Fiji Airways Announces Further Measures Due to COVID-19 Crisis

Fiji Airways Announces Further Measures Due to COVID-19 Crisis

Fiji Airways 25 May 2020 – Fiji Airways, Fiji’s national airline, has today announced workforce adjustments as a consequence of the current and foreseeable operating environment. The adjustments are necessary and unavoidable as the COVID-19 crisis endures, causing the further suspension of scheduled international services and ensuring that the airline will receive virtually zero revenue in the coming months. Fiji Airways is also negotiating with its lenders and aircraft lessors for loan and lease payment deferrals and arranging debt finance from a number of financial institutions.

Mr. Andre Viljoen, Fiji Airways Managing Director & CEO, said: “This is a very difficult announcement, and one we are only making after exhausting all other options. The sad reality of prolonged flight suspensions means that we simply do not have work for a large segment of our workforce now, and for the foreseeable future. We have no other option but to terminate the employment of staff to whom we cannot provide work, which is an unfortunate but vital step we must take in order to protect our cash position and to preserve as many jobs as possible for those staff who the business needs in order to function today.”

Fiji Airways has recently extended the suspension of international flights through to the end of June and is in the process of reducing scheduled flights for July and August.

Mr Viljoen added: “When the first flight suspensions were announced in March 2020, we implemented a series of actions aimed at tiding us through the April to June period, in the hope that the crisis would abate and some level of demand would return. Most of our workforce agreed to a temporary 30-35% pay reduction. However, regrettably, all of our international passenger services remain suspended, and it is simply not sustainable to continue to pay staff who are at home and not working, even at reduced salary levels. We have a responsibility to our shareholders, and to the Fijian people, to ensure that Fiji Airways survives this crisis.”

In order to ensure the airline’s survival, given its critical and strategic importance to the Fijian economy, the following workforce measures have been implemented:

  • Eight expatriate executives have had their employment terminated, with five expatriate staff remaining, including the CEO. The airline has six local executives, who will all retain their jobs and now constitute the majority of the leadership team. The responsibilities of the remaining executives and management have been expanded to absorb the work of those terminated.
  • All 79 expatriate pilots have had their contracts terminated.
  • 51% (758) of employees from across the Airline Group who do not have work today or in the foreseeable future have had their employment terminated. They will be paid a minimum notice period of 1 month (despite most employees having a two-week notice period), plus any accumulated leave and other entitlements.

Mr Viljoen explained: “These employee terminations are based on work available today and for the foreseeable future. These decisions have been carefully considered, and we have retained staff in operational areas who have critical skills, training and experience, including those who are required to carry out ongoing aircraft maintenance programmes, as well as all regulatory and safety-related post-holder positions as per Civil Aviation Authority requirements.  There is, of course, a minimal level of staff required in non-operational areas of the business in order to keep it functioning.  In all areas, we have retained staff based on objective and fair criteria such as performance, disciplinary record, and aptitude for the role.”

A 20% permanent salary reduction has been implemented for all retained employees effective 1 June 2020. In the short term, retained staff will work between 2-5 days per week, and will only be paid for actual days or hours worked. Employees will be permitted to utilise annual leave days on days not worked, in order to ‘top-up’ their weekly pay.

These workforce reduction measures will result in a circa 50% reduction in the Company’s payroll cost base.

Mr Viljoen concluded: “Many of our dear colleagues affected by these reductions have contributed enormously to our airline over many years, and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. The measures we have announced today are painful and difficult, but ultimately necessary for our airline’s survival. Tourism is the backbone of the Fijian economy, and it is dependent on a strong and sustainable national carrier. Fiji Airways will be vital in leading Fiji’s economic recovery post-COVID-19, and we take that obligation to the Fijian people very seriously. We have taken these difficult actions now, in order to safeguard our airline’s future. Many large and respected airlines around the world are collapsing as a consequence of this unprecedented crisis. However, we will do everything within our power to ensure that Fiji Airways does not suffer the same fate.”

