FETA Announces Opening of Entries

FETA Announces Opening of Entries

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

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

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

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

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

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

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Testing and Taxes

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Testing and Taxes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But even in paradise, we must pay the Taxman.

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

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

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

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

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

The strategy for these awareness sessions is simple.

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

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

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

And the next.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IHG Appoints New Area Director of Sales, Marketing & Revenue

IHG Appoints New Area Director of Sales, Marketing & Revenue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FRCS Awareness Sessions with FHTA Members

FRCS Awareness Sessions with FHTA Members

The Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) awareness sessions for its members with the Fiji Revenue and Customs Services (FRCS) got off to their usual positive start.

The Suva session took place on Monday 5 September at the FHTA Office and was well attended by industry stakeholders.

FRCS delivered an interactive session highlighting industry-relevant compliance, policy changes in the 2022-2023 National Budget and the practical application and implementation of these applicable incentives in the Tourism Industry.

Mark Dixon, the FRCS Chief Executive Officer, accompanied his senior team in providing clarity and background for key areas of the budget that impact tourism.

Tourism Financial Controllers, Accountants and General Managers took the chance to have a face-to-face dialogue with the FRCS contingent.

They used the opportunity to gain insights into policy amendments and any current applicability of previous policies, as well as better understand FRCS’ online systems and the pending implementation of VMS.

FHTA Chief Executive Officer Mrs Fantasha Lockington said that “this was the tourism industry and its supplier’s time to talk about all things tax related with the tax experts and discuss any existing or expected challenges, and as we always do; to discuss how we can work together on pragmatic solutions.”

There is another session scheduled in Nadi for Tuesday 6 September at the Nalagi Hotel.

FHTA Announces More HOTEC and Symposium
Sponsors

FHTA Announces More HOTEC and Symposium<br>Sponsors

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association has today announced that New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) has signed on as Gold Sponsor for the HOTEC Tradeshow and the Tourism Talanoa Symposium.

HOTEC is returning after a lapse of two years and is scheduled for 27 & 28 October 2022 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.

The Tourism Talanoa Symposium is a new addition to the tourism industry event with the theme of “Working towards a Sustainable, Marketable, Agile, Resilient and Travel-ready (SMART) Industry” and will run concurrently with HOTEC.

NZTE – Te Taurapa Tūhono is the New Zealand government’s international business development agency. As part of its sponsorship, NZTE will be hosting a New Zealand – Made with Care cocktail event at the conference and a trade booth showcasing premium New Zealand products to the Fiji resort sector.

“Like Fiji, Aotearoa New Zealand shares a special connection to the land and sea. It’s a relationship founded on care, respect and an understanding that when nature thrives, we all thrive” said David Dewar, New Zealand Trade Commissioner to the Pacific.

“NZTE is proud to showcase the flavours and products of New Zealand at HOTEC, which are all Made with Care,” said Mr Dewar #NZMadewithCare

FHTA Chief Executive Officer Fantasha Lockington says, “FHTA is pleased to welcome NZTE on board for this year’s HOTEC and Tourism Talanoa Symposium.”

Mrs Lockington adds, “This year’s events are all about providing an opportunity to reconnect suppliers with hoteliers post-COVID and introduce new and direct supply paths to the industry.”

Mr Dewar said that the Fiji hotel and tourism sector’s success in rebounding from the COVID pandemic has been genuinely inspiring. “Fiji is renowned as a world leader in providing quality, safe and sustainable tourism, where the visitor experience is second to none”

“We are looking forward to bringing a taste of Aotearoa to Fiji and partnering with the resort sector to help it continue delivering the world-class experiences and values that travellers in the post-COVID world expect from premium markets like Fiji” he added.

Along with NZTE, FHTA also confirms that Fiji Times, Aqua Pacific and Sharma’s Music Centre have come on board as event partners for HOTEC and Symposium.

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

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: The Consultative Process to Progress

Media Workshop 2020

FHTA, 1 September 2022 – .Everyone’s favourite wrestler turned actor Dwayne Johnson once said “Success doesn’t happen overnight. Every day you get a little better than the day before and it all adds up.”

While this resonates for The Rock, it also resonates for us here on this little rock called Fiji.

For Fiji’s tourism industry, this has always been how we have approached business.

Building on existing frameworks to add more supportive strategies and plans is one key part of it; but our resilience experience (probably not unlike The Rock’s formidable strength training program), has taught us that consulting widely with industry members, government bodies and ministries we interact closely with, and being cognizant of the economic, environmental and climatic impacts on the industry is absolutely critical to ensuring those strategies are effective, pragmatic and flexible.

To be progressively better than we were yesterday and to ensure we are future-proof and sustainable in the long term; we must be able to keep improving in the future because this will also support us to stay competitive and relevant.

