“We know that tourism has a multiplier effect across the economy, with key industries including retail, transport and food services, all dependent on inbound tourists”.

“This ANZ FETA season feels particularly special, and I’m really pleased that ANZ is again part of this important event”.

The 2022 Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards will be held early next year.

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji welcomes new Director of F&B

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji welcomes new Director of F&B

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji is delighted to welcome on board their newest team member, Marie-Elisabeth Chassagnon. French-born national Ms Chassagon has joined the family-favourite five-star resort in Denarau as Director of Food and Beverage.

The hotel offers six food and beverage dining options and takes pride in being the only resort on Denarau Island with three speciality restaurants catering to authentic Lebanese, Thai and Italian cuisine.

“The arrival of Marie-Elisabeth is a great added value for us as we always strive to improve and innovate our culinary offerings to meet and exceed the evolving expectations of our guests”, General Manager Charles Homsy said.

Ms Chassagon has worked in a number of places, including the Maldives, Morocco, Seychelles, Spain, Mexico, London, the Caribbean, and the United Arab Emirates, and we are eager to benefit from her extensive knowledge.

“Not only is she familiar with the Radisson Blu family, her extensive background with brands like Constance Ephelia, Kempinski, Hilton and Sofitel, and several other prestigious restaurants around the world, but is also what will give us the added value we were searching for”, Mr Homsy adds.

With more than thirteen years of management experience in food and beverage, the new director looks forward to settling into the team and harnessing the abundant talent available within the local workforce.

“I am very impressed with the current ratings of our four restaurants on TripAdvisor which place in the top five restaurants on Denarau Island and top ten restaurants in Fiji. This is a reflection of the service and hard work of the teams and a true testament to the warm Fijian service philosophy and the “Yes! I can” Radisson Blu motto”, says Ms Marie-Elisabeth.

Leading the Kitchen team are recently appointed Executive Chef Richard Thompson, Executive Sous Chef Abbas Fawaz and Thai Specialty Chef Jatsalid Sirimongkolthong. With their combined experience of over forty years all around the world and their innovative flair for evolving the local culinary scene, it is no surprise why the resort’s restaurants are considered the best in Fiji.

“We look forward to continuing to incorporate cuisine from all over the world here in Fiji while utilizing the best and freshest ingredients sourced from local farms and fishermen”, says Executive Chef Richard.

Chef Abbas and Chef Jatsalid agree that the infusion of local ingredients in their personally created dishes is what sets their speciality restaurants apart from their competition. They look forward to incorporating more Fijian dishes into future restaurant menus and promoting Fijian cuisine.

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Taking a Holistic Approach to Sustainability at Nanuku

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Taking a Holistic Approach to Sustainability at Nanuku

FHTA, 16 July 2022 – If we are the sum of all our parts, then Nanuku Resort Fiji is one of the best around when it comes to pragmatic sustainable practices.

Nanuku is a five-star luxury resort located on the shores of Pacific Harbour and the location is central to the soft adventure and cultural heartland of the destination, which ensures that its visitors have a cultural and environmental experience of both land and sea.

They are extremely proud of their ‘Batiwai project’ within the resort that focuses on environmental systems for day-to-day resort operations, staff wellbeing, community living, and environmental awareness programs for guests and staff both on and offsite.

For day-to-day operations, they have implemented various methods to reduce their energy consumption.

This includes; the installation of LED energy saver bulbs throughout the resort as well as the distribution of solar lights around beach villas and surrounding gardens.

They have also made some positive changes to reduce their environmental impact at the resort.

Some of which include the recycling of all plastic bottles and the replacement of Styrofoam containers and plastic straws with eco-friendly, bio-degradable paper straws and bamboo pulp containers.

They have also introduced the use of refillable pump bottles to replace all single-use amenity bottles in the resort which are Fijian-made.

Bicycles have also replaced the use of resort carts for their guests throughout the resort.

Flip-top bottles have been introduced instead of plastic water bottles plus the fridges in guest rooms have water dispensers.

Through the Batiwai Project, they have also implemented several environmental programs at the resort with their resident Marine Scientist.

Two of these programs available weekly to their guests include coral and mangrove planting.

Coral planting is conducted on the Nanuku reef to not only expand the reef which makes for a good snorkelling spot but also provide natural habitats for marine life.

By protecting this reef, they ensure that poaching is kept at a minimum level while conducting educational workshops for local communities and schools to provide awareness.

A protected reef will also ensure an abundance of marine life and will have a spillover effect on surrounding reefs increasing the population of fish.

To date, they have transplanted 450 new corals onto Nanuku Reef.

Mangrove planting is also carried out in the resort nursery and transplanted to surrounding communities.

Planting mangroves will help sustain fish populations in the area which will also benefit the livelihood of the community.

They have since transplanted more than 10,000 mangroves across Culanuku and Wainiyabia villages and will continue to do so.

Having their very own private island with clear turquoise waters, they have been considered home to nesting turtles.

During nesting seasons, they work in partnership with the University of the South Pacific, studying turtle populations in the Beqa Lagoon Area for the Turtle Moratorium Research.

They have also shown their commitment to the environment by pledging to not serve Kawakawa and Donu (Groupers) during their spawning season and by providing awareness to staff on various issues relating to the environment which they then pass on to their communities.

This includes educational campaigns for their team leaders.

Their Batiwai Project not only focuses on environmental issues but also on the well-being of their staff.

Events like the Biggest Loser competition were organised to encourage staff to develop healthy eating habits and encourage daily exercise for healthy living.

Regular visits from the Navua Health team to the resort allows staff to undergo medical check-ups as well as dental health checks.