Radisson Blu Fiji Resort Thinks Strategically And Keeps Business Open

Fijis-Number-1-Family-Resort-Radisson-Blu-Resort-Fiji

Fiji Sun 23 May 2020 – Radisson Blu Fiji Resort Denarau Island has become a leader in showing the nation how with strategic thinking, businesses can still survive in the most difficult situations.

Our borders closed to tourists in March as a result of the global outbreak of the COVID-19 which had a drastic effect on our hotels/resorts and other tourism-related businesses.

Radisson Blu Fiji Resort quickly came up with ways to continue operating and in fact, the resort has been kept open since the COVID-19 entered Fiji.

Resort general manager, Charles Homsy, said they changed strategies and implemented short and long term stays in their 1 and 2 bedroom suites into apartments.

“We also introduced Office Space in a ‘work from home’ setting for those looking for more affordable accommodation and office.

Read MORE

Fiji’s coral reefs to be protected by new policy

Fiji’s coral reefs to be protected by new policy

FBC News 23 May 2020 – A new policy has been launched to support and provide the legal framework for the conservation and management of Fiji’s coral reefs.

Minister for Environment Dr Mahendra Reddy says the policy will enable government and stakeholders to protect the coral reef system which contributes to Fiji’s ecological and economic growth.

Fiji’s coral reef system comprises of five reef types distributed over 10,020 square kilometres of marine inshore area and people rely on it for their livelihood, food source and cultural value.

Read MORE

Government announces concessional loans for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises

Government announces concessional loans for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises

FijiVillage 25 May 2020 – Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has today announced concessional loans for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, and people can put in their applications from 7th June.

Sayed-Khaiyum says that for new and existing micro-enterprises, they will be able to access up to $7,000 in a way of loan and the interest rate will be 0.5.

Read MORE

Sheraton Fiji Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island gives back to Yanuya Village

Sheraton Fiji Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island gives back to Yanuya Village

Tokoriki Island 20 May 2020 – The Solia Lesu by Marriott foundation, continued its support efforts to positively impact the communities it operates in. The recent delivery was done at Yanuya Village in the Mamamanuca Islands. This is the thirteenth village community the foundation has successfully partnered with.

“We are very proud to be able to make a difference in the lives of people during this difficult chapter. Not only has the current pandemic had a devastating impact on the livelihoods of people here but also the recent catastrophic tropical cyclone Harold. It is astounding to see how Fijians are coping with the situation and not letting this deter them. Their Bula Spirit and Bula smiles give you hope and optimism.” commented Joakim Zetterberg, Hotel Manager, Sheraton Fiji Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island “As an industry of people taking care of people, these communities have always been with us to welcome guests and take care of them and times like these are when they need us.”

Farrah Shazleen, Cluster Director of Human Resources, Marriott International Fiji Resorts together with the executive committee personally travelled to Yanuya Village and delivered over bags of rice and flour, gallons of cooking oil, various types of seedlings and linen to the village headman Jone and Chief of Vunativi clan.

In addition to these, four engineers from the property also assisted the villagers by training them on how to get clean drinking water and how to fix the water tanks which had been previously leaking or damaged. The engineering team fixed a few solar systems which were not working due to the damages sustained during tropical cyclone Harold. Further to this, they educated the villagers on the generator and other mechanical tools and did consultations for repair work with what they need to have them fixed.

Associates on Tokoriki Island moreover made effort for a major cleanup of Yanuya beach to restore it after cyclone with village the kids.

Solia Lesu, which means to give back is part of an initiative by Marriott International Fiji involving its five Fiji properties, namely the Westin Denarau Fiji Resort & Spa, Sheraton Fiji Resort, Sheraton Denarau Villas, Sheraton Tokoriki and Marriott Momi Bay Fiji.

Solia Lesu by Marriott foundation stems off the Nurture pillar of Serve 360 that believes in making the communities where we operate better places to live, work and visit. To support the resiliency and sustainable development of these communities, we invest in the vitality of their children and natural resources, as well as deliver aid and support, especially in times of need.