A National Sustainability Tourism Framework (NSTF) consultation is currently taking place through the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport (MCTTT), to “articulate the tourism sector’s strategic direction and provide a blueprint for an inclusive, resilient, sustainable and transformative Fijian tourism industry”.

With a series of Private-Public Dialogues that have just started, and that are supported by the International Finance Corporation (IFC); these consultations that will be carried out over the next few months need the input of people involved in the industry to provide meaningful, relevant and insightful engagement.

The first of these has covered travel insights and changing trends, how current travel inflows are stacking against historical data, and exciting news on strong forward bookings and expectations over the near and long term.

It has also covered current and future challenges and our expectations for how these will either further develop or are expected to evolve given the current geopolitical and economic conditions.

There has also been interesting dialogue commenced on recommendations to address changing climate impacts, discussions on increasing energy and food costs both here and in our visitor markets and how these might more effectively be addressed or mitigated.

The upcoming joint Fiji/Australia Business Forum (and the joint Fiji/New Zealand Business Forum held a few months ago) is a similar consultation process for businesses looking to understand how bilateral trade has rebounded, where it will go, the future of business investments, the changing work environment and better understand global, regional and the local risk environment.

Having Zoomed our way through 2 years of polite and often subdued (and heavily time monitored) online discussions, the demand for in-person conferences to connect, network and get some healthier debates going has become a global phenomenon.

Across the globe, country, industry and business strategies are being re-evaluated for more fit-for-purpose approaches that are being re-analysed through the spectrum of wider consultations, myriad meetings and events that collate these discussions.

They are also using the near-term experiences of the last few years and the changing dynamics of post-pandemic demand, because, as we all know, so much has changed.

Even the earth’s axis of rotation has changed, attributed to climate change contributing to this shifting. So even the earth as we know has shifted.

Timely, therefore, as we move from resilience into the last quarter of the year that was all about the hardest fight for recovery ever; we are all taking the time to re-evaluate our preparations for 2023 and beyond.

Another reason why the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) is introducing its inaugural FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium event.

Scheduled for 27th and 28th October 2022 at the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort on Denarau in Fiji, the Symposium will be centred around its theme “Working towards a Sustainable, Marketable, Agile, Resilient and Travel-ready (SMART) Industry. “

There is so much demand from business travellers and suppliers, especially for the chance to network, that FHTA decided that late October 2022 was the perfect time to launch the Symposium, which will take place concurrently with FHTA’s usually annual tradeshow-HOTEC.

At the tradeshow, the emphasis is on reviewing and reimagining tourism’s needs. From fresh food, and produce to dry goods, cleaner energy opportunities and newer recycling methods, as well as introducing cost and energy-saving information.

We also wanted to be able to bring all the hoteliers into the same room as other stakeholders like Government, statutory bodies and the private sector, to provide a consultation and learning platform around regenerative travel and what the future is looking like.

How can we as an industry be cleaner energy users while reducing costs?

How can we use more local produce without compromising standards?

How can we deliver more value so that our visitors choose Fiji as a preferred destination because our industry ticks all the boxes on sustainability, lower carbon footprints and stakeholder inclusivity?

How can we continue to ensure that our industry, having moved past survival and revival, goes on into thrive mode?

The Symposium will also provide discussion opportunities on the Ease of Doing Business, long-term infrastructural needs, and exciting payment gateway news.

We want to be able to generate more discussion on addressing increasing skilled labour gaps and share input on how we hope to continue to keep those staffing pipelines consistently flowing.

Similarly, the Symposium would also discuss various issues including tourism-related expectations and responsibilities of properties and businesses, new or amended policies and programmes announced by the budget for the current fiscal year, our collective revival action plans, as well as the tourism infrastructure partnership programme.

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, service delivery and people skills.

We too have understood the need to have wider consultations, and to capitalise early on providing the right platforms to reach our widespread and extremely diverse industry stakeholders and key supply chains; having seen the many changes in travel post-reopening for 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 sharing your views on the National Sustainability Tourism Framework that will be the guideline tourism development plan or wish to join us for the FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium or the HOTEC Tradeshow 2022, email info@fhta.com.fj for more information.

There are numerous opportunities to be part of the discussions and consultations on where tourism is going or should go, and how you can contribute more positively to our long-term sustainability and viability.

Every day, we will get a little better at how we do this and before you know it, success will be determined by just how sustainable we make this industry and our effective preparations for climate and other environmental, social and global impacts that are usually out of the direct control of Fiji and her citizens.

But it’s our rock, and therefore ours to protect.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 1 September 2022)

TF Announces New Appointment

TF Announces New Appointment

Nadi, 29 August 2022 – Tourism Fiji is pleased to continue a recent trend of enticing Fijian-born experienced professionals to return home to Fiji, to take up important positions within the team. This week, Tourism Fiji is pleased to announce the appointment of Ms Srishti Narayan to the role of Head of Global Marketing. Ms Narayan joins Mr Leigh Howard (Chief Operations Officer) and Mr Robert Thompson (Executive Head of Regions) as a Fiji-born professional returning to Fiji to work at Tourism Fiji, after gaining significant experience overseas.