There are also regular blood drives carried out by staff to assist with the blood bank in the hospitals.

Community outreach is another aspect of their initiative where donations are made to charities around Fiji.

They have hosted the children from Dilkusha home for a fun day at the resort with games, lunch and activities in their adventure kids club. Several boxes of linen and household supplies were also donated to the orphanage.

Educational supplies were delivered to a local kindergarten to assist teachers with lessons.

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

Published in the Fiji Sun on 16 July 2022

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Why We Must Be Cautiously Optimistic

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Why We Must Be Cautiously Optimistic

FHTA, 22 July 2022 – To face uncertainty is to face the unfamiliar. It is how we overcome it that dictates how prepared we are to face the unknown.

This becomes a pattern of learning experiences that then translate to resiliency that communities, businesses and countries can draw on to mitigate the bad times you know could take place, often when you least expect it.

Fiji’s tourism industry knows a little something about overcoming uncertainties having only just climbed out of a 2-year deep abyss only eight months ago, and regardless of which part of the industry’s varying segments you are from, your resilience was tested to the maximum. And then some.

Last Friday night, despite full houses across Fiji’s accommodation providers, activities, airlines and other businesses, many ears were tuned in expectantly to hear the National Budget Address at Parliament House.

There is always some trepidation and great expectation amongst the private & public sectors, civil society, agencies, institutions, commerce and service providers because this announcement determines future budgets, business plans and confirmation of whether large projects can be completed in the short or long term.

More importantly, it can mean the confirmation of long-awaited resource planning and even salary increases.

Fiji’s 2022/23 National Budget certainly provides more private sector confidence with the announcement that the numerous taxation and fiscal policy measures that were introduced in prior national budgets would continue with a few minor changes. The Budget’s medium-term fiscal strategy noted that the overall tax structure had been left generally unchanged to provide policy consistency to the private sector and the tourism industry – just what had been asked for. It goes on to explain that the restructure of the tax regime in the last 2 years was considered “important to rebuild the competitiveness of the tourism industry, make the tax system simpler and help rebuild private sector confidence to assist with the post-COVID-19 economic recovery”. And it is widely agreed that such a strategy has worked well to both help revive the tourism industry and support domestic demand.

Building private sector confidence is currently a critical part of fiscal strategies being worked on by global economies far larger than this little Pacific Island paradise, given the external forces impacting every economy.

And having these fiscal strategies remain in place for a few years to come, provides added layers of confidence to plan longer term, consider growth and expansion and review prior plans to put investments and new ventures on hold.

Suddenly, and after a few years of consistent short-term planning only; longer-term planning can commence with more focus.

The tourism industry, having just reopened in December 2021 after almost 2 years of closure with limited to no revenue streams, has worked closely with the Government to recover successfully from the global pandemic, natural disasters and global economic pressures.

Navigating and emerging out of these multi-pronged crises has required great fortitude and showed that innovation and agility could and did, provide the outstanding results of reopening our borders safely as one of the first Pacific Island countries to do so at the time, while simultaneously bringing thousands of our people back into much-needed employment.

Post budget overviews have noted that the Fijian economy is estimated to have contracted by 4.1% in 2021 and that the domestic economy is expected to grow conservatively by 12.4 per cent in 2022 after three consecutive years of decline.

Also that this was expected on the back of tourism recovery arising from visitor arrivals of 205,529 in the year to June 2022, which was 50.4 per cent of arrivals over the same period in 2019.

The current strong pace of tourism inflows is also expected to continue, with visitor arrivals now projected to reach 55.0 per cent of 2019 levels by the end of 2022.

With the economy projected to grow in 2023 and 2024 by 9.2% and 5.0%, respectively, tourism businesses and their supply chains can relook at diversification opportunities that were resorted to during border closures that would offer better safety networks during future shocks.

Inflation has been rising since the second half of 2021, as pandemic-induced imbalances compounded by the war in Ukraine have led to substantial hikes in food and fuel prices. Annual headline inflation was 5.1 per cent in June 2022 following 5.0 per cent inflation in May 2022.

The Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) has applauded the range of initiatives announced that will continue to enhance and support private sector-led recovery efforts.

These include improving the ease of business, that in turn improves productivity and reduces the cost of doing business.

As well, recognising the need for continued efforts in government agency digitization projects, increasing support for resources, overdue immigration policy changes and refocusing on infrastructure development where it is needed most, can only further boost private sector confidence.

The industry is acutely aware of the current need for private sector business confidence especially now, coming off a once-in-a-lifetime perfect storm of crisis upon crisis.

Visitor numbers might be currently high, but there is widespread nervousness about another COVID variant re-emerging, the Russia-Ukraine war further disrupting trade and driving prices further up, our usual climate-based risks that never quite go away and even the impending Fijian elections.

It is not appreciated that hotel room occupancy annually can average just 60% and that the tourism high season – during which occupancy can move to 90-100%, only lasts around 4 months of the year.

In between the high season and low season, the “shoulder season” might sit at 60-70% depending on the region (because different regions attract different markets that prefer to travel at different times), while the low season can drop occupancy to 30-40%.

Factor in school holidays and whether it is hot or too cold in those markets and how well our destination marketing is doing, and we have the main driving factors for holiday seasonality, demand, room rates and holiday specials.

We must consider spreading the risk of having a too high dependency on one main industry that is so often impacted by so many outside economic and weather-related influences.

Tourism businesses and the comprehensive supply chain businesses inextricably connected to the industry will be better able to continue their recovery momentum with renewed confidence based on this Budget’s promise to create certainty by retaining almost all of the current tax structure and address overdue economic growth obstacles.