Tourism Talanoa: Bubbles and Opportunities

Tourism Talanoa: Bubbles and Opportunities

FHTA, 21 May 2020 – Last week we looked into what the global tourism family, and of course our own tourism sector will have to look forward to, as restrictions on movement and eventually travel begin to ease off.

Because this has been on everyone’s mind of late and because everyone is looking forward to something more positive and concrete in these uncertain times that appear to have no end in sight, we will look at the Tasman bubble (including Fiji) and Destination Fiji’s marketing goals.

Discussions between Australia and New Zealand are progressing albeit slowly and with keen interest to get things right the first time around and a watchful eye on potential flare-ups. Unfortunately, that’s the only certainty we have so far as the world takes its first unsteady steps towards opening up in the new way of doing business, travelling and loving generally.

Fiji’s representatives have been firmly pushing for the Pacific Islands, especially Fiji, to be included in both discussions and plans for the bubble.

Baltic states Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia have already reopened shared borders to each other in Europe’s first travel bubble. Germany, Austria and Switzerland are looking at a similar arrangement starting this weekend.

Fiji continues to watch intently the improving infection rates in our trans-Tasman neighbours and how this will progress our own adoption of health guidelines for businesses, schools, public transport and travel.

Although almost every sector feels some repercussions, few have been as hard hit as the airline and travel sector. The sudden, sharp decrease in travel demand is much worse than that seen after September 11, 2001, and the 2008 financial crisis, combined. Airlines had more robust balance sheets when COVID19 emerged, compared with previous crises, but a slowdown of this magnitude leaves even the strongest players vulnerable.

In 2019 Fiji received more than 367,000 visitors from Australia which was 41% of our total tourist arrivals for that year. Around 206,000 travellers arrived from New Zealand making up 23% of total tourist arrivals for 2019.

With a combined 64% of arrivals into Fiji for 2019, it is not hard to see why we regard our two neighbours highly where tourism is concerned. It also not difficult to understand tourism stakeholders when they say that the fastest way to assist Fiji is through the tourism dollar that has a triple multiplier effect throughout the country from the deep rural areas out to the furthest maritime islands hosting resorts and employing communities out there.

The entire Pacific Islands region could potentially be next on the list for inclusion into the travel bubble and Fiji’s tourism operators and stakeholders are already planning how they will work together to ensure the opportunities are not missed once presented.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has repeatedly stated that she was not keen on opening the doors to the Pacific Islands and be responsible for a new occurrence of COVID-19 in island states where, to date, the virus has been well-managed or non-existent.

Somewhere in the midst of all the discussions will be the prickly point of the quarantine periods. Currently, both New Zealand and Australia have 14-day quarantines for repatriated citizens while Fiji’s quarantine period is 28 days, which is 14 days in a Government-mandated facility and then 14 days at home if without symptoms.

This is one of the main reasons why the Australian government released its COVIDSafe phone app which is a Bluetooth contact tracing tool that speeds up the identification and contacting of people who may have been exposed to confirmed carriers.

New Zealand will release a similar app this week while Fiji’s app is being worked on for release in June. From a destination marketing perspective, any controls that reduce the need for compulsory quarantines post-travel would be welcomed.

Both New Zealand and Australia will be working hard to ensure that the controls at the borders are tightened up and that transportation networks, airlines, airports and hotels are working on the new health measures to be implemented.

The Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group brings together both their governments, Air New Zealand, Qantas and the three biggest airports on each side of the ditch. Fiji Airways, Fiji Airports Ltd and Air Terminal Services will no doubt be having similar discussions to that effect and will be busy drawing up new policies and regulations to meet both airport and aviation requirements, as well as new health requirements.

Even before the Tasman-bubble is declared operational, Fiji’s marketing machine will move into gear to prepare for Fiji’s reopening. Timing is critical.

Many travellers will be thinking twice about travelling abroad so confidence-boosting will be part of the marketing messaging.

Fijian tourism businesses will be counting on our ability to convince people who have been in lockdowns and had to live through weeks and months of restricted movement to want to get away to beautiful beaches, with swaying palms and clean, fresh air.

