Building an evidence-based decision-making culture to drive sustainable tourism

Building an evidence-based decision-making culture to drive sustainable tourism

Fiji’s individual and collective industry strategies should continue to be informed by the monitoring of data trends and insights to ensure the sustainability of the tourism sector.

These were the sentiments shared by Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association Chief Executive Officer, Fantasha Lockington, during the recent tourism industry trends and insights sessions conducted by Twenty31 tourism consultant, Oliver Martin, at the Fijian Tourism Expo in Nadi.

“Throughout the early stages of reopening, we kept an eye on the live dashboard data that Twenty 31 set up to support the work of the National Tourism Statistics Taskforce. The data was continuously evolving and validating and informing the strategies that the task force members were working towards leading up to reopening of our borders,” said Mrs Lockington.

“Now six months into the reopening, it is our hope that we maintain this focus as an industry to not only ensure that we maintain our current levels of popularity, but also to help ensure that we are continually prepared. The valuable data insights help us to do that,” Ms. Lockington added.

Twenty31, an international consulting firm based in Canada, is providing technical assistance to Fiji’s Tourism Statistics Taskforce (TST) through the provision of the latest tourism data trends and analytics for Fiji’s key tourism source markets, with support from the Australian Government’s Market Development Facility.

The TST is made up of representatives from the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism & Transport, Tourism Fiji, and the Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association.

To support this ongoing work, Twenty31 also held two industry-wide sessions and smaller working group sessions for tourism stakeholders at the Fiji Tourism Expo.

“It’s always important to keep our fingers on the pulse, and it’s quite interesting to see that overall, we know that there’s great optimism out there for travel and also a big topic around sustainable recovery and ensuring we sustain that demand for the future as well,” said Marriot International’s Cluster Director of Marketing for Fiji, Sera Cawanibuka-Seruvatu following a session on the top trends that would impact travel to Fiji.

“The sessions were really, insightful. There’s a lot you can take away and put together in terms of crafting your plans for the rest of the year,” she added.

The TST is making available the live dashboard data and monthly reports to the tourism stakeholders to inform their business strategies.

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Tourism is Back, But…

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Tourism is Back, But…

FHTA, 13 May 2022 – At the height of the pandemic and at a time when the video meeting tools had seemingly taken over, businesses were learning to adapt to the new way of doing things.

No more international trips to conduct workshops, attend conferences, or participate in expos, let alone visiting families or taking a tourism excursion.

People were resigning themselves to the fact that this new coronavirus had done the unimaginable and pinned everyone down and that face-to-face meetings of any sort were over and done with.

But such is the unity and tenacity of the global population that as restrictions get consistently rolled back in step with vaccine uptake and efficacy, we’re moving with increasing speed towards business as usual, but with the added precautionary measures to contain the viral spread. Pushed along no doubt by economic pressures, especially in countries like Fiji that are heavily reliant on tourism.

Well into 6 months since the opening of Fiji’s international borders, visitors have slowly but surely flocked over in droves to once again experience the magic of Fiji.

But don’t let the increased tourism busyness of more frequent flights, transportation of visitors to and from airports and hotels and the outward swirling eddies of flurry and hubbub in activities associated with the industry lull us into a false sense of security.

We are not at 2019 levels of tourism yet by no means, if we are still using that as a benchmark.

And we are way off having every one of our tourism operators – accommodation, activities providers or suppliers back in operation.

The Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) is still tracking many of its members and non-members in their journey back from the brink and is acutely aware of how many are either still struggling to get back up again or have closed “till further notice”.

As well, we continue to engage closely with the industry to understand the specific challenges of the many segments within tourism that often require a deeper understanding of the intricate issues that shape those segments.

Marine related businesses for example are still struggling to get compliance requirements in place for their boat captains and crew, what with tourism spread throughout the maritime islands and the regulatory body unable to cope with training needs unless you are in Suva.

Hotels and resorts have spent the last 12 months training staff to replace skill gaps in every department, and have seen the added challenge of trained staff leaving for perceived greener pastures in Australia as part of the Pacific Labour Scheme and other labour recruitment programs.

We don’t deny these are wonderful opportunities for our people to get exposure and more money overseas, but more often than not, our skilled hospitality staff are recruited to work in lower positions, farms or abattoirs thus will not necessarily be benefitting through any upgrading of their skill sets that on returning to Fiji, could be considered a benefit for the industries they may return to.

And in the meantime, an industry still in the fledgling state of recovery is further hampered by increasing gaps in skilled labour with the option to access this from overseas, often a long and intensive process.

Employment opportunities in Fiji therefore will continue to be available and be frequently advertised, although this does not necessarily mean more businesses are opening or expanding as they might generally be taken to mean.

Keep in mind that as part of an employer’s criteria for overseas recruitment for a position they cannot fill locally, they must advertise locally first.

The circular nature of labour (skills moving overseas, some skills becoming redundant and demand for other skills) compounded by the impact of COVID is doing just that – moving people back to their pastoral farms and villages or luring them to jobs overseas promising financial rewards that could support needy families.

And who is still struggling to reopen even 6 months down the line you might ask? Well actually, a whole lot more businesses than you might realise.

The smaller your business is, the further away from the mainland you are located and the more reliant you are on certain specific skills that are no longer available; the more likely that business has either not survived or is still floundering in the wake of COVID.

So while we welcome back the many domestic and international conferences and meetings that ensure business is back for most hotels all the way to Suva, and also welcome back the many families and new visitors around the country, we are aware of our smaller members still doing it hard.

Timely therefore for Tourism Fiji’s “Fijian Tourism Expo” (FTE) being held this week in Nadi.

The FTE is Fiji’s premier tourism industry event that brings international trade, media and local tourism suppliers into one location to showcase the variety of tourism products available in Fiji.

It involves a combination of activities, business discussions and networking opportunities to provide our attendees with a truly immersive Fijian experience.

Travel industry reps already in the country have been busy inspecting properties around Fiji to see firsthand what Fiji has included as part of its updated, refurbished and polished suite of products and services.

They would also be seeing or finding out more over the next few days, about the variety of activities and experiences, and transportation options and will then be negotiating and confirming contracts, rates and packages.

The more successful these negotiations are, the more competitive Fiji can be and combined successes can help in some way to assist other businesses eventually get off the ground.

And we are so glad that it’s back because after spending the past two years communicating with agents and buyers on Zoom or Microsoft Teams or Google Room or other internet options, we can finally stand together in the same room and shake hands and learn from each other.

We are back in the thick of things, but still aware that we have many more miles to go.