Ms Narayan possesses a wealth of experience across a number of countries, and in several areas, including being a strong, driven strategic marketer with a proven track record of leading high-performing teams and developing unique propositions that generate a strong return on investment.

Tourism Fiji Chief Marketing Officer, Emma Campbell said, “Srishti joins our team at an exciting time, and I am so delighted to welcome her home to Fiji. Her passion for the destination along with her amazing marketing skills will really help to bolster Fiji’s marketing capability across the globe.”

Fijian-born Ms Narayan was brought up and educated in Aotearoa New Zealand after her family migrated years ago. She has always maintained a strong connection to Fiji with family in Suva and is delighted to be coming back home once again to take up this exciting role. Graduating with honours from the Victoria University of Wellington with a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration majoring in Management and International Business, Ms Narayan has held senior roles in Marketing, Communications and Strategy in New Zealand.

Tourism Fiji Chief Executive Officer, Brent Hill said, “We’re so privileged to be welcoming Srishti back home to the country of her birth to work for Tourism Fiji! We conducted a global search for this important role, and we’re so pleased that a Fijian of Srishti’s calibre and experience won the role. She has exactly what we need to continue to push forward to achieve our goals and is a great, experienced fit for our team based here in Fiji. We warmly welcome her to the fold today and wish her well in her new role!”

Over the course of her career, she has worked in senior marketing roles at organisations like the Bank of New Zealand, Goodfolk and ANZ Bank in Auckland. Prior to accepting the position at Tourism Fiji, she led the business marketing team at Stuff Limited in Auckland, as the Head of Business Customer Engagement.

“As an avid Fiji supporter, I’ve been watching Tourism Fiji go from strength to strength over the last few years. It’s an enormous privilege to be part of such a talented team, and have the opportunity to help take brand Fiji, and my homeland paradise, to the world,” Srishti said.

Ms Narayan will be based at Tourism Fiji’s headquarters in Nadi, Fiji and begins her role today, 29 August 2022.

Marriott Fiji Resorts Consolidates Partnership with MES

Marriott Fiji Resorts Consolidates Partnership with MES

NADI, FIJI – 28 August 2022 – The Marriott International Fiji Hotels officially launched Marriott Bonvoy’s Good Travel program today at the Denarau Farm, a flagship of Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort on Denarau Island with the announcement of the joint partnership with the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES).

Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy is a program that offers meaningful travel across Asia-Pacific with three distinct pillars: Environmental Protection, Community Engagement and Marine Conservation. It is guided by the company’s social impact and sustainability platform – Serve 360 – that is to do good in every direction.

The launch also coincided with the Executive Area Leadership Team visit to the Pacific by APEC (the Asia Pacific excluding Greater China area) President, Mr Rajeev Menon and Vice President Sales & Marketing, Mr John Toomey.

In officiating the cheque presentation to the MES representative, Marriott International’s APEC President, Mr Rajeev Menon said “Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy is about community collaboration and the curation of purposeful experiences as our guests are searching for these meaningful experiences. The partnership with MES is a major milestone for all our Fiji hotels as the program spearheads these unique experiences and more importantly supports the local communities and natural environment. It reaffirms Marriot International’s commitment to supporting the resilience of the local communities.”

Mamanuca Environment Society Project Manager and representative, Marica Vakacola on receiving the FJD50,000 cheque said ‘the partnership with Marriott International Fiji Hotels is a big achievement with its large footprint in Fiji’s Tourism industry; it also aligns with our core program focus to support Fiji Green Growth Framework and UN Sustainable Development goals.”

The Good Travel program will be championed by the respective hotel teams at Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort, Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay and Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island, Fiji in close collaboration with the MES support team from which more than 10,000 mangroves, 3,000 native & fruit trees and 1,200 coral plants will be planted on an annual basis.

FHTA Announces HOTEC Platinum Sponsor

FHTA Announces HOTEC Platinum Sponsor

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association has today announced that the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) has signed on as Platinum Sponsor for the HOTEC Tradeshow and the Tourism Talanoa Symposium.

HOTEC is returning after a lapse of two years and is scheduled for 27 & 28 October 2022 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.

The Tourism Talanoa Symposium is a new addition to the tourism industry event with the theme of “Working towards a Sustainable, Marketable, Agile, Resilient and Travel-ready (SMART) Industry” and will run concurrently with HOTEC.

Austrade is the Australian Government’s international trade promotion and investment attraction agency.

Austrade accelerates the growth of exporters, attracts foreign investors and stimulates the visitor economy. Austrade’s network of 1,200 experts in 67 international offices gives Australian businesses a competitive edge in the global marketplace.