For now, while some parts of the industry focus on marketing preparations domestically and overseas, other parts of the industry are focusing intently on the current welfare and future of our nearly 100,000 employees who have no jobs and therefore no wages. Decades of working closely with the communities tourism businesses are intrinsically connected to, mean that even when not employed staff welfare is always a concern.

Support continues to be provided through food packaging, redeployment into maintenance, security areas and resort farms for work options as well as cash assistance to ensure staff continue to get some assistance.

At the same time, businesses directly affected and throughout the supply chains that exist because of tourism are consulting with the relevant Government ministries to discuss challenges, recommend solutions and ensure workers rights are protected and labour legislations are clarified.

The crisis is not just a medical emergency. It has thrown our economy into a tailspin, pushed the boundaries of regulations, forced us to confront expectations of freedom and made us re-evaluate how we treat one another and our environment. Business rivals, employer and employee dealings, diplomatic relationships and even neighbours are reaching out to one another to cope.

Private and public sector relationships have also become more communicative and consultative. It is true then what they say about that silver lining.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 21 May 2020 

Tanoa Hotel Group works on hygiene standard

Tanoa Hotel Group works on hygiene standard

FBC News 19 May 2020 -The COVID-19 pandemic has created urgency for the Tanoa Hotel Group to plan for the future in the areas of cleanliness, hygiene, and social distancing in their hotels.

Tanoa Hotel Group says they have already gone ahead and started reassessing all areas of the Hotel to ensure all their future guests are not only having an enjoyable and comfortable stay but an enhanced hygienically safe stay due to the COVID-19 impact.

Read MORE

Fiji Link Increases Domestic Flights

Fiji Link Increases Domestic Flights

Fiji Airways 15 May 2020 – Fiji Link will gradually increase services to a number of domestic ports in the coming days. The increase in domestic flights will offer Fijians more options when planning travel for business, or to see family and friends around the country.

The domestic carrier will increase daily services between Suva and Labasa to two per day from Saturday 16th May. Fiji Link will also add twice a week direct services between Nadi and Labasa, operating Fridays and Sundays beginning 22nd May. Weekly services between Suva and Savusavu as well as Suva and Taveuni will increase, starting Friday 22nd May. Fiji Link also resumed its weekly services between Nadi and Rotuma last Friday.

Guests are able to book flights on fijilink.com, via the airline’s Reservations Centre or through their travel agents. As per current practice, Fiji Link team will practice social distancing seating on flights as much as practical. All other Fiji Link safety measures remain in place, including Personal Protective Equipment use by all staff and crew, daily sanitising of aircraft and having hand sanitiser available for use. All guests are also encouraged to bring their own personal protective equipment.

Andre Viljoen, Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO

Marriott foundation extend support to Loloma Home & Care Centre, Lautoka

Marriott foundation extend support to Loloma Home & Care Centre, Lautoka

Denarau Island. Nadi, Fiji ­ -­ May 12, 2020 – Solia Lesu by Marriott foundation, which is in its third week of inception has just finished their sixth meal delivery run at the Loloma Home & Care Centre. Solia Lesu, which means to give back is part of an initiative by Marriott International Fiji involving its five Fiji properties, namely the Westin Denarau Fiji Resort & Spa, Sheraton Fiji Resort, Sheraton Denarau Villas, Sheraton Tokoriki and Marriott Momi Bay Fiji. The foundation delivered packs of cooked meals, bread, milk and linen consisting of bed sheets, bath towels, pillowcases and hand towels. The residents at the Loloma home were appreciative and thankful towards the gesture.

“The support for the foundation has been overwhelming with our associates opting to be involved in one way or another including our business partners that have shown interest” stated Farrah Shazleen, Cluster Director of Human Resources, Marriott International Fiji Resorts “The drive has only been successful with teamwork and it is rewarding to see the smiles it brings onto people’s faces. Their emotions are just priceless and continue to empower you to do more. During these stressful times, looking at the appreciative faces gives us a certain level of hope and contentment. At Marriott International, one of our core objectives is not only to take care of our associates and guests but also the communities we live in.”