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

Fiji Airways to resume flights out of Adelaide

Fiji Airways to resume flights out of Adelaide

11 May 2022: Fiji Airways, Fiji’s National Airline, has announced plans to resume twice-weekly direct services to Adelaide commencing on Monday, July 4 2022 after three years.

This marks the fourth Australian leg for the airline after Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. Currently, Fiji Airways operates two flights daily to Sydney and one flight daily to Melbourne and Brisbane.

Diversifying the Australian market has been a goal of Fiji Airways since Fiji borders opened on 1 December 2021, as so many Australians continue to choose to fly to Fiji.

“We’re delighted to re-launch our fourth Australian route, which will allow us once again to bring our unique Fijian hospitality to South Australia, as well as offer local residents the opportunity to use Fiji as a gateway to other international destinations,” said Andre Viljoen, Managing Director and CEO of Fiji Airways. “The increase in our aircraft fleet allows us to cater to the demand out of Adelaide”.

The vast majority of tourists to Fiji arrive from Australian airports so the resumption of this service will be good news for travellers and the sizable Fijian community living in South Australia.

Adelaide Airport Managing Director, Brenton Cox, welcomed the announcement and congratulated Fiji Airways for its prompt return to Adelaide after such a challenging period for the aviation sector.

“We know there is significant pent-up demand for South Australians wanting to head overseas again, and Fiji Airways has recognised the strength of our market. Fiji has always been a hugely popular destination with South Australian travellers and it’s great to see the reintroduction of routes as the COVID recovery continues,” Mr Cox said.

Tickets can be purchased through the Fiji Airways website, www.fijiairways.com, or by calling the Fiji Airways Global Reservations Centre.

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Plan Big to Play Big

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Plan Big to Play Big

FHTA, 5 May 2022 – The biggest Super Rugby Pacific crowd was seen recently in Fiji – well for 2022 anyway.

What a splendid achievement and fantastic marketing for the central division’s ANZ Stadium in Suva and the game of super rugby in Fiji.

Fans piled into the ground and were in full voice throughout an event that was hailed for its exciting and passionate atmosphere.

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association was particularly giddy with the event because it meant accommodation providers were also enjoying full capacity because of the game.

And we have no doubt this will happen again, but this time in Lautoka in the western division, on May 28 and against the Chiefs from Hamilton.

While several commentators are putting in what might be a premature call for Super Rugby’s Super Round to be held in Fiji because of the Fijian fervour and love for the game, industries like tourism are excited at the prospects of this nonetheless.

The Super Round is when all participating teams play their matches in one venue over three days, usually held near ANZAC Day.
What an amazing concept but in reality for Fiji, a logistical challenge of monstrous proportions.

That’s ten teams of 50+ players and staff each, TV crews, tournament staff and not least, both local and international fans.

While within the realm of possibility, it does provide a few headaches in terms of the requirements for accommodation and transportation and although on a scale far larger than tourism is used to managing, is certainly within event management organisation that we have to coordinate every so often – of course without the added requirements of very specific rugby facilities criteria that must be met.

Does Fiji have the required facilities for 40,000 or more people descending in one location for a week?

And is there a sporting facility able to accommodate several teams to train, warm-up, get physio and medical attention, as well as play in? All within the very specific required travelling time frames to get to and from their accommodation?

It would be tough we’ll admit, but worth a look and it would provide Fiji with the often-ignored opportunity to identify these gaps and address them by putting together some long term development plans to progress sporting facilities where accommodation availability is already in abundance.

We’ve dealt with large events before in Nadi so we’re well aware of the necessary logistics required, the planning time frames necessary and the effort that must go into the process to ensure success.

As the 2023 Super Rugby season hopefully returns to normal with the Fijian and Fijiana Drua teams hosting regular home games, it will give us a platform with which to launch a serious bid for the hosting of Super Round at some point in the not too distant future.

One should only imagine the crowds at the stadium, the coverage of the event being seen around the world and the subsequent economic activity, to be able to understand why it is definitely worth consideration for the relevant authorities.

The consideration we have no doubt has been provided previously, but not made it to the development and budgeting phase for whatever reasons.

In the meantime, Tourism continues to forge ahead in leaps and bounds as we cross over into May after a first-quarter that flew by so quickly.

But we know that everyone involved would rather be busy and under the pump than the alternative.

So, we’re putting our big Bula smiles on and greeting every guest, international or local, with a hearty Bula!

It is made even easier now with the removal of the pre-departure COVID-19 test for incoming visitors.

That has made Fiji a whole lot more accessible to all.

Effective from Sunday 1 May 2022, fully vaccinated visitors coming to Fiji by air or sea no longer need to produce a pre-arrival negative COVID-19 test.

This is in line with best practice for entry requirements among highly vaccinated societies.

However, Fiji has also widened its vaccination requirement for entry and travellers above the age of 16 years must now display proof of full COVID-19 vaccination before departure from their homes.

This will further reduce the risk of community transmission and allows the nation to capture a greater percentage of the fully vaccinated tourism market.

As mentioned in our previous articles, next week’s Fiji Tourism Expo is a welcome sight as it returns after a lapse of two years.

The event will provide Tourism Fiji with a marketing platform to remind the world through representatives of those who sell travel, exactly what Destination Fiji has to offer.

Of course, it is also the perfect opportunity to showcase more of the country’s attractions and culture that do not usually get highlighted in the media or on your virtual newsfeeds but have seen a quiet but determined demand come through.

Wholesalers and all manner of travel-associated salespeople will descend on Nadi in a flurry of activity to soak up information and experience first-hand what Fiji has to offer, especially now after 2 years of reviewing products, refurbishing and rebuilding.

A vibrant tourism industry, once fully revived means more critical economic activity, jobs and revenue circulating which in turn should reinvigorate spending and encourage further investments.

Despite many fully understanding the economic shortfalls without tourism its usually formidable influence on employment, supply lines and the large, multiplier effects throughout the country; the industry still cannot afford to be anything but pragmatic as it claws back lost ground.

And we do not intend to lose focus on all the other areas of tourism impacts that ensure the industry remains sustainable for generations to come.

As an example, FHTA will be attending the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Plastic Waste Free Islands (Pacific Small Island Developing States) Consultation workshop for the tourism & fisheries sectors.

This is regarding the ongoing challenge of the usage of single-use plastics in Fiji and we are particularly interested in the impacts on and for tourism.

So FHTA is working with stakeholders like IUCN to partner in the development of an action plan on enhanced plastic waste management for waste management, tourism and the fisheries sector in Fiji.