FHTA Chief Executive Officer Fantasha Lockington says, “FHTA is excited to have Austrade on board for the return of HOTEC and launch of the Tourism Talanoa Symposium.”

Mrs Lockington adds, “this year’s events are all about providing an opportunity to reconnect suppliers with hoteliers post-COVID, and will introduce new and direct supply paths to the industry.”

Austrade Trade Commissioner, Pacific and Timor-Leste Sheila Lunter said” “HOTEC is an unmissable opportunity for Australian exporters to engage directly with the Fiji hospitality sector. We are delighted to partner with FHTA as the platinum sponsor for the event and we look forward to showcasing some of Australia’s finest food and beverage exporters at the event. With well over 50 per cent of visitors to Fiji coming from Australia, we are keen to ensure that the best Australia has to offer is also available in Fiji.”

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

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Pacific Island Tourism – Trends & Expectations

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Pacific Island Tourism – Trends & Expectations

FHTA, 25 August 2022 – .By all accounts, the tourism sector around the Pacific region is growing from strength to strength with more island states reopening, dealing with the subsequent impact of COVID spreading through communities in ever decreasing impacts, while every week visitor numbers appear to continue increasing.

The Cook Islands, Vanuatu, French Polynesia, Solomon Islands, Niue, New Caledonia, Nauru, Kiribati and more recently Samoa – all reopened as vaccination levels reach the prerequisite safety numbers and the push for boosters changed markedly from island to island.

Fijian tourism is still enjoying its usually 4 months long peak season that coincides beautifully with cooler temperatures, sunnier days and deeper-hued sunsets (something to do with where the sun is positioned now) with most tourism businesses still holding strong bookings even after the high season and well into the end of the year.

Experts have put the strong demand down to pent-up demand, the emotional impact of the pandemic on many people and a deeper need for connections with nature and other families, Zoom-fatigue and just the plain fact that every time a freedom is taken away from us, there is a strong urge to claim it back as soon as possible.

And travel is considered one of those freedoms and privileges that feeds our natural curiosity, expands our understanding of the world and therefore ourselves and where we fit in and transport us out of our normal, often boring routines.

Travel data company Statista estimates that there has been a 383.2percent increase in forecast inbound tourism visitor growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

This isn’t entirely surprising given that there was hardly any tourism for the past two years, but it is encouraging to see that the rebound throughout the Pacific is overwhelmingly positive.

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

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

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

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

Improved access, greater product diversity, increased marketing, and a safe visitor environment in the Pacific are all helping to drive growing demand from international markets, especially from Australia (42%), New Zealand (26%) and the US (11%).

Pre-COVID demand from the Chinese market had jumped to 5% with all other market demand either up to or less than this.
Air and cruise access had contributed greatly to this demand, opening up travel to new markets in the northern hemisphere, Europe and Asia.

Mix in the fact that hotel options have expanded, especially in Fiji where international brands have a major presence (7 major brands in total, PNG has 2 and Samoa and Vanuatu have one major hotel brand each) and you can see why demand has continued the way it has.

While there have not been major foreign investments in new tourism developments (and presuming COVID put any planned ones on further hold), local tourism businesses have expanded their footprints over the years, and the industry’s successful track record has been recognised with the Fiji National Provident Fund now an active owner of a large number of these international brands.

Next week we will discuss what the reality of leakage is with the changes in tourism ownership over the years because it is not what has been historically perceived.

For Pacific Island tourism pre-COVID, the World Bank had forecasted 3 million visitor arrivals to the region by 2040 (an annual growth rate of 3% that now has to be reset) with the creation of an additional 127,600 jobs to go with that increase.

As we prepare to enter the last 4 months of the year of reopening and new beginnings: what do the future hold for Fiji and its island neighbours that rely so heavily on an industry that now has the viral challenge to add to its usual list of geo-political, climate change and weather-related impacts?

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

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

Coming in second on the list was looming debt crises with debts expected to worsen over the next 3 to 5 years.

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

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

What does that all mean for the Pacific?

Even more uncertainty unfortunately for 2023 and 2024, if we consider that the global growth forecast has been downgraded to 3.2% by IMF and that interest rates and inflation (higher food and fuel prices) are expected to increase in our core visitor markets.

The Russian/Ukraine war has undoubtedly added pressure to existing economic uncertainties, while hesitancy to remove all COVID restrictions does not provide travel confidence (especially for long distances) and less disposable incomes for future travellers (paying more interest at their banks) might just pull the wind out of our sails a bit – at least in the first quarter of 2023.

Now is the opportune time, therefore, to review destination marketing plans for those still slow long-haul markets, to be innovative with pricing and products in the new year, to incentivise our potential MICE and wedding markets and to be more creative with how we are marketing for our high-end dive and yachting segments, and even how we’re capturing sports tourism interest.