The project continues to strongly steer forward and is calling on support from individuals and business partners to collaborate as food deliveries are planned for the coming weeks to areas including greater Lautoka.

Solia Lesu by Marriott foundation stems off the Nurture pillar of Serve 360 that believes in making the communities where we operate better places to live, work and visit. To support the resiliency and sustainable development of these communities, we invest in the vitality of their children and natural resources, as well as deliver aid and support, especially in times of need.

SPTO Launches COVID-19 Recovery Strategy for Members

SPTO Launches COVID-19 Recovery Strategy for Members

Pacific Tourism Organisation 13 May 2020 – The Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) has today launched the “SPTO COVID-19 Recovery Strategy”, which has been developed to guide and support the COVID-19 recovery efforts of SPTO and its members.

“In order to encompass SPTO’s diverse membership, this strategy has been informed and supported by various organisations and partners including several UNWTO reports, the recently released “Pacific Tourism: COVID19 Impact and Recovery Report” contracted by NZMFAT and feedback from SPTO Private Sector Members to name a few”, said SPTO Chief Executive, Christopher Cocker.

“As a living document, this strategy will evolve alongside the relevant global developments in order to ensure relevance in this unprecedented situation. We will now focus developing our internal action plans to complement the recovery efforts of our members and in order to do that effectively we are seeking support from donors and partners who are committed to assisting the Pacific Tourism sector”, he said.

The strategy provides an overview of the global situation and expected future trends whilst also addressing the current and expected challenges of the Pacific private sector, the Pacific’s strengths and opportunities, overall risks, immediate needs and recovery options. All of which will no doubt be useful considerations for SPTO and its members embarking on the recovery planning process.

“The objective of this strategy is to provide direction and guidance to all of our members as they begin to consider their respective recovery options in a post-COVID-19 era. We are a diverse region, but we are one Pacific Tourism family and we cannot afford to leave anyone behind,” said SPTO interim Chair, Mr Halatoa Fua.

Mr Fua also acknowledged the hard work undertaken by the SPTO to develop the strategy and the key partnerships which played a critical role in securing the required information, “In these unprecedented times no one can afford to work in isolation and this strategy is no exception. We are committed to strengthening partnerships and cooperation within the organisation and with external partners”.

The SPTO COVID-19 Recovery Strategy is currently only available to SPTO members and key partners.

Original Article HERE

Vietnam Races Ahead of Other Southeast Asian Countries in Tourism Reopening

Vietnam Races Ahead of Other Southeast Asian Countries in Tourism Reopening

Skift 12 May 2020 – With just 270 cases and zero coronavirus deaths, Vietnam has emerged as the first Southeast Asian country to pull its tourism sector out the pits, ahead of major Southeast Asia nations such as Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines that are still under various degrees of lockdown.

Domestic flights are now back in operation, as are bus and train services, restaurants, and retail outlets, as Vietnam charged on with reopening since April 23. Vietnam Airlines is understood to be in discussions with the government to resume some international flights in June. Efforts to create reciprocal travel bubbles with China and South Korea are in the works. If successful, this will give Vietnam a headway over Thailand, for whom the two markets are also key.

Read MORE

SPTO Releases Pacific Tourism Impact Report

SPTO Releases Pacific Tourism Impact Report

Pacific Tourism Organisation 7 May 2020 – The Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) has launched the “Pacific Tourism: COVID19 Impact and Recovery Report”. The report was contracted by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (NZMFAT), who have worked together with SPTO to undertake the assessment. The report released today is Phase 1B of 3 phases and focuses on several Pacific Island countries.

The report outlines initial impacts and emerging responses across the Pacific and will no doubt aid decision-making by Pacific tourism sector organisations and businesses.

“The objective of this analysis is to inform thinking and to highlight future themes around Pacific regional cooperation for tourism’s recovery from COVID-19,” said SPTO interim Chair, Mr. Halatoa Fua.