Waste audits conducted earlier have now concluded and the consolidation of recommendations from the Quantification and Economic Assessment work has been done, so all relevant parties are now working on formulating policy recommendations to improve the management of plastic waste in Fiji and reduce harmful leakages that could damage our beautiful environments.

Marketing our pristine beaches and seaside beauty, building the lovely stories around why and how beautiful Fiji is, is just as important as spending just as much effort as ensuring we are taking advantage of opportunities to develop new areas like sporting tourism, and even more critically important to be managing how we sustain the industry by keeping it clean and viable.

Only then Fiji can truly claim to be the way the world should be.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 5 May 2022)

Destination Specialist to Share Market Trends and Insights at Tourism Expo

Destination Specialist to Share Market Trends and Insights at Tourism Expo

Nadi, 4 May 2022 – A destination development strategist with over 18 years of experience working with countries throughout the globe, will be at this year’s Fijian Tourism Expo (FTE) to share the latest key insights and tourist market intelligence with local tourism stakeholders and international delegates alike.

Mr Oliver Martin, from Twenty31, an international consulting firm based in Canada, will be in Fiji to speak at the upcoming FTE event and will hold two industry-wide sessions and several smaller working group sessions throughout the three-day Expo.

Twenty31, with support from the Australian Government’s Market Development Facility (MDF), is providing technical assistance to the national Tourism Statistics Taskforce (TST) through the provision of the latest tourism data trends and analytics for Fiji’s key tourism source markets, including Australia, New Zealand and America. The TST is made up of representatives from the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism & Transport, Tourism Fiji, and the Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association.

Permanent Secretary for Commerce, Trade, Tourism & Transport and head of the TST, Mr Shaheen Ali said, “Global tourism – as an industry ecosystem – has become relatively more complex. The behaviour of visitors has evolved, and markets are rapidly responding to this change. As policymakers and businesses, we need to keep track and respond appropriately. I’m certain the expertise Twenty31 brings to the FTE will be as insightful and informative for our industry partners, as it has been for us. So, I encourage tourism stakeholders to take advantage of this opportunity to attend these sessions at the upcoming expo.”

Mr Martin has assisted over 50 tourism management organisations to develop sustainable growth plans. While in-country, he will also conduct an exclusive session with TST members on how to make the most of the new live tourism sentiment dashboards that have been set up for Fiji to inform tourism policy and strategy in an ever-changing market.

Tourism Fiji CEO Brent Hill says the sessions by Twenty31 will truly add value to the FTE event.

“This is exciting! We know these presentations will interest and benefit many of our tourism industry and we’re grateful to our TST partners, including MDF for organizing these sessions. It’s a great opportunity for our stakeholders to learn more and a chance for them to ask questions about how these trends can help them grow their business.”

The Fijian Tourism Expo 2022 will be held at the Denarau Island Conference Centre at the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort from 11 – 13 May.

Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort Hosts the ONOC 42nd Annual General Assembly

Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort Hosts the ONOC 42nd Annual General Assembly

Nadi, Fiji – May 3rd 2022 – The Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort are proud hosts of the Oceania National Olympic Committees (ONOC) 42nd Annual General Assembly. The newly renovated resort welcomed delegates from 17 different National Olympic Committees and six Associate Members from 29 April to 4 May.

The annual ONOC General Assembly is scheduled at the turn of every quadrennial Olympic cycle – one every four years, where it holds elections, reviews, and approves budgetary and financial reports to ensure athletes remain at the heart of the Olympic Movement in Oceania and that sport and physical activity are promoted in the Continent.

The Sheraton Fiji Golf and Beach Resort associates and ONOC team welcomed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, who made a special visit to Fiji to attend the final night and President’s Dinner at the resort’s Golden Ballroom.

ONOC has achieved one of its biggest milestones in establishing a new headquarters in Suva in which President Thomas Bach will also be the Chief Guest at the event and have the honour of opening the new establishment.

Neeraj Chadha, Multi-Property Vice President – Fiji & Samoa, Marriott International and General Manager of Westin & Sheraton Resorts, Fiji Complex said, “We are delighted to have the opportunity to host an important five-day conference for ONOC. Hosting events of such calibre and the attendance of the IOC President Thomas Bach, speak volumes about Fiji’s capacity to host such conferences. As Fiji’s largest integrated resort with world-class conferencing facilities, we are optimistic about the future to host more events like these.”

The first ONOC Annual General Assembly was held at the Sheraton Fiji Resort & Spa in 2013.

This year is the second ONOC Annual General Assembly to be held at the revitalised Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort.

Tourism Expo Partners with Port Denarau Marina

Tourism Expo Partners with Port Denarau Marina

Nadi, 3 May 2022 – Tourism Fiji is partnering with Port Denarau Marina for the eighth Fijian Tourism Expo (FTE) and will host event delegates for an evening event to showcase the services available for visitors.

Chief Executive Officer at Port Denarau Marina, Cynthia Rasch said they’re delighted to be selected to host the Fijian Tourism Expo for buyers and media from our key overseas markets in a fun and different way to the structured set-up of the FTE.

“We last hosted a Marine Night in 2014 and are looking forward to hosting FTE’s first Dock Party at Port Denarau Marina together with the Port Denarau Retail Commercial Centre. The past 21 months have been a difficult one for everyone in the tourism industry and we are glad that we can network face to face once again. This is a great opportunity to showcase the diverse products available from Port Denarau, transport, activities as well as the restaurants and dining options in conjunction with Tourism Fiji.”

The event will also give our operators catering to niche markets an opportunity to shine in their spaces and for buyers and sellers to conduct business and network in a unique and creative way.

Cynthia added, “We have had great support from our sponsors, who didn’t hesitate to be part of this event, we thank Port Denarau Retail Commercial Centre and the restaurants within the Centre, Victoria Wines, The Festival Company and marina commercial operators for working together to make this event a memorable one. We are looking forward to hosting our invited guests to this event.”

Tourism Fiji Chief Operations Officer, James Pridgeon said, “Port Denarau Marina is the gateway to the Mamanuca, and Yasawa Islands and the event gives international attendees an opportunity to engage and experience first-hand some of the port’s products and experiences that their customers can expect when visiting Port Denarau. The partnership with Port Denarau is also a great example of how our team at Tourism Fiji is collaborating with local businesses to share our Open for Happiness message at FTE 2022.”

The Fijian Tourism Expo 2022 will be held at the Denarau Island Conference Centre at the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort from 11 – 13 May.

Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay Launch Academy Engaging Land Owners Community

Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay Launch Academy Engaging Land Owners Community

Fiji Marriott Resort 28 April 2022 – Through the Marriott Training Academy, Marriott International strives to provide opportunities and cultivate an environment that champions personal and professional development. Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay officially launched the program engaging prominent villages at Momi Bay through the Land Owners Community (LOC) on Wednesday, 27th April 2022.

This is an integrated program where Marriott Training Academy adopts a blended learning technique that encourages successful candidates to pursue a fruitful journey with the resort and achieve their ultimate career goals. Each individual’s learning will be self-paced and have the opportunity to select from the learning paths offered. Upon completing the 2 months course, the resort will offer certification based on a credit system to each associate.

Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay proudly launched the academy to engage with prominent villages which include Tau, Lomawai, Nakorokula, Kubuna, Bavu, Navutu and Momi. Na Tui Nalolo, Ratu Kini Vosailagi and Tokatoka Representative, Alipate Neilolo attended the launch formalities on behalf of the Land Owners Community (LOC).

“I am very happy for my people to be here and also grateful to Marriott for providing this training for my people,” says Na Tui Nalolo, Ratu Kini Vosailagi who is the Turaga ni Yavusa o Wai to the successful academy candidates seated amongst the audience. “Punctuality and commitment to your assigned roles to serve the company, local and international tourists, including the company investors is important. These key actions will result positively in each of your career growth.”

A total of 152 applications were received and 40 candidates were shortlisted to fulfil positions in Front Office, Food & Beverage, Kitchen and Housekeeping department. They will receive on the job training from skilled and experienced department leaders.

The program has further paved opportunities for the resort to give back to the people and their community by recognizing talent and helping to ensure exposure to driving a positive outcome for the young generation.

“As the resort resumes normal operations, we are excited to formally launch the academy which provides the local communities an entryway to join the dynamic hospitality sector.” General Manager, Silvano Dressino mentioned this at the launch. “I need your passion, I need your commitment and dedication for your future job placement in your desired departments.”

Marriott International Fiji Training Academy was first launched in 2019, putting people first as the founding philosophy which has made Marriott International a great place to work and nurture talent. Learning and Development have been a core focus in the Marriott career journey and are all about giving associates opportunities to thrive and succeed with a people-first culture, creative, departmental, and operational development to grow the capabilities of our talent.

Pleass Global to Provide Sustainable Service for Upcoming Tourism Expo

Fijian Tourism Expo

Tourism Fiji 29 April 2022 – Tourism Fiji will replace plastic water bottles with water dispensers at this year’s Fijian Tourism Expo (FTE) as part of a broader shift towards ‘greening’ operations and promoting more sustainable tourism industry.
This is possible thanks to the Expos latest sponsor, Pleass Global, who will be providing water dispensers to serve close to 200 international and local delegates at the annual expo next month. The dispensers will be situated at key locations during the event to ensure they are accessible to delegates and help reduce the event’s reliance on single-use plastic water bottles.

Pleass Global Limited Marketing Director Cate Pleass said, “Pleass Global Limited, through its market-leading brand AquaSafe®, is delighted to support Fiji Tourism Expo by providing sustainable solutions in line with the events’ aspirations. Tourism is so vital to Fiji, and we are very happy to provide support for FTE by providing “Fiji’s Favourite Water, AquaSafe®” to the many delegates attending both from the domestic market and of course international delegates.”
Water stations will also include 100% biodegradable, environmentally friendly cups and Tourism Fiji will be supplying all FTE delegates with reusable water bottles for this year’s event.

Tourism Fiji CEO, Brent Hill said, “This is a wonderful initiative and continues our drive to introduce sustainable practices across all our events and marketing. Choosing to replace single-use plastic bottles with water dispensers and cardboard water packs is a small but important step and the first of many we’re making as an organisation towards operating more sustainably. We warmly welcome Pleass Global as a sponsor for this year’s expo and thank them for this important contribution.”

The Fijian Tourism Expo 2022 will be held at the Denarau Island Conference Centre at the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort from 11 – 13 May.

Taveuni Dateline Handicraft Market Opening

Taveuni Dateline Handicraft Market Opening

The Taveuni Tourism Association (TTA) is delighted to announce the opening of a new handicraft market in Taveuni. The Taveuni Dateline Handicraft Market has been established by Susanne Neli and her family with the help of the TTA and is located at the International Dateline in Waiyevo.

The new handicraft market was officially launched on Wednesday, 27th April by Susanne Neli, Mere Marama and Mili Lewatoga and will initially be open every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week – they hope to extend the days open once business increases. The International Dateline is open 7 days a week for visitors and if the market is not set up, visitors are welcome to speak to one of the ladies if they would like to make any purchases. The market can also be opened for large groups if pre-arranged.

Locally-crafted fans, masi, sulus and jewellery are being showcased at the Market and are available to be purchased by visitors. Other family members Lora Ruci, Laisani Maivaleova and Loraini Koso have been busy making crafts ready for the opening yesterday.

TTA President, Terri Gortan, said “the TTA is delighted to support this new handicraft market in Taveuni. It’s a great opportunity for our local women to show their creative skills and to display their crafts”.

The TTA extends a warm welcome to everyone to come and support the market and share the news that the Taveuni Dateline Handicraft Market is up and running.

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: That Coconut Tree

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: That Coconut Tree

FHTA, 28 April 2022 – Our warrior ladies of the Fijiana Drua, in their maiden Super Rugby (Women’s) season, fought enormous odds and still came out on top of a game that is gaining attention wider attention in the Pacific and Fiji where representation has been usually part of recognized teams out of New Zealand or Australia and even then, only in men’s teams.

What a collection of inspiring individual tales they contributed to, that wove themselves together into a tough connecting cord that pulled our ladies through this electrifying competition despite deeply personal and painful team challenges.

They have shown the true grit and flair that Fijiana rugby can build a sterling reputation on.
We can certainly appreciate that pluck and adaptive style that demands consistent effort regardless of what is being thrown at you.

It is how Fijian tourism has been able to survive.

Those same tough, plucky and adaptable traits have now seen the hustle and bustle of tourism hotspots around the country return with the exciting reopening now almost 5 months behind us.

What should have been a slow but steady ramp-up to our peak season has turned into an explosion of demand for Fijian holidays and not just from our key markets of Australia, the US and almost late to the party New Zealand.

We’re the most preferred holiday destination for people looking for a holiday right now and until Fiji’s competitor destinations get their reopening frameworks right (and they will), increase their vaccination levels and simplify travel requirements (equally critical elements); it is easy to get distracted by the fact that the industry is far too busy dealing with all the usual but almost forgotten challenges of managing high demand for its services and products.