World Tourism Day has been held on 27 September each year since 1980 and the date marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Statutes of the Organization in 1970, paving the way for the establishment of UNWTO five years later.

2022 will forever be the year that tourism restarted and it must bounce back sustainably and pragmatically. This year’s World Tourism Day theme of ‘Rethinking Tourism’, will focus on re-imagining the sector’s growth, both in terms of size and relevance.
Perhaps a timely theme as we prepare for the buffers we need so that we can create more opportunities and optimism for 2023.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 25 August 2022)

FETA Announces New Categories

FETA Announces New Categories

Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards (FETA) has broadened the event category for the 2022 season awards, making it more inclusive as well. The announcement of the new categories was made at Nalagi Hotel in Nadi today.

The awards, which previously consisted of 13 categories, now have 20 which will be presented together with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement and Visionary Award at a grand gala event early next year.

FETA Chair, Debra Sadranu said the extended categories provide an exciting opportunity for individuals and organisations in the tourism industry to be a part of the distinguished event, with the focus this year being diversity and inclusivity for all stakeholders.

“We strongly encourage participation by industry partners for this year’s event with its additional categories that are sure to provide recognition to all those who actively and positively impacted tourism in Fiji during the season,” Sadranu explained.

FETA also announced the opening of the award registration on Wednesday, August 31st, 2022 allowing participants to register on the FETA website and have access to the extended categories and details of how to enter and submit their applications.

“We will be reaching out to tourism stakeholders through various platforms to encourage them to participate and register online during this period. The 2022 FETA awards in its celebration of inclusivity and diversity will have something for everyone, and we encourage participation once registration is open at the end of the month,” Sadranu added.

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

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Leading the Agri-Tourism Charge

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Leading the Agri-Tourism Charge

FHTA, 12 August 2022 – Most people, including visitors to Denarau Island in Nadi, would never guess there was a thriving farm nearby. Post pandemic, establishing Agri-Tourism linkages in Fiji is important to reduce food costs for hotels and resorts whilst boosting Fiji’s food system that also affords guests an authentic culinary visitor experience through the integration of local fresh produce.

Nestled between the Heineken House and Denarau Golf Course lies an oasis of fresh Fijian produce that is evolving as it integrates organic farming techniques for herbs and vegetables followed by the tree planting initiative that will include Fiji’s native and fruit trees for a symbiotic ecosystem.

The Denarau Farm started in 2009 with just a half-acre of land that has now grown to a size of 5hectares and is managed by 4 dedicated staff. To cater for hotel demands across the Marriott International Fiji properties on Denarau Island, the farm is expected to produce more than 600kg – 700kg of fruits and vegetables and herbs.

The farm harvests seasonal produce including baby carrots, okra, chillies, tomatoes, cauliflower, guavas, pawpaw and pineapples, and employs its own experienced coconut tree climber to manage the 400 coconuts a week that are grown and subsequently enjoyed by guests of the resorts.

Plans are in place to install a permanent biogas system that can convert more than 20kg of organic waste producing more than 1,000 litres of gas to power the farm’s onsite BBQ for cooking and additionally, more than 20litres of dense rich liquid compost which provides nutrients to the herbs and vegetables grown on-site.

The initiatives show Marriott International Fiji Resorts’ dedication to reducing their carbon footprint, minimizing their reliance on imported produce, and living up to their culinary mantra of ‘Go Local’.

And they’re not alone in their efforts as many other resorts around the country have invested in the communities nearby or their own managed farms, with some investing in both.

In previous chef training initiatives, local chefs have been given the rare opportunity to train under Chef Colin Chung of “Kana Vinaka” cookbook fame using locally sourced produce from the surrounding areas. The learning experience always lifted confidence and skill levels. Many local chefs noted after the exposure, that it provided them with innovative perspectives on how local produce can be made so much more exciting from menu planning to deliver the dishes.

Farmers also got to see how their produce was integrated into the food supply chain whilst local chefs explored Fiji’s gastronomic delights that aren’t seen often enough around the country.

With the Ministries of Tourism and Agriculture also recognizing this potential, collaborations with industry stakeholders like the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) and Tourism Fiji focusing on the wide variety of cuisine options is vital; Fiji should be able to position Food Tourism as another potential visitor experience that has wide-ranging opportunities for farmers, supply chains and hospitality workers.

Published in the Fiji Sun on 12 August 2022

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Cruising Back

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Cruising Back

FHTA, 18 August 2022 – There was a rising wave of excitement in the air earlier this week at one of our major seaports.

A long-lost part of the industry was making her way back to our shores and boy, were we stoked to welcome her home.

P&O Cruises Australia’s flagship Pacific Explorer brought her 830 crew and 1,147 passengers safely to Lautoka port and it closed out two and a half years out of the Pacific.

Not only is the Pacific Explorer the first cruise liner to visit Fiji since the pandemic, but she was also making headlines as the first to return to the entire Pacific region.