Mr Fua acknowledged New Zealand as a key partner who has always stepped up to assist the region and the Pacific Tourism industry, “The relationship between New Zealand and the Pacific has long been underpinned by reciprocity and care. We are extremely grateful to New Zealand for taking the initiative to undertake this survey and share the report, which will provide valuable inputs into the development of Pacific country strategies for tourism recovery”.

In response to COVID 19’s devastating impacts on Pacific Tourism, SPTO launched the “Pacific Wave Recovery Fund”, whose first donor was NZ Maori Tourism with a pledge of NZ$50,000.The fund remains open to donors and development partners and according to Christopher Cocker, SPTO Chief Executive Officer, the Pacific Tourism Report will not only influence the use of the fund but also the overall work of SPTO in the coming months.

Read MORE

Pack your bags: The destinations you could soon be travelling to

Pack your bags: The destinations you could soon be travelling to

Nine Online 13 May 2020 – Travelling to some of our favourite Pacific Islands might be a little way off yet, but tourism marketing bodies are pushing for the proposed Trans-Tasman ‘travel bubble’ to include the islands which have long relied on Australian tourism to survive and thrive.

Possibilities include The Cook Islands and Vanuatu, both of which remain COVID-19, as well as Fiji which has only reported 18 cases and no deaths as of May 6, 2020.

Read MORE

The importance of the Great Sea Reef

The importance of the Great Sea Reef

Fiji Times 13 May 2020 – THE Great Sea Reef (GSR) is the third-longest barrier reef system in the world spanning more than 200km from Udu point all the way to the Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands weaving its way towards the Coral Coast.

This reef system provides about 70 per cent of fish consumed locally and is an important tourist destination.

Read MORE

Tourism recovery team formed

Tourism recovery team formed

FBC News 10 May 2020 – The Tourism Recovery team consisting of key industry leaders will provide strategic and visionary guidance to those affected in Fiji’s largest revenue earner.

The team that will be chaired by the Permanent Secretary for Trade and Tourism is formed by overwhelming industry demand to have a consultative body that is able to channel the concerns and challenges faced by the industry.

Read MORE

Businesses react to crisis

Businesses react to crisis

Fiji Times 12 May 2020 – More than 10 members of the Fiji Commerce and Employers Federation (FCEF) have ceased their operations while more than 70 businesses have laid off employees or had implemented reduced work hours.

In response to questions, FCEF stated that 40 per cent of members had reached out to the organisation for some form of assistance.

Read MORE

Fiji Airways Extends Flight Suspensions to end of June

Fiji Airways Extends Flight Suspensions to end of June

Fiji Airways 8 May 2020 – Fiji Airways, Fiji’s National Airline, has extended all international flight suspensions to the end of June, due to the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fiji Airways also expects to reduce its July scheduled services as the COVID-19 crisis continues to decimate travel demand. In March, Fiji Airways had announced suspension of international flights until 31st May.

Mr. Andre Viljoen, Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO cautioned that even with tentative schedules for July, any resumption of flights would depend on the easing of border restrictions and return of demand.

“We totally understand measures placed by Governments to protect borders. While the near-term outlook remains bleak, we remain flexible and will be ready to launch services as soon as practical. The extension by a month is a difficult but necessary decision, given the uncertainty surrounding the June operating environment. Airlines around the world are adjusting schedules accordingly. We will continue to assess the situation and may reduce July capacity further if required. The outlook remains bleak, and we are preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.”

Fiji Airways is contacting impacted guests regarding changes to their June bookings. Guests booked through travel agents and third parties will be contacted by their respective agencies.

Tourism Talanoa: More of the New Normal

Tourism Talanoa: More of the New Normal

FHTA, 30 April 2020 – The global approach to everything has forever changed. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about huge uncertainty and tremendous concern. People are more anxious than ever about their health, what they are touching and who they are around. Hands are being washed more, staying at home is more acceptable and general health is being appreciated.

This is the ”new normal”.

Many agencies and in particular, the World Health Organisation (WHO), have published and released guidelines on how the world can stay, work and play safe, and kickstart global tourism markets once we get the better of the virus.