After the long awful lull, with thousands more people now working, activities fired up, rooms filled and people enjoying themselves on beaches; ensuring there are enough staff on duty, products on hand, services up to scratch and that power and water supplies are delivered as expected are the fundamental elements taking precedence right now.

We know we’re not the only ones at FHTA that is super excited about seeing so many more of our resorts and experience or activity providers back in the swing of things.

As the industry moves from slow to full steam ahead, other connected supply lines have also moved into their increasing activity levels, commencing with a higher frequency of flights into Fiji in response to demand and the ensuing transport and service activities at the international and domestic airports ramping up in tandem.

And while that means that our hospitality staff are back on full-time work and in far higher numbers; filling many, often surprising skill gaps is still an ongoing issue with the short-term solution for bringing in these skills from overseas a complicated and long-drawn-out process, while the benefits to tourism and Fiji for importing these skills lost in the rigid bureaucratic processes demanded of employers tasked with delivering high standards and services.

Travel requirements have moved into yet another phase, evolving as it continually does with post-pandemic adjustments for testing and tracing – not always understood or desirable, but adopted and complied with nonetheless.

Even as these restrictions are reviewed downwards, accommodation providers still form a larger part of the important border health protection management that is taken as seriously as it was before borders reopened.

Fiji’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MOHMS) reminds us that we must continue to be wary of potential medical disasters, so the industry continues collectively to support the compliance of the necessary travel requirements.

FHTA recently collaborated with MOHMS to assist mostly rural and island-based or remote tourism properties by training staff to conduct Rapid Antigen Tests for their guests and staff, recognizing that it is far more complicated for remote operators to welcome back their guests within the required travel safe protocols.

It is still our collective responsibility to keep our guests, staff and communities safe and we are still expected to be all working off the same playbook.

But ensuring all the moving parts of an extremely large, unwieldy and complicated tourism machine (scattered as they are over a hundred different islands) work smoothly and effectively has taken considerable effort and collaboration with the tourism and health ministries, Fiji Airways, Tourism Fiji and many others.

There is no doubt it is paying off, but clearly in response to a whole range of reasons from pent up demand and Fiji suddenly the “only show in town”, as well as the collaborative impact of public and private sector consultation on how best to re-emerge.

Figures released for forward bookings in the coming months are positive for the industry and extremely hopeful for the Fijian economy. We appear to be moving firmly back into place in this new-normal world.

In a few short weeks, Tourism Fiji will hold its annual Fiji Tourism Expo after a lapse of two years and this will provide the national tourism office with a marketing platform to remind the world of exactly what Destination Fiji has to offer, and how its competitive edge will play out on the world’s tourism stage as other more tourism savvy destinations awaken out of their COVID induced dazes.

Of course, it is also the perfect opportunity to showcase more of the country’s attractions and culture that do not usually get highlighted in the media or on your virtual newsfeeds but have seen a quiet but determined demand come through.

Wholesalers and all manner of travel-associated salespeople will descend on Nadi in a flurry of activity to soak up information and experience first-hand what Fiji has to offer, especially now after 2 years of reviewing products, refurbishing and rebuilding.

A vibrant tourism industry, once fully revived means more money circulating in the economy and that should reinvigorate spending and investments.

Despite many fully understanding the economic shortfalls without tourism its usually formidable influence on employment, supply lines and the large, multiplier effects throughout the country; the industry still cannot afford to be anything but pragmatic as it claws back lost ground.

This calls for resilience, flexibility and formidable adaptation instincts.

It is no coincidence that the iconic coconut tree, well known for these very traits, is the most used symbol on Fiji’s sporting emblems.

And is the recognized symbol for beaches, islands and tourism.

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

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Leading The Way

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Leading The Way

FHTA, 21 April 2022 – The eagerly anticipated Easter long weekend came and went with thousands of Fijians joining international visitors on beaches and resorts right around the country.

The four-day weekend provides a less rushed opportunity to catch up with friends or relatives as well as celebrate the many religious milestones for Fiji’s multi-ethnic communities that coincidentally, take place in April.

Nearly every hotel or resort, whether small, medium or large, or whether high end, mid-priced or affordable – reported full bookings, with thousands more of our tourism staff putting their best efforts on display to welcome domestic and international visitors.

While domestic tourism might contribute a smaller portion of tourism’s potential earning power, it tends to take place more often and is equally welcomed.

For Fiji, this will be the first month that the majority of tourism properties have been opened and ready for higher guest numbers, coming some 4 months after officially reopening its borders to international travel.

Visitors from our core markets of Australia, the US and then more recently, New Zealand have taken advantage of the reopening to book travel options.

But international travel still comes with a confusing array of travel requirements depending on the country of origin and the country being visited, despite the waning Omicron levels.

For the US, surveys reveal still high confusion with travel requirements to the European Union with restrictions (pre and post-departure testing) continuing to ease from early April onwards due to pressure from the respective travel industry stakeholders.

Despite reducing Omicron levels, more than 100 countries, including some Caribbean islands as well as many European favourites, continue to have “Level 4” warnings.

For the Pacific, many of our regional neighbours are still hesitant to reopen, with many still grappling with the economic impacts of closed borders as they consider the unsustainability of “zero-COVID” strategies with the Omicron variant making its presence felt anyway.

A recent study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) reveals that Fiji is currently ranked first in Asia’s “travel readiness index” for having the most favourable conditions for tourism recovery.

The travel readiness index ranked 28 Asian countries based on the importance of tourism in their economy, local vaccination coverage, ease of travel and the convenience of returning home.

A lower score is indicative of more favourable conditions.

Fiji has led the way with a score of 1.95, while Malaysia and Sri Lanka have been ranked second and third respectively.

But that surprising (and welcome) acknowledgement has not come without the tremendous efforts from the tourism industry and the Government agreeing that to get where we are now, needed massive collaboration which allowed us to navigate our way through a time best forgotten.

If there was any doubt about the importance of the Fijian brand when re-emerging after a 20-month international border closure, it has been replaced by a savvier understanding of how it has supported this tiny but resilient Pacific Island nation get its groove back.

And then some, if the April visitor numbers and reports of full resorts are anything to go by.

Such is the impact and marketability of a globally recognised destination brand that has stayed firmly fixed on maintaining safety as a key part of its attractiveness.

But we cannot rest on our laurels, as few as they may be. If Fiji wants to continue to remain top of all the regional holiday destinations (and it does), it must be prepared for the stiff competition that is coming once other destinations get their groove back.