There is still some recovery to get through, and further investment opportunities to get going, while we create more jobs and focus on competing more fiercely as a preferred travel destination.

We are cautiously optimistic that tourism can get back on track, bar all the other worrying issues we know sit just off our sparkling blue horizon like a cloud we’re wondering could either drift off and leave us alone, or get closer and darker.

Best be prepared either way.

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

Launch of Marriott Training Academy a Huge Success

Launch of Marriott Training Academy a Huge Success

Fiji Marriott Momi Bay 20 July 2022 – On Friday the 15th of July the first class of the Marriott Training Academy, held at Fiji Marriott Momi Bay, celebrated the completion of their two-month hotel operation training. Graduating with a 95% success rate, the Graduating Class of April 2022 consisted of 38 candidates from local villages selected from the Land Owners Community (LOC).

Over 150 applications were received from which 40 successful candidates were shortlisted and they then undertook an 8-week course learning the tricks of the trade from the island’s hospitality experts. The group immersed themselves in different disciplines that included Front Office, Housekeeping, Food and Beverage and Kitchen and Steward.

Upon receiving their completion certificate, the department trainers and LOC ensured the 38 successful graduates had demonstrated a wide range of skills and were knowledgeable in each training category. The class are now competent in a variety of service areas including Front Office as guest service agents and porters, housekeeping and public area cleaning attendant, service team across all 5 of the resort’s food and beverage outlets and positions as a commis chef or stewarding.

“We hope what you achieved today will enable you to go back to your different villages and continue to do something that we aspire to see in the next few years. We hope we achieve our target from an FNPF perspective. We are not only going to invest in Momi Bay, but we are also looking at how impactful our investment can be to the community” said Na Tui Nalolo, Ratu Kini Vosailagi, LOC representative.

The overall success of the program has provided several graduates with exposure to job opportunities, within the resort itself. With the tourism and hospitality industry rapidly growing, others are expected to see employment offers come through when an opportunity arises in Fiji or internationally.

“I really want to thank you for your willingness to learn, tenacity, hard work and of course your hospitality to create memorable experiences for our customers. We have 5 candidates in front of me, 3 in kitchen and 3 in stewarding already have a job. After two extremely challenging years, we must be all grateful to see Fiji so busy again. Last month over 62,000 visitors arrived in Fiji and we are on a solid recovery also for our resort and for July we expect a record month.” said Silvano Dressino, General Manager of Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay.

Marriott International’s academy endeavours to provide opportunities in an environment that encourages personal and professional development. Through an integrated approach with different techniques and training from department leaders, Marriott will continue to put learning and development at the forefront of its career program.

The five-star resort offers the only over-water bungalows on the mainland of Viti Levu, where families or couples alike can experience a luxurious getaway complemented with world-class service. Travellers can expect to be treated with the best of service from the heart, a core Marriott service culture.

Tourism Fiji Appoints Chief Operations Officer

Tourism Fiji Appoints Chief Operations Officer

Nadi, 19 July 2022 – Tourism Fiji is delighted to announce the appointment of Mr Leigh Howard as our Chief Operations Officer. Leigh will report directly to Tourism Fiji’s CEO and will play a crucial role in ensuring the organisation operates effectively across all our offices globally and achieves the goals laid out in our Corporate Plan 2022 – 2024.

Born and raised in Fiji, Mr Howard has over 11 years in leadership and management positions in Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji with the AOT Group and ATS Pacific and holds a Master of Business Administration from the Southern Cross University in Australia. Prior to accepting this role, he worked at ATS Pacific (Fiji) for six and a half years, first as Operations Manager and then as General Manager of Fiji.

“Leigh brings his in-depth knowledge of Fiji’s tourism industry and products to the team along with a proven track record of global success in areas we value such as driving business developments, operational and fiscal responsibilities, events, staff development and mentoring. All these attributes, coupled with his wealth of experience and passion for Fiji, in Fiji, made him the best candidate for the job. We wish our former COO James Pridgeon every success in his new role with Fiji Airways, and we now warmly welcome Leigh to our Tourism Fiji family, and we’re excited to see the great work he will do for Fiji and the destination,” said Tourism Fiji Chief Executive Officer Brent Hill.

As part of his role, Leigh will take up the mantle and drive Tourism Fiji’s efforts in the development and delivery of several initiatives to assist tourism industry stakeholders including in the events space, and key product experiences and maintain a great relationship with both new and key industry stakeholders.

“As a proud Fijian, I’m excited and grateful to be given the opportunity to work with the exceptional calibre of people at Tourism Fiji. I look forward to reconnecting with our industry stakeholders and partners and joining the movement in telling the world, that Fiji is ‘Open for Happiness’,” Mr Howard said.

He will commence with his new role on Tuesday 19 July 2022 and will be based at Tourism Fiji’s headquarters in Nadi, Fiji.

Tourism industry cautiously optimistic

Budget Revenue Policies

FHTA 18 July 2022 – The 2022/23 National Budget provides more private sector confidence with the announcement that the numerous taxation and fiscal policy measures that were introduced in prior National Budgets would continue with a few minor changes.

The tourism industry, having just reopened in December 2021 after almost 2 years of closure with limited to no revenue streams, has worked closely with the Government to recover successfully from the global pandemic, natural disasters and global economic pressures.

Navigating and emerging out of these multi-pronged crises has required great fortitude and showed that innovation and agility could and did, provide the outstanding results of reopening our borders safely as one of the first Pacific Island countries to do so at the time, while simultaneously bringing thousands of our people back into much-needed employment.

The Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) applauds the range of initiatives announced that will continue to enhance and support private sector-led recovery efforts; that include improving the ease and cost of business, government agency digitization and resource support, immigration policy changes and refocusing on infrastructure development, amongst others.