Fiji like many Pacific Island countries, with its minimal infection rates and so far, a zero-mortality rate from COVID-19, can reposition itself as a market leader with some help. The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association, Tourism Fiji, SOFTA and other industry stakeholders have been meeting regularly to discuss and brainstorm Fiji’s plan of action in the aftermath of the pandemic. But only after progress on first spreading the information on how to stay and work safe was completed, then ensuring all potential visitors were assisted to rebook for future travel when panicked cancellations were taking place and then working together to assist visitors that were here in Fiji to get back to their home countries safely.

As with any other tourism hotspot, visitor confidence will have to be earned going forward and we have no doubt we will have to compete even harder than before to stand out when the world collectively drops their new marketing strategies. Once the world recovers from COVID-19 enough to start travelling again, it will not just be the tourism sector that must learn to live in the new virus awareness world. Everyone will be adapting and changing personal, professional and industry-wide practices. They will simply have to. This too will be the “new normal”.

As the economic consequences continue to reverberate around the world, tourism stakeholders are already looking to a post-virus future. Globally, the industry understands that for this to happen, changes will have to be made to the way all businesses operate so they can meet the minimum public health guidelines to reduce contagion, initiate quick contact tracing applications and generally keep people safe. Once these new procedures have been implemented and are shown to be implemented, confidence levels of travelers will undoubtedly rise, albeit expected to be delayed.

However, what these changes will be has also not been made clear yet. Apart from the fact that these new rules are being written for the first time, the pandemic has gone from a medical phenomenon to a global shake-up of humanitarian, economic, social and political proportions.

We are expecting new, enhanced cleaning measures in airports, aircraft interiors, catering companies, land and sea transportation, train & bus stations, hotels, sporting arenas, office buildings, supermarkets, bars and restaurants and these may turn out to be cost prohibitive, time consuming and extremely labour intensive. So much so, that the only way to get back to business may be extremely difficult for everyone to comply with. On the other hand, a simple disinfecting spray may be developed that in conjunction with good hand washing practices, may be sufficient. These are still part of much of what is unknown along with our collective hopes of a vaccine being developed that allows human beings to stop fearing this sneaky king of viruses.

There are other areas in Fiji and across the Pacific that will be feeling the impact of the virus crisis as the domino effect of travel bans and no tourism, start to take hold across other sectors.

These have also been identified by the World Bank and include the reduction and loss of remittances (Fiji’s second highest foreign exchange earner at approx. $600million), fish and other exports like water (water is currently Fiji’s third highest foreign exchange earner at approx. $300million) affected by reduced global demand, as well as construction and infrastructure projects affected by the availability of labour and materials.

While countries around the world plan grand recovery strategies that would work in their economic interests, small island nations like ours with less than most in terms of available resources will no doubt be considering how our strategies can align to the many different needs of our society.

Our SME’s need access to cash to survive the next three months, our informal sectors need the type of support only accessible by workers in formal employment and our unemployed might be better utilised in labour mobility programs overseas to get remittances flowing back into rural and peri-urban communities.

As noted before, for tourism recovery we may have to be marketing to new as well as existing markets, while even the temporary easing of government taxes to make our products more attractive would give Destination Fiji the required edge to compete in what will soon be a full scale global release of marketing programs along the same recovery lines. We will need as much help as we can get to launch a dynamic and effective recovery initiative as we may not have much time to do it in once we move from closed to open.

Working closely with our key markets Australia and New Zealand to kickstart our tourism recovery efforts also makes sound economic sense for a faster turnaround that may prove safer for the Pacific given that “”flattening the curve”” has been easier to do in the Southern Hemisphere.

We hope that through the Pacific Step Up program and the Vuvale Partnership, our neighbours will reach out to Fiji and other Pacific Islands and bring us into their planned “”Tasman Bubble”” with conditions we can start working on once known.

We could have a Tas-Pacific Bubble that ticked all the right boxes for each country’s foreign policy strategies.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 30 April 2020