Hawaii, Bali, Tahiti et al have roared back to life over the past few months but for now, we’re revelling a little in our position at the top as the most preferred destination.

Meanwhile, there is a strong estimation that even more visitors than were being expected will touch down in Nadi looking for a well-earned holiday over the next few months.

With the uncertainty of the pandemic, concern that forced people to stay at home has turned into hope with travel freedoms, through the development and delivery of vaccines across the world.

People are still more anxious than ever about their health, what they are touching, who they are around and more importantly, where they are going.

While hands are being washed more, staying at home may be more acceptable and general good health is being appreciated more; removing travel freedoms is tolerated only for so long and then suddenly, travel restrictions are seen as more than just inconveniences.

In response to the new travel demand, we’ve seen new, enhanced cleaning measures in airports, aircraft interiors, catering companies, land and sea transportation, hotels, sporting arenas, office buildings, supermarkets, bars and restaurants and while these were cost-prohibitive, time-consuming and extremely labour intensive, it has been our only logical way back.

Destination Fiji now has a little more funding to launch its full-scale marketing campaign to entice more visitors over and in preparation, Fiji must ensure that our products and services are polished and to expectations.

From the arrival concourse at the international airport to the reception areas in a hotel to the reading of specials in an intimate restaurant setting – it is all our responsibility to ensure we’re at the top of our game.

And that includes the service stations and little restaurants that locals and tourists will stop by over the next few months.

Refill that soap and sanitiser dispenser, clean those toilets and polish those surfaces – along with your welcome smiles, the world is watching and appreciating your efforts as well.

As soon as the remaining travel requirements for pre-arrival, pre-departure and post-arrival testing are removed; “normalcy” may be just around the corner.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 21 April 2022)

Tourism Fiji Presents i-Sevusevu to Momo Na Tui Nadi Ahead of Tourism Expo 2022

Tourism Fiji Presents i-Sevusevu to Momo Na Tui Nadi Ahead of Tourism Expo 2022

Nadi, 20 April 2022 – A small delegation led by Tourism Fiji CEO Brent Hill presented a traditional i-sevusevu to seek a blessing from the Momo Na Tui Nadi, Ratu Vuniani Navuniuci, ahead of the commencement of the Fijian Tourism Expo (FTE) event being planned for next month.

The three-day annual expo plays a key role in providing a platform for international buyers to directly meet and do business with local suppliers. The event is especially important as more countries begin to resume travel and Fiji actively competes in the tourism sector to attract more visitors to our shores in 2022.

The Turaga ni koro of Narewa, Samuela Tuidraki, said, “The i-sevusevu which was presented showed the great level of respect and value that Tourism Fiji has for the Vanua in asking for our blessing for their event, the Fijian Tourism Expo, to be held in Denarau Island. We really appreciate that and are grateful because we know such events also bring more visitors to Fiji and helps our tourism industry as well, so this is also a blessing for us and our people.”
Annually, the i-sevusevu has always been presented to the Momo Tui Nadi ahead of the expo and Tourism Fiji CEO, Brent Hill said it is a special day indeed.

“As we sat with the Momo Na Tui Nadi to ask for his blessing upon our event, we were happy to hear his support and vision for our premier event. As Fiji continues to welcome more visitors and tourists back into the country, its events such as FTE that help our partners better market Fiji,” Mr Hill explained.

The Fijian Tourism Expo will be held at the Denarau Island Conference Centre at the Sheraton Fiji Resort & Spa from 11 – 13 of May 2022.

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Ready for the Long Weekend

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Ready for the Long Weekend

FHTA, 14 April 2022 – It has been a testing 24 months for the tourism industry in Fiji and no doubt around the world.

But things are always felt a little more poignantly in the Pacific, with our size, distance and smaller economies of scale affecting our ability to absorb and bounce back differently from far larger economies.

Looking back now, it often seemed our ability to recover kept getting hampered by one thing after another.

But we have managed to get our bearings back with Fiji’s tourism industry clawing its way back to be able to stay on par with the rest of the world in terms of getting back to normal.

Whatever “normal” now looks like.

Some would even dare to say that Fiji led, in that regard, at least in the region.

Now into our 5th-month post reopening, the national airline has moved on to increase flight frequencies based on demand, the national tourism office is strengthening its marketing efforts in our key markets and beyond, while tourism operators have brought a larger workforce back online, are adjusting to higher visitor numbers.

These visitor statistics will probably outdo even our more positive expectations, but of more interest to tourism, stakeholders are the data showing visitors are choosing to stay longer (and therefore see and do more), and that many of these visitors are first-time travellers to Fiji.

Both bits of information is exciting to us for a few reasons. Longer visitors’ stays mean more money is spent in the economy as people generally move around during their longer-term stays to try out different accommodation and restaurant options, see as many regions around Fiji and try out a range of activities from diving to adventure sports.

The tourism dollar is therefore stretched further and deeper into communities and a larger collection of businesses.

The impact of first-time travellers to Fiji is also exciting news because it provides some insight into how potential travellers are perceiving Fiji as a holiday destination post- COVID, and have chosen to come here for the first time, provides some understanding into whether our destination marketing efforts are paying off and whether the collective support to get Fiji into its safer reopening mode was worth all the considerable effort.

It appears both efforts are to be applauded.

Additionally, it speaks to Fiji’s timing of the reopening coming on the heels of the confirmation of a highly vaccinated population, with tourism stakeholders committing to safety practices that together created the confidence for first-time visitors to choose Fiji over their previously preferred destinations that may not have been as prepared.

At least not by the time they were ready to travel anyway.

We can then hope that the visitor experience while here will be so positive, that it will reinforce the change in their future holiday plans and that they join thousands of other lovers of Fiji that return year after year.

Every tourism operator in the chain of businesses those visitors come into contact with – from check-in to airline, airport arrivals, transport, hotels, restaurants, bars, shopping and activity or entertainment experiences – all contribute to the overall Fiji experience and value chain.

Such is the impact and marketability of our globally recognised Fiji destination brand – that we all contribute to in some way.

And it is not just visitors coming in as tourists to Fiji that are part of this wide circle of collective experiences.

Included in these visitor numbers are returning Fijians who are visiting family and friends while taking a break at a resort, as well as local citizens and work permit holders doing the same thing.

And what better time to do just that than during the upcoming long Easter weekend.

The Fijian weather has settled down to sunnier skies and cooler temperatures, which give way to deeper hued sunsets that are picture-perfect for sipping cocktails and endless postings of pictures.