FHTA chief executive officer Fantasha Lockington said, “We are acutely aware of the current need for private sector business confidence especially now, coming off a once-in-a-lifetime perfect storm of crisis upon crisis. Visitor numbers might be currently high, but there is widespread nervousness about another COVID variant re-emerging, the Russia-Ukraine war further disrupting trade and driving prices further up, our usual climate-based risks that never quite go away and even the impending Fijian elections.”

“Tourism businesses and the comprehensive supply chain businesses inextricably connected to the industry will be better able to continue their recovery momentum with renewed confidence based on this Budget’s promise to create certainty by retaining almost all of the current tax structure and address overdue economic growth obstacles, so that the industry can fully recover, further invest, create more jobs and focus on competing more fiercely as a preferred travel destination,” she adds.

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: The Importance of M.I.C.E.

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: The Importance of M.I.C.E.

FHTA, 14 July 2022 – Not the furry kind – but tourism’s Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Exhibitions (MICE) segment that has always been an important part of the industry.

Until COVID made it difficult to meet, be in a crowded place or even travel.

It is the second week of July, and Fiji is now in the middle of peak tourism season if you haven’t pre-booked a hotel room, chances are there are very few available right now as our usual tourism hotspots and every commercially or privately available continue to enjoy the highest occupancies seen since peak season in 2019.

Coupled with great weather as usual at this time of the year, especially in the Western Division (the weather keeps us guessing in the Central division), pent-up demand fuelled by lockdowns and closed borders has seen thousands of visitors flock to our beautiful shores to enjoy everything that Fiji has to offer.

With a steady stream of high-profile sporting events taking place around Suva and Lautoka in the last few weeks and even more anticipated events lined up in the coming weeks to look forward to; great weather, busy roads and happy crowds will be normal for rugby’s Pacific Nations Cup, netball’s Netball World Cup Oceania Qualifier and soccer’s OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022.

Accommodation providers, restaurants, bars, cafés and transport providers in the capital city and surrounding areas are buzzing with excitement and activity.

This week also sees the high-level 51st Pacific Island Forum being held in Suva, which has also attracted many international and regional leaders and their entourages, including a large contingent of regional media covering the event.

Newly-elected Australian PM Anthony Albanese and his trans-Tasman counterpart Jacinda Ardern are in attendance along with almost all our regional leaders from around the Pacific, portraying the confidence in Fiji’s successful reopening strategy that has enabled the forum to be held for the first time as an in-person event after a few years.

Nothing allows a better opportunity to really conduct a Pacific Island-style talanoa to reconnect, build solidarity, and recommit to a collective purpose than face-to-face meetings. And we have no doubt there will be many formal and informal meetings and events that will allow clarity, understanding and agreements toward common purposes, with the eventual adoption of the 2050 Strategy for a Blue Pacific Continent that will guide collective action of key regional priorities.

It is certainly wonderful to see Fiji and Suva specifically, in demand like this again for events, conferences and long-awaited meetings, and a welcome boost to Fijian tourism and the multiplier effects this always has throughout our recognised, as well as informal supply chains.

SMEs that were much more severely impacted by border closures because of the absence of formal support mechanisms, and are usually the last to bounce back into the business; will also now benefit greatly through the current increased demand for transport, food supplies, fresh produce and general office and IT services.

Our creative artists are also seeing a higher demand for entertainment, music, fashion and handicrafts. With regional creative artists joining local artisans this week, we can all take in the Pacific’s rich creativity and diversity by stopping by the Blue Pacific Village that has opened at Thurston Gardens where public talanoas and a showcase of the Pacific’s unique cultural performances, music, food and art is on display from Thursday 14th July 9am to 8pm.

We just need the Suva weather to behave and our famous Fijian hospitality will be at its best for these wonderful events to take place.

While it is no secret that the pandemic drastically impacted the Meetings, Incentives, Convention, Exhibition (MICE) sector of our industry, it was predicted and generally accepted that we would not see an immediate return of this sector for some time.

Expectations for the return of large-scale meetings and conferences, sporting events and music festivals were for 2023 and even later, but a mixture of pent-up demand, Zoom fatigue, and a hunger for human reconnections that eventuated around the same time as high vaccinations and reopening of borders soon spun that assumption on its head.

Starting with small family reunions and eventually ballooning into formal events, indoor meetings that offered human reconnections, spontaneity, handshakes and even hugs were soon getting priority on most corporate plans.

But the real heroes behind the scenes have been the hotels that have embraced the new way to stay in business. By adopting often expensive COVID-safe products, services and training into their normal operations; everything from staff still wearing masks, widespread sanitising stations and large conference room air purifiers along with the constant reminders for high touch surface cleaning – they have made the return to face-to-face meetings a safer option for everyone.

The recognition of our overwhelming urge as humans to gather and connect means we must keep learning how best to live with even the milder versions of that ever-mutating virus.

Video conferencing is fantastic, cheap and efficient (when you remember to unmute and stop dropping out), but it certainly appears there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings, attending religious services, cheering on in person at your favourite sporting match, pigging out on snacks at the movies or laughing at that drunk uncle at the much-awaited family wedding.

There is so much demand from business travellers and suppliers, especially for the chance to network, that the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association has just launched its premier event, FHTA HOTEC, after a lapse of two years.

We have confirmed this event for 27 & 28 October 2022 at the Denarau Island Convention Centre located at the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort.

The event is mainly for suppliers to the hospitality industry to showcase their latest products and services to the tourism industry especially now with continued supply chain challenges seriously undermining the access to quality and high-demand products.