Cruise tourism was the first major industry casualty of the COVID-induced lockdowns as it was determined that cruise liners were a Petrie dish of viruses that could infect high numbers of passengers in a contained space, close to each other for much of the time and delayed COVID-19 incubation period for days on end.

We can all recall the early days of the pandemic when there were at least 10 ships around the world, carrying nearly 10,000 passengers, still stuck at sea after having been turned away from their destination ports in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a Guardian analysis.

Some of those ships were facing increasingly desperate medical situations and the world waited with bated breath to see what would transpire.

There were countless dramatic scenes of COVID-stricken cruises, such as the Grand Princess and the Diamond Princess, which soon became synonymous with the pandemic and cast a negative light on cruise ships in general.

The plight of those passengers and crew still stuck onboard highlighted how cruise ships became the pariahs of the sea, with cities wary of becoming the next home for a potentially infected vessel.

But then everything changed gears and the world focused elsewhere as it inevitably does (while still keeping a wary eye on cruise ships), but many placed long-term cruise vessel bans, with stringent requirements for even smaller vessels to land and even to travel between ports.

The International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) report notes some interesting key findings from their “Assessment of the Economic Impact of Cruise Tourism in Fiji” (October 2019).

This was the last full study on Cruise Tourism in Fiji before the lockdowns and border closures.

The study revealed that cruise companies, their passengers, and crew spent FJ$44.2 million in Fiji in 2018, which accounted for 0.66 percent of Fiji’s GDP for that year.

IFC estimated that indirect stimulus impact was at FJ$46.6 million and indirect stimulus resulted from local businesses using cash flows received from cruise ship activity to on- purchase to carry out their business activities.

For every FJ$1 spent by the cruise ship sector, an additional FJ$1.10 is generated in the economy, signalling a strong supply chain effect in Fiji.

Private businesses received 70 percent of the total economic impact (direct and indirect) and the Fijian Government collected 28 percent of the total economic impact (direct and indirect).

These businesses are generally the 3 large retail chains located in the 2 major cities in Fiji and to a lesser extent, the taxies, tour operators and handicraft sellers that cater to the passengers that might choose to disembark for a few hours over the 10-12 hours the vessel is berthed at either of the city ports.

Entertainers like musicians & dancers, restaurants and sightseeing activity tours make up the spectrum of supply chains adding value to cruising visitors to Fiji’s shores.

Before COVID, the cruise industry was estimated to generate up to 4,593 full-time employment opportunities.

That estimation would have changed due to the many tourism staff who have since left our shores for overseas exposure or moved into other industry work, and it is not well understood if this included the ports staff, immigration, customs and administrative staff that take care of general vessel management at a port that has oversight into international cargo and passenger shipping needs.

IFC approximated that each cruise ship voyage brings an average of FJ$305,000 in spending per port of call and one cruise ship passenger spends around FJ$90 each.

On average, cruise passengers spend FJ$118 in Lautoka, followed by FJ$104 in Suva, and when they do stop at Denarau or Savusavu, they then spend FJ$102 and FJ$56 per disembarking passenger respectively.

It is not clear exactly how much is spent for stops at outer islands like Kadavu.

Of the high number of cruise ship calls that the Port of Suva received (40 percent), it receives 44 percent of all direct expenditure in Fiji, while Lautoka (24 percent of calls) receives 31 percent of direct expenditure.

If we consider that these 2 main ports also accommodate mostly cargo vessels as part of the many vessels berthed; port rates and disembarkation rates are relatively high.

The survey found a strong positive correlation between passenger satisfaction and spending: the more satisfied passengers are with the variety of things to see, do and purchase – meaning that the longer they stay ashore, the more they spend.

It should be noted that only a small percentage of the total passenger numbers onboard actually disembark, having fully paid for the cruise that includes all meals.

Of those surveyed, the highest-rated port in Fiji for customer satisfaction was Port Denarau Marina, with its many restaurants, bars, accessibility to day trips and other sightseeing excursions and shopping options.

This makes sense, considering that the survey also noted that Fiji did not have sufficient spending opportunities for short-term visitations, with 24 percent of passengers reporting that they did not spend at all, and 47 percent citing that their expectations for spending were not met.

This should be a concern for tourism stakeholders looking to make cruise tourism a more substantial contributor to tourism revenue generally.

Yachting’s contribution to tourism for example is $61million annually with approximately 4,470 passengers coming in via yachts on an annual basis (pre-COVID), staying for longer periods, spending more (an average of $7,800 per passenger) and visiting outside of the tourism hotspots where that tourism revenue is much needed and goes further into the local communities.

Handicrafts, clothing, tours and excursions, and food and beverage present the strongest opportunities to capitalize on unmet spending needs.

We could also raise the standard of cruise vessel arrival and departure areas for our main ports, where other than fulfilling minimum requirements for the draft, berthing lines, and navigation channels for cruise ships; we provide also passenger cruise terminals.