And those picturesque holiday images will provide just the right tinge of envy on social media posts that will do even more to convince more visitors to come over.

Local travellers should be aware that international visitors have usually booked months in advance, with many taking up their holidays kept in “credit” by airlines, hotels and resorts because they could not travel during the border closures.

Early bookings are therefore necessary. Especially now.

Because of the constant need for accommodation providers to be always ready for sudden COVID outbreaks; they must keep a certain percentage of their rooms aside that will not be sold so that if isolation of positive cases is required, families can be separated as part of safety protocols.

There are other mitigating factors however that add to how we are managing safer environments and these include a continuation of some of the safety mechanisms that have been adopted as part of everyday operations (staff wearing masks, sanitising surfaces, the increased use of hand sanitisers, use of air purifiers in conference rooms, etc), and that is the very nature of what most Fijian holidays are about – beaches, open-air, sunshine and all things marine.

Mask wearing is optional and getting out in the fresh, open-air is the easiest way to have a safer holiday.

So depending on what you want out of a Fijian holiday, and whether you have already booked you and your family somewhere exciting; here’s hoping the Easter holidays provide you with your idea of a perfect holiday.

Being where the sunset can be seen with a cocktail in your hand is the next best thing.

A happy and peaceful Easter to you all.

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

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji welcomes new Executive Chef

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji welcomes new Executive Chef

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji is proud to introduce Mr Richard Thompson as the Resort’s new Executive Chef.

Originally from the United States of America, Mr Thompson joins the Resort with vast knowledge and experience. Mr. Thompson has been an Executive Chef since 1988 and has worked for renowned boutique Resorts in the Philippines and Maldives. Huma Island Resort, Philippines, Dusit Thani Resort, Constance Moofushi Resort and Spa and Coral Reef Resort and Spa Vivanta by Taj in the Maldives to name a few.

Mr Thompson graduated with honours from Los Angeles Trade and Technical College. He also topped the class during his culinary apprenticeship with the Los Angeles French Chefs society, an awardee of several gold medals for various culinary challenges and competitions and a professional member of the World Chefs Association.

“This is an exciting experience for me as it’s my first time to Fiji. With Radisson Blu Resort Fiji’s five dining outlets and three speciality restaurants, I cannot wait to share my knowledge and experience with the team and at the same time, learn from them,” said Mr Thompson.

Indonesia has been home for Mr Thompson and his family since 2013. Scuba diving, cycling and of course cooking, are some of his hobbies. Mr Thompson was recently certified in Hydroponic production farming which he piloted in his backyard.

Mr Thompson added that if given the opportunity, he looks forward to sharing his ideas on hydroponic farming with the local communities.

General Manager, Mr Charles Homsy said that Radisson Blu Resort Fiji is excited to have Mr Thompson on board.

“We are happy and excited to have Richard on board as this will greatly benefit the operations of our Food & Beverage Department and continue to boost the Resort’s culinary offerings to the next level. Richard will also ensure training for kitchen staff are conducted, daily operations of the Resort’s restaurants are effective, efficient and of high quality,” said Mr Homsy.

Sheraton Denarau Villas Officiallly Reopen

Sheraton Denarau Villas Officiallly Reopen

7 April 2022 – Following the exciting opening of the newly transformed Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort, Sheraton Denarau Villas followed suit to officially re-open its doors to guests on Friday, April 1st, after a two-year closure.

Positioned on Denarau Island’s expansive waterfront, the property offers 82 well-appointed designed two- and three-bedroom Villas, the perfect 5-star offering for families, friends and larger holiday groups. Complete with private terraces and fully equipped kitchens, the villas provide a sense of home, from the moment you enter the resort.

As part of Fiji’s largest playground, guests of Sheraton Denarau Villas also have access to in-complex facilities within the sister property, Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort. Guests of all ages can enjoy the benefits and activities of the 5-star integrated property, including a championship 18-hole golf course, six restaurants and five bars, six swimming pools, tennis courts, a fitness centre and a spa.

“We’re thrilled to be re-opening Sheraton Denarau Villas to guests again after a two-year closure. The Villas are such an important part of our offering, and it is wonderful to welcome back large groups of friends and family to enjoy the beautiful Denarau Island in their own private villas” says Mr Neeraj Chadha, Multi-Property Vice President Fiji & Samoa, Marriott International and General Manager of Westin & Sheraton Resorts, Fiji Complex.

Fiji is undisputed as one of the best and safest holiday destinations in the world, offering access to world-class luxury accommodation, nature and adventure experiences and wonderfully warm tropical weather. With bookings now open, Sheraton Denarau Villas is the ideal destination for families, friends and larger holiday groups.

Tourism Fiji to Host Tourism Expo in May

Tourism Fiji to Host Tourism Expo in May

Nadi, 13 April 2022 – Tourism Fiji will be hosting its eighth Fijian Tourism Expo from 11 – 13 May 2022, the first face-to-face tourism event being hosted in Fiji since 2019, and the largest event since 2020 involving international guests.

Dubbed Tourism Fiji’s premier event for the year, the expo is the perfect opportunity to showcase the breadth and depth of Fiji’s tourism offerings and experiences to international buyers, trade partners and media, and is a significant step forward in the reopening of Fiji to international tourists once more.

Tourism Fiji CEO Brent Hill said, “We’re so thrilled to be hosting our first in-person FTE since 2019 and can’t wait to showcase the very best of Fiji to our key partners. Our main objective for hosting the event is not only to give us the opportunity to build on our great reopening but to also open new markets and foster new partnerships/businesses while strengthening existing ones.”

The annual expo includes scheduled appointments between international buyers & media to engage with Fiji’s Tourism Industry.
Tourism Fiji Chief Operations Officer, James Pridgeon said this year’s event will be a little different than normal.

“As Fiji builds back once again, we are so encouraged that this FTE we will be able to welcome 87 exhibitors, seven international media and 86 international buyers that have confirmed thus far. We will be working closely with industry to allow them a chance to be part of the expo by hosting famils, B2B meetings and presentations. This event is about welcoming tourists once again and really signalling to the tourism trade worldwide that Fiji is back,” Mr Pridgeon explained.

The Fijian Tourism Expo will be held at the Denarau Island Conference Centre at the Sheraton Fiji Resort & Spa from 11 – 13 May.

FHTA Reappoints Lockington

FHTA Reappoints Lockington

FHTA 8 April 2022 – The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) wishes to announce that the Board of Directors has reappointed Fantasha Lockington as Chief Executive Officer effective April 1 2022 for a term of three years.