This hospitality tradeshow which incorporates all aspects of goods and services from food and beverages, equipment, supplies, furniture, IT and even support services will provide suppliers with an opportunity to meet new and existing customers, and provide new and much more innovative ways of doing business and enhance their reputation or brands within tourism.

In addition to FHTA HOTEC 2022, we have also launched the FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium to provide a platform for industry-wide connections, discussions and tourism-specific business change awareness with the theme – “Working towards a Sustainable, Marketable, Agile, Resilient and Travel-ready (SMART) Industry.”

A wide range of panellists will share challenges and opportunities, provide insight on research and development initiatives, as well as update us on the latest digital and marketing tools that can ensure Fijian tourism remains relevant and competitive through their products, and service delivery and people skills.

We understand the need to capitalise early on providing the right platforms to reach our industry stakeholders and key supply chains, having seen the many changes in travel post-reopening, food, service and product expectations, as well as the pre-requisite safety elements that must now be built into all aspects of travel.

If you are interested in being a part of FHTA’s HOTEC 2022 or the FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium 2022 that will run alongside HOTEC, refer to FHTA’s website or email info@fhta.com.fj for more information.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 14 July 2022)

Suva Buzzing for PIFS

Suva Buzzing for PIFS

(Photo Credit: Fijian Government FB page)

FHTA 11 July 2022 – The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association has welcomed the impact on tourism due to recent high-profile events in Suva and surrounding areas.

With a number of sporting events kicking off in the last few weeks and upcoming events in the coming weeks like rugby’s Pacific Nations Cup, netball’s Netball World Cup Oceania Qualifier and soccer’s OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022; accommodation providers, restaurants, bars and cafés in the capital city and surrounding areas are buzzing with activity.

This week also sees the 51st Pacific Island Forum being held in Suva and this will attract many international and regional leaders and their entourages, including a large contingent of regional media covering the event.

“It is wonderful to see Fiji and Suva specifically, in demand like this for events, conferences and long-awaited meetings, and a welcome boost to Fijian tourism and the multiplier effects this has throughout the supply chains. SMEs will also benefit greatly through transport provision, food supplies and creative artists through entertainment, music, fashion and crafts that will generally be in demand,” says FHTA Chief Executive Officer Fantasha Lockington.

“We just need the Suva weather to behave and our famous Fijian hospitality will be at its best,” she adds.

FHTA Launches HOTEC 2022 and FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium 2022

Hotec 2019

FHTA 11 July 2022 – The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association has today launched its premier event, FHTA HOTEC, after a lapse of two years.

This is scheduled for 27 & 28 October 2022 and will be staged at the Denarau Island Convention Centre at the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort.

The event is mainly for Suppliers to the Hospitality Industry to showcase their products and services to the tourism industry.

This also acts as a catalyst in providing business for the hotel suppliers within the reawakened Fiji tourism industry.

FHTA HOTEC is Fiji’s leading annual hospitality tradeshow which incorporates all aspects of goods and services like Food and Beverages, Equipment, Supplies, Furniture, Hospitality Technology and more.

It will provide suppliers with an invaluable opportunity to meet potential customers, find new and much more innovative ways of doing business and enhance their reputation within tourism.

In addition to FHTA HOTEC 2022, FHTA has also launched FHTA Tourism Talanoa symposium for industry discourse.

This new event will also be held at the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort and will provide tourism operators and staff with the opportunity to engage with a range of stakeholders to generate dialogue for the industry to recover post-COVID.

The theme of FHTA Tourism Talanoa 2022 is “Working towards a Sustainable, Marketable, Agile, Resilient and Travel-ready (SMART) Industry.”

Participants will be able to hear and interact with a wide range of panellists who will share and highlight various challenges and opportunities within the industry.

These panellists will also touch on research and development insights and initiatives, digital and traditional marketing tools and FHTA’s corporate and strategic goals in helping rebuild tourism in Fiji.

FHTA Chief Executive Officer Fantasha Lockington says that “the time is right to bring HOTEC back for the industry.”

“We are excited to launch the two events today and we urge interested exhibitors to come forward as space is limited,” she reiterates.

Ms Lockington adds, “this year’s events are all about providing an opportunity to reconnect suppliers with hoteliers post-COVID. Not just with FHTA HOTEC but with FHTA Tourism Talanoa as well which will introduce new and direct supply paths to the industry.”

If you are interested in being a part of FHTA HOTEC 2022 or FHTA Tourism Talanoa 2022, refer to FHTA’s website or email info@fhta.com.fj for more information.

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Transforming Namotu into a Sustainable Surf Resort

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Transforming Namotu into a Sustainable Surf Resort

FHTA, 9 July 2022 – Their tagline is ‘Small Island, Big Playground’ – so very apt for the Namotu Island Surf Resort Fiji team.

It really is just a small island but with an amazingly beautiful, huge, blue playground that has been providing surfers from around the world access to some of Fiji’s best surf breaks including Cloudbreak and Namotu Lefts.

But while they’re busy with keeping guests entertained, fed and relaxed, they ensure that they are safeguarding the surrounding environment; considered the heart of a wide variety of thriving reefs that provide a gateway to another world of vivid turquoise waters, abundant with beautiful corals, teaming with an amazing variety of colourful tropical fish and marine life.

The sales and marketing blurbs do not do justice to the worlds above and below the ocean in this area and have to be seen and experienced to be forever smitten.

This is why their primary goal is to ensure they keep their slice of paradise clean and healthy. Not just for the pleasure of guests now and well into the future, but for the local Fijian community that calls the area their home, and the incredible array of creatures that live and thrive here as part of a delicately balanced ecosystem of humans eating, playing and moving around, with teeming marine life and the ocean itself.