These could have provisions for various spaces, including covered apron areas, terminal buildings that could manage efficient ground transportation for connectivity to the city, car parking, and public transport facilities.

These would encourage more passengers to disembark, allow easier accessibility for the mobility-challenged passengers and offer a more inviting welcoming or farewelling space.

There are definitely more economic benefits (including direct and indirect) estimated at approximately FJ$90 million over 10 years, that have been identified through priority investments profiled in IFC’s report.

These opportunities are focused on improving cruise experiences and providing Fiji businesses and individuals with improved access to the cruise market.

We certainly welcome back cruise tourism to the Fiji Islands and we wish them calm seas and fair winds, while we hope we can encourage more passengers to disembark and enjoy our Fijian hospitality.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 18 August 2022)

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Dive Academy Fiji Keeping The Ocean Pollution Free

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Dive Academy Fiji Keeping The Ocean Pollution Free

FHTA, 6 August 2022 – Positivity is necessary for a happier life.

Not just in our personal lives but in all other aspects as well. And after the pandemic-induced lockdowns and Fiji’s border reopening, positivity is in full effect at Dive Academy Fiji.

They are a boutique, dive eco-resort located in Viani Bay, on the Vanua Levu side of the Somosomo Strait, across from Taveuni.

It is only accessible by boat and although the resort is on Vanua Levu, it is more practical for them to do their provisioning at Taveuni than to make the long trek to Savusavu.

Guests who stay in one of their ocean-front bungalows benefit from the short distances to the Rainbow Reef, which is ranked amongst the top ten dive destinations in the world.

Viani Bay is also a known anchorage spot for yachts and these yachties, in turn, book with Dive Academy for diving and snorkelling activities, meals and other services.

We recently learnt of Dive Academy’s continued activity with their Diving Scholarship Program that they have been running since its inception in 2016.

When the visitor numbers dried up, they continued to offer the program to students from Viti Levu, mainly USP marine science graduates, and nearby communities.

One of their first graduates qualified as a PADI Assistant Instructor in early 2019 and still works for Dive Academy as their dive shop manager and dive guide.

The scuba scholars go through the PADI Dive Training Program, learning about diving equipment, compressor handling and the technicalities of what makes a safe diver and an outstanding dive master.

Local students only pay a contribution to the direct cost, If they become interns at Dive Academy, they can work off the cost of the courses and they will receive more training on dive administration and back-office procedures, dive planning and guest relations.

The owners and founders of Dive Academy Fiji, Jone Waitaiti and Marina Walser say “It ́s important to understand, that this program is not just designed to train up only our own dive masters.”

“It ́s first of all about educating the locals about the underwater world; once they see its beauty, they will protect it.”

One of the scuba scholars completed her zero-to-hero program during the pandemic in 2021 and now works close to home in Pacific Harbor and dives with the bull sharks every day.

Some of the graduating students continue to work for Dive Academy as Dive and Snorkelling Guides. It provides job experience and opportunities to join the dive industry.

Another project that Dive Academy is overseeing for their community and surrounding waterways is their coral farming initiative. In July and November 2019, they set up the first two nurseries on Tivi Island in Viani Bay.

Broken-off pieces of coral are stuck on ropes in a construction that looks a bit like a large underwater hammock. All the corals in these nurseries have meanwhile been transplanted.

A table nursery for more slowly growing table corals was set up during the lockdown. Jone welded new triangle structures which were set up a few weeks ago during an event with local volunteers and guests.

“Unpolluted water is one of the pre-requisites when considering coral farming. This is why I initiated the Clean-up Taveuni campaign back in 2019 and collected trash from the shore together with volunteers from Taveuni and our Dive Academy team,” explains Waitaiti.

Unfortunately, there is no formal waste disposal or collection program on Taveuni, nor in Viani Bay.

While they admit they receive a lot of positive feedback and support, it is a demanding and difficult way to clean an entire island. Without formal collection or waste disposal avenues and with no emphasis on educating the public on the effects of rubbish on the environment, much of the waste is then washed out into the ocean where they harm marine life and damage years of natural reef systems.

Here too, Dive Academy has provided much-needed support for educating the young children in the community to appreciate the ocean so it can look after them.

Before the pandemic, Marina went to Ucunivatu Primary School once a week to teach about marine life and its conservation.

Once a month, the children and teachers would conduct a beach clean-up.

The program is now being resumed and the children are eager to learn more about the ocean.

In 2019, Marina developed a credo (guiding belief) with the children and teachers who call themselves ”Ucunivatu Ocean Saviours”. The efforts show positive effects with less rubbish being found along the shore now.

The children are more aware of the eco-systems around them and even talk to their parents about the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ concept and other aspects of environmental conservation.

Dive Academy Fiji with Viani Bay resort has been open throughout the pandemic. “Times were challenging, but we continued our conservation efforts”, says Jone.