As a result, Namotu has been benchmarked by STOKE, an organisation that specialises in working with ski and surf resorts to make them more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

STOKE is the Sustainable Tourism and Outdoors Kit for Evaluation and it is the world’s first sustainability certification body with standards built specifically for surf and ski tourism operators and destinations.

And as a STOKE certified surf resort, guests are provided with the confidence that their stay there is having a positive impact on the destination and helping to solve global sustainability challenges.

Namotu’s, (and indeed many other island accommodation providers), the biggest challenge is that everything they need to run a luxury surf resort must be brought in by boat.

While there isn’t a way around this, Namotu has consciously decreased the number of trips they make in order to lessen their carbon footprint.

Being a sustainable surf resort means operating in a way that preserves the local environment, culture and economy, and having been in operation for 25 years, they are determined they’re still here for a long time to come.

Over the past years, pre and during COVID, they have updated many of their practices from wastewater treatment to what is stocked in the boutique and restaurants as well as how they manage any waste.

Undergoing the STOKE certification process has been an invaluable way to go even deeper and assess the big and small, but so important aspects of Namotu that have helped to hone their operation into a more sustainable one.

In 2018 they implemented a brand new and very impressive bio-cycle wastewater system.

This multi-step system of tanks and pumps results in two valuable products; the first is water good enough to drink (and used to keep the island landscaping lush) and as a bio-degradable fertiliser that is safe to use around the resort gardens.

This system also prevents any runoff or seepage from septic tanks which in turn helps to keep the reef systems protected.

The resort is also passionate about and responsible for maintaining its fish stocks and has collaborated with the relevant authorities to turn the reefs around Namotu into a protected Marine Park.

This means they’re now able to keep illegal fishermen out of their immediate area and prevent them from removing the critical fish stock, turtles, giant clams and crustaceans, some of which have been made almost extinct in other reefs in the region by uncontrolled fishing practices.

Their fishing Captains use sustainable and controlled fishing practices, ensuring certain species are ‘catch & release’ only, while others are size-limited or monitored as seasonal catch only.

The only fish they use in their resort kitchen is what they catch themselves; nothing imported or unsustainably sourced and they can even track each fish from ocean to plate.

Namotu is unique for many reasons but perhaps its perfect shape with the rocky tip pointed into the prevailing South Easterly (Trade) Winds and sandy beach with deep water boat access at the opposite end means it’s easier for them to move around without damaging the reefs.

It is this natural blessing that helps them provide a surf boat use for guests throughout their stay.

But it also means their beach is perfect for turtle nesting, for which there has been an increasing number each season.

The nests are logged, roped off from human interaction and efforts are made to ensure the local communities are made aware of the importance of letting nature take its course.

And if you’ve been lucky enough to experience it, there’s nothing more exciting than witnessing these tiny turtle hatchlings make their way into the water to start their life in a different world!

Plastic waste reduction efforts include conscientiously reducing plastic use in their restaurant and bar by offering water bottle refills rather than single-use options amongst other efforts.

The drinking water on the island is from desalinated seawater and is also UV filtered so it tastes great as well!

Food scraps are composted or sent to local farms for animal food and recycling is separated and dealt with accordingly.

Used surfboards and sporting equipment are donated to local villages, and they are transitioning to more economical 4-stroke outboards where possible.

There are so many things to consider when you’re a small island resort, so maintaining their sustainability is something they are constantly working to improve and add to, while sharing widely with their staff and community.

With just 11 rooms and the ability to sleep 24 guests, they employ around 60 local staff, not including their transfer partners and local suppliers. Despite their size, they have become a renowned brand for surfing in Fiji and around the world.

Although Namotu was never an inhabited island, it is part of the cultural lands of the Malolo Island people from which the island is leased, providing substantial financial and social assistance through a variety of channels.

It is this connection to the vanua that inspires Namotu to preserve their pristine surroundings for future generations to also enjoy.

For information on the above, you can contact FHTA (info@fhta.com.fj) or contact Namotu Island Surf Resort Fiji directly.

Published in the Fiji Sun on 9 July 2022

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Boosting Tourism

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Boosting Tourism

FHTA, 7 July 2022 – And just like that – the first half of the year has come and gone.

For everyone in the tourism industry, associated supply chains and eventually the peripheral suppliers of transport, finance, IT services, entertainment and craftwork; the increasing demand on and for staff, services, food & beverages, has kept everyone usually too busy to notice.

So much so, that we may not have realized how much time has lapsed that we are now apparently experiencing the eventual reduction of the initially advised efficacy of our 2 original COVID vaccine shots.

Perhaps we have been too busy to notice that it is not only time to get our recommended booster shots in, but we should be ready to get the second-round booster dose in.

That has been the message from the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and one we have been pushing out to industry members until last week when it was noticed that a combination of many situations and connected timelines was leading to the expected increase in COVID sickness and perhaps the start of our third (or is it fourth?) wave.

Peaking visitor arrivals that have included returning friends and relatives, the freedom to meet in person leading to booked out conferences and meetings, family reunions and weddings, more people at work now than 7 months ago, more rapidly reducing travel restrictions, including the removal of mask-wearing on many international flights and airports, a general creeping in of complacency because of the perceived mildness of Omicron and of course the slow uptake of booster shots – have all contributed in some way to increasing COVID positivity.

The slow uptake of booster shots is apparently a global phenomenon, not just a localised issue.

Medical experts have put this down to a combination of reasons as well. These have included mixed messages about Omicron and its milder impact on populations that had only just been vaccinated at the time it made its presence felt, the slow rollout of vaccines being approved for children because of safety concerns and boosters not being mandated as the original vaccines were with the horror of COVID deaths from Delta still fresh in people’s minds when vaccination was being rolled out.

As the world moved on in slowly accepted paradigms of living with a virus that had eventually evolved to flu-like strength, and travel restrictions moved to constantly reducing demands, our own sense of complacency has understandably kicked in.

We have seen our bubbles open back up again, have heard very little of continued illnesses from the virus and most things have moved back into “almost normal”.

Almost, because like it or not, the world changed during COVID and tourism has seen the impact of this in many ways that have included the awareness that many countries decided on their own reopening strategies for strategic, political and medical reasons like accessibility to vaccines.

The way people travelled, where they travelled and their reason for travelling changed and Fiji was fortunate enough to have successfully navigated these changing travel insights by ensuring travel safety was a key priority.

As visitor levels continued to increase during our traditional peak seasons, the movement of people in and out of the country, moving through communities, public, work and leisure spaces; we are now seeing the inevitable rise in positive cases that is commonly confused with the onset of the flu season in the southern hemisphere’s a currently cooler climate.

The recent FHTA reminder out to the industry was to simply reinforce the message that we do not believe we are out of the woods with COVID just yet, and that booster shots need to be increased if we want to keep our staff, visitors and communities safe.

Not a simple request we understand, but one that can be reinforced with continued sanitation measures and mask-wearing, whilst testing weekly and isolating when confirmed as positive.

But there is another aspect to this that we have already experienced that FHTA is reminding the tourism industry about.

Without the consistent adherence to these safety protocols, we risk increased sickness amongst staff in larger numbers than we would be prepared to do without, especially now when visitor numbers are so high, and understanding as we do, how hard it has been for the industry to fill the skills gaps evident (and growing) since our reopening in December last year.

As part of the frontline that deals directly with incoming visitors, tourism workers must continue to ensure that they continue to be as protected as they can be against COVID-19 and we have already been through sweeping numbers of sick staff once before.

Hence the urging of members for more strict enforcement of masking and hand sanitization practices by staff.

Tourism’s Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) is still highly valid and relevant at this point and we have strongly recommended these are actively promoted and enforced by management.

We have been asked on more than a few occasions whether we worry about borders being shut again and the response has always been “no”, because we know exactly what we need to do to protect ourselves and the people around us.

With 47,813 travellers arriving in Fiji in May, we are expecting a confirmation that our June figures will be much higher and will probably surpass the same period for 2019.

Healthy numbers for sure, but cautious optimism has been shared by tourism members still troubled by the impact of 20-plus months of no revenue and currently too busy grappling with high occupancy, staff shortages and supplies of food and beverages not turning up in time.

The Ministry of Health envisions that the higher our booster doses received, the better the level of population protection, and the safer it will be to remove the few remaining public health measures.

We certainly can’t wait.

So as the little girl on our TV ad keeps telling us – get those booster shots, what are you waiting for?.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 7 July 2022)

FHTA HR Forum 2022

FHTA HR Forum 2022

FHTA 5 July 2022 – The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) held a successful HR Forum on Friday 1 July 2022 with prominent Employment Law specialist Jon Apted.

This was held at the Tanoa International Hotel, Nadi Fiji and supported by BSP Life.

Attendees to the Forum were not limited to the tourism sector but also included Human Resource executives from NGOs, retailers and consultants.

Mr Apted discussed ‘Managing Contracts & Employment Grievances’ and ‘Sexual Harassment in the Workplace’; topics of increased interest with HR practitioners that were recognised as requiring wider awareness and understanding by the Association.

FHTA Chief Executive Officer Fantasha Lockington advised that the Association was aiming to make the event an annual fixture based on extremely positive feedback from forum attendees.

“Selecting relevant and topical themes for a forum like this gives HR professionals in tourism and other related industries the opportunity to increase awareness of issues requiring sensitivity and empathy, which can, in turn, provide a better understanding of how these fit into the legal framework of effective human resource management and good industrial relations,” she says.

“There is a growing acceptance that as our workforces evolve, so too must workplace HR practices. We must catch up or lose staff, productivity, and even money on expensive conflict resolution.”

The Forum also provided attendees with a specific opportunity to network with their peers.

FHTA Welcomes Announcement of Vancouver Route

FHTA Welcomes Announcement of Vancouver Route

FHTA 6 July 2022 – The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) warmly welcomes the announcement of the NAN-YVR route by Fiji Airways.

The Association is excited to see plans to increase routes or seat capacity by the national carrier as this means more opportunities to further develop or grow existing and new markets.

Canada and specifically Vancouver have a sizable Fijian diaspora and many of them will be keen to reunite with family and friends here soon.

The addition of this new route shows the airline and the Government’s confidence in how Fiji’s tourism revival has successfully tracked post-pandemic.

The anticipated increase in arrivals means that tourism workers will continue to be in demand as tourism stakeholders continue to work collectively to reinvigorate the job market while addressing the current skill gaps in the industry that have been exacerbated by the labour mobility movement in the Pacific and newly increasing COVID positivity cases.

Subsequently, FHTA has been strongly advocating for continued heightened COVID safety practices and for eligible adults to receive their vaccine boosters.

The industry can then ensure increasing visitor numbers stay on track, particularly when Fiji Airways is taking the necessary bold steps to boost tourism numbers as well as increase cargo opportunities with more flights and routes.

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Safe Seas and Clean Ocean at the Port Denarau Marina

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Safe Seas and Clean Ocean at the Port Denarau Marina

FHTA, 2 July 2022 – The ocean is important to the world and to Fiji.