Now, with tourists back, Dive Academy is organizing guided tours and coral farming workshops several times a week with house guests, cruisers and local volunteers.

Visitors come from faraway lands just to experience the spectacular diving and get an appreciation for marine conservation efforts as a bonus.

They received awards in 2020 and 2021 from PADI for their conservation and education initiatives.

They have also just received another TripAdvisor award, being rated amongst the top 10% of activities worldwide.

It’s all about positivity and arguably nobody does it quite like Dive Academy Fiji.

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

Published in the Fiji Sun on 6 August 2022

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Faraway Conflicts and Small Island Impacts

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Faraway Conflicts and Small Island Impacts

FHTA, 11 August 2022 – As ports in Ukraine open cautiously after weeks of anticipation, several ships carrying wheat have finally managed to depart successfully and some have since berthed at their intended destinations.

This was seen as a small but significant victory. A positive sign for a critical part of the global supply chain and the many knots that have plagued its many linked services, with the expectation that this might mean the start of food supplies at least moving into a more stable situation despite the ongoing effects of the Russia – Ukraine conflict.

Until recently, many people in the Pacific (and probably around the globe) had very little understanding and appreciation even, of the fact that Ukraine is a world leader in terms of agricultural exports; producing 18% of the world’s sunflower seed, safflower or cottonseed oil exports; 13% of corn production; 12% of global barley exports; and 8% of wheat and meslin.

So, to have them unable to fulfil their export obligations has been extremely problematic for them and the entire world as increasing delivery gaps and demand force prices upwards.

While Ukraine is a major exporter to Asia, Russia also provides a large percentage of the wheat demands for sub-Saharan Africa.

The implications for these nations when supply is disrupted and cost increases jump exponentially are enormous, and experts have warned that global food price rises and a surge in hunger across the world are now real possibilities shortly.

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

Distance too is a factor between the two regions, as there isn’t a strong tourism linkage and this translates to an average of 36,043 visitors from Europe for the 3 years preceding the pandemic (into Fiji).

Generally, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is seen to have had a limited impact on the Pacific’s external financing in the near term because this usually comes in the form of remittances and grants from development partners.
Indirectly though is where the real shockwaves are being felt in the Pacific.

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

We have a high dependency on imports – fuel, food and manufactured items because while PICs have many resources and raw materials available, we lack the infrastructure, technology and resources to value add or complete the process most raw materials need to suit demand or for longer shelf life or meet consumer preference.

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

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

And slowly but surely, we are seeing the gradual cost increases in other areas of our everyday lives become impacted by these faraway events that we have no control over – the price of
wheat products like flour, the cost of transport to school and work and the type of food we can afford to eat more often.

The world’s economic outlook appears to remain uncertain when compounding the major events happening in Ukraine and the pandemic-related disruptions in China with extended lockdown mandates adding to our supply chain bottlenecks.

Across the globe, we watch as larger countries try to manage their (much larger) debt levels, interest rate hikes and increasing inflation levels.

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

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

Tourism arrivals have certainly surprised even our most positive expectations, and as the industry that was being relied on to get the economy kickstarted, we took the responsibility seriously and with the assistance granted from Government, having acknowledged early that the industry needed support to get back up again, we continue to deliver our best.

We’re taking nothing for granted as we continually look for weak spots in our operations and plug those holes with stringent processes and protocols.

But the impacts of that faraway conflict are being felt heavily throughout the tourism supply chains from fuel, to food to any supplies used for travel, accommodation, events, transport, lighting, IT, white goods and furnishings.

Nothing it appears has been spared the effect of a cost increase along these delivery chains.

We will repeat that. Nothing.

With the additional and very early realisation that anything that impacts our key visitor markets is also going to affect the number of people travelling, when they travel and how often they travel.

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

There is very real concern that as inflation spreads and the travelling populations are forced to tighten their own spending habits, holidays will be impacted or at the very least, put on hold.

Will 2023 bookings continue at the levels they did this year?

Will the supply chain issues be resolved by the end of 2022?

How expensive will air travel and accommodation costs be by 2024 and might fewer people find it as affordable to take annual vacations?

How much will bread cost by next year?

Can I afford to fill my fuel tank up so I can drive my car to work every day?

How much can I increase my wages budget to get the best staff, deliver the best service and still cover my costs?

All extremely pertinent questions coming from issues nearly every private sector business, regardless of which industry they are from, is dealing with now.

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

For the short term, we are still moving ahead with buffer planning through protection against further variants at least.

There have been wide calls for progress on vaccination rates to protect against future variants so that means going to get your vaccination if you haven’t already and getting your boosters if you have had your two vaccination shots.

What plans have you made in your business or your home to adjust if these price increases continue?

We can already see many things continue to keep changing, regardless of how far away they might begin.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 11 August 2022)

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.