It provides the air we breathe, regulates climates, provides food and medicine, is a transportation highway and it powers economies.


With over 140,000 square nautical miles of ocean that spans the Fiji group, boating is crucial to both marine transportation and tourism.


As boating continues to increase in popularity, it is essential that our ocean sailors understand the potential impact they can have on our unique marine environment and why they must be environmentally friendly in the operation and maintenance of their vessels.


Denarau Island’s Port Denarau Marina Ltd (PDML) was the first marina in the South Pacific to be accredited Level 3 Clean Marina and “Fish Friendly” status in early May 2017 by Marina Industries Association (MIA).


They have since been audited again in 2021 and reaccredited for another 3 years. The independent Clean Marina auditor was particularly impressed by the significant efforts of PDML to improve environmental practices in and around the marina.


The Clean Marina Program is a voluntary accreditation program for Marinas, Yacht Clubs, boat clubs, slipways, boatyards and associated industry operators which emphasizes environmental and managerial best management practices that surpass regulatory requirements.


A facility must meet all legal regulatory requirements and a percentage of voluntary best management practices to become a Certified Clean Marina.


A typical Clean Marina Program will have components that cover marina sighting and design considerations, marina management, emergency planning, petroleum control, sewage and grey water, stormwater management, waste containment and disposal and boater education.


Port Denarau Marina is the largest private marina in Fiji and was designed to cater for both commercial and private vessels and is part of the Denarau tourism hub that is a gateway to the Mamanuca and Yasawa Island groups.


The Marina includes three main jetties or wharves, two of which are used by commercial operators (e.g., ferries, fishing charters) and the third by private vessel-owners.


The private jetty includes several superyacht berths.


The Marina also provides moorings and wharf facilities for temporary or day use by residents in the area and cruise ship ferries.
It provides refuelling and pump-out facilities, a hardstand area with a vessel lift, a dry dock, a boat yard, and several tenanted workshops (that can provide vessel provisioning, engineering, maintenance and supplies) as well as retail and restaurant precincts.
The Marina directly offers berthing/mooring, leasing, boat retrieval and launching, pump-out and dry stacking services.


Achieving Clean Marina and Fish Friendly Marina accreditation was very important for the Marina and the wider community because the accreditation criteria provided them with a framework to plan and prioritise their infrastructure spending.


In a fast-developing marine tourism destination such as Fiji, it was important that marinas like Port Denarau Marina played a strong environmental role that has effectively led the way in sustainable tourism initiatives.


The Clean Marina program has provided important guidelines for them to provide this leadership for which their achievements are something that the PDML team, and indeed the country, can be proud of.


The United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 14 states that we must strive to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”


The Marina does its best to contribute to this goal by being able to confirm –
• a Clean Marina Rating
• a “Fish Friendly Marina”
• a back water pump facility for vessels
• a filtration system for water runoffs from the hard stand and boatyard before it enters the waterways.
• confirmed the use of marine-friendly substances in the Marina since 2017.


The Marina was also the first in Fiji to start using renewable energy to reduce its power costs and has now had solar panels installed in 40% of its buildings.


It also champions species conservation, marine and coastal conservation, water and waste management, and rubbish and marine recycling programs.


With a Level 4 Fish Friendly Accreditation (FFA) from the MIA that was developed to inform marina managers on how to improve fish habitat and species protection within the marina; it may not be as widely appreciated by the port’s tenants or customers how much effort has gone into the sustainability efforts of a commercial operation that can often be seen as simply infrastructure.
It is however not just a valuable resource that is a transport hub and key tourism connection point; but it is also effective in maintaining and promoting responsible planning to ensure that the infrastructure is fish friendly (modifying existing structures to improve their value), managing stormwater, keeping invaders out, managing chemical, oil, fuel and fire risks, managing waste and creating this awareness for its customers and tenants.


It’s safe to say that Port Denarau Marina does its fair bit for the environment in which it operates and it is adamant that those who use its facilities and services fall in line with its processes and procedures.


This is what makes Port Denarau Marina an industry leader in this regard, not just for Fiji but for the entire Pacific region and we are just as proud to share their story.


For information on the above, you can contact FHTA (info@fhta.com.fj) or contact Port Denarau Marina Ltd directly.

Published in the Fiji Sun on 2 July 2022

FHTA Pays Tribute to an Industry Icon

FHTA Pays Tribute to an Industry Icon

FHTA 4 July 2022 – The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) is extremely saddened to hear that an industry icon, Mr Hafizud Dean Khan has passed away.


Mr Khan was the founder and chairman of the Hexagon Group of Companies which includes their hotel properties; Hexagon International Hotel Villas & Spa, Grand West’s Villas, Suva Motor Inn and Yadua Bay Resort.


He was extremely active in his capacity as an FHTA Board Director from 1997 to 2004 during which he also served as FHTA President from 2000 to 2004.


Mr Khan was later declared an Honorary Life Member of the Association and had remained connected as well as always avidly interested in FHTA’s strategic and corporate plans.


He spent almost 25 years helping to shape the tourism industry in Fiji with other industry icons like Dixon Seeto, Dick Smith & Dan Costello through working with the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association.


FHTA CEO, Fantasha Lockington says that “Hafiz was a prominent leader and an inspiration to the industry. As a proud local hotel owner, he fought hard for the recognition of tourism as a key economic contributor in Fiji and built a recognised family brand of hotels as a legacy that will endure.”


He received a Medal of the Order of Fiji and the Fiji 50th Anniversary of Independence commemorative medal as noble recognition for his service to Fiji and its people.


The Board and Secretariat of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association convey their deepest and sincerest sympathies to his family.