The Board and members of FHTA thanks Mrs Lockington for her dedication and skilful navigation during her past tenure as CEO and in particular steering the Association through the last 24 months.

The initial pandemic lockdown in March 2020 hit the tourism industry hard and this rippled out to the national economy as the nation saw unprecedented economic lows and medical uncertainty.

“The tourism industry in Fiji is grateful to have Mrs Lockington on its side, advocating and lobbying on its behalf and we are looking forward to furthering gains as we make leaps and bounds towards normalcy,” said FHTA Board President and Director of Likuri Island Resort Mr Brian Kirsch.

“We have every confidence that Mrs Lockington is well-placed to continue these valuable efforts on our behalf,” he also said.

FHTA Board Vice-President and Senior Vice President/Executive Director-Pacific of Warwick Hotels and Resorts Ms Tammie Tam reiterated Mr Kirsch’s sentiments and added, “Mrs Lockington has made an immense contribution on behalf of FHTA and made tourism’s voice heard with Government and other industry partners.”

“Her work is highly appreciated and we thank her for taking up the challenge for another term,” Ms Tam stated.

Mrs Lockington was first announced FHTA CEO in 2017 and is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors with a Master of Business Administration from the University of the South Pacific and several IATA airline-related management qualifications.

She also serves in varied roles with the FNU’s National Training & Productivity Centre (NTPC) Advisory Board, Employment Relations Advisory Board (ERAB), USP’s Pacific TAFE Industry Advisory Committee, the Fiji Commerce & Employment Federation Board & Councils for Tourism & Transport and on the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) Board.

Mrs Lockington said she was humbled by the Board’s confidence in her and reinforced her commitment to providing the Fijian tourism industry’s collective, private sector voice in efforts to further develop and grow this sector.

She is an avid supporter of private sector consultation and collaboration to strengthen and promote resilient business environments to ensure Fiji’s biggest industry and largest foreign exchange earner continues to grow sustainably.

“The FHTA Secretariat works tirelessly to strive towards FHTA’s strategic goals and there’s never a dull day in the tourism sector, especially now,” Mrs Lockington stated.

Grand Pacific Hotel Signals Diversity and Inclusivity

Grand Pacific Hotel Signals Diversity and Inclusivity

01 April 2022 (Suva, Fiji): Grand Pacific Hotel together with Amnesty International, the Pacific Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Lesbian Gay Association celebrated the International Day of Transgender Visibility at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva. The full-day event included dialogue from panellists of different Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), hoisting of Pride Flag and United Nations (UN) Flag as well as lighting up the building in the evening in the colours of Pride.

Transgender Day of Visibility is an annual awareness day celebrated around the world. The day is dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments of transgender and gender-nonconforming people while raising awareness of the work that still needs to be done to achieve trans justice.

“IHG ® Hotels and Resorts celebrates everyone, recognizing equality and greater visibility and we are proud to be one of the leading hospitality brands in Fiji to display the pride flag which shows our commitment to diversity and inclusion. This signals greater visibility as we mark International Day of Transgender Visibility,” commented Lachlan Walker, Area General Manager— South Pacific, IHG Hotels & Resorts. “Our purpose at IHG is to provide True Hospitality for everyone and everyone means everyone.”

This is the first time UN Flag is being displayed together with the Pride Flag in Fiji. Working in hotels and offices in Fiji and more than 100 countries, IHG colleagues represent multiple nationalities, as well as the many cultures, religions, races, sexualities, abilities, backgrounds and beliefs that make the world such an interesting place. This makes for a diverse and inclusive culture IHG is proud of, and it’s why our purpose is to provide True Hospitality for everyone.

Heike Alefsen Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN Human Rights) Regional Representative commented “Today as I walked in the hotel, I saw our UN Flag flying next to the LGBTI flag in Infront of the Grand Pacific Hotel. I thank our host, Grand Pacific Hotel for this amazing show of support for equal rights for the LGBTI community at large. It is important for businesses and all individuals to show support that broadens acceptance and observance of all the human rights of trans and gender diverse persons. The world needs more solidarity when it comes to marginalized groups.”

Some of the key achievements and specifically in the area of Diversity and Inclusion have been
• Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality
• Glassdoor, Best Places to Work, Employees Choice
• Fortune, 100 Best Companies to Work For, 9 years on the list
• AON Best Employer

Everyone should feel included, valued and respected – not just because it’s the right thing to do, or the best way to behave – but because people are the best version of themselves when they feel these things. When that happens, colleagues are empowered to speak up with ideas, and diverse opinions and perspectives spark the innovation IHG needs to stand out.

This is important to the guest experiences we create, and to how we empower colleagues to go above and beyond for our owners and for IHG, as we embark on ambitious growth plans.

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Protecting Those Green Shoots

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Protecting Those Green Shoots

FHTA, 7 April 2022 – Traditionally the beginning of April usually signals the end of tourism’s quiet period as the industry gears up for the start of the annual busy period or ‘peak season.’

Coinciding with the end of the first three months of a new year (and failed resolutions), the catching up with repayments of maxed-out credit cards over the sillier season, then the first lot of school holidays and a long Easter weekend; the picking up of travel activity in 2022 for Fiji is also when many more resorts are now ready to throw open their doors and welcome visitors back to a refreshed and renewed list of tropical holiday escapes.

For domestic travellers, returning residents as well as international visitors.

The weather starts to move away from the hot, wet, stickier months to drier, longer spells of sunnier days with temperatures easing off to lower 30 or the mid to higher 20 degrees. And with any luck will continue to reduce to more comfortable levels.

There is a slowly reducing nervousness about cyclonic weather, and a general increase in activity for hire, supplies, and all manner of fun being planned that can be had with combinations of sun, sand and water.

And then there is entertainment and event planning activity also planned that can start from sunset to sunrise to suit every budget and deliver the most unforgettable holiday.

By this time, every mechanical engine, electrical equipment or compressor has been temperature and humidity tested, fixed or replaced and anything that might have threatened to or fallen apart has probably picked any one of the past 3 hottest, wettest and most humid and most stressful months to have done so.

So right now, the industry is looking its shiniest best with the huge effort of reopening now behind them, repairs and refurbishing completed and COVID restrictions and requirements easing off, and 4 months of consistent staff training and upskilling ready to pay off.

And as with Climate Change directly affecting our weather patterns and seasons, so too has COVID caused a slight, but noticeable shift in our traditional peak and off-peak seasons.

No doubt caused by pent up demand from source markets that initially had fewer holiday options to choose from and even fewer appear to have COVID under wraps with a fiercer focus on “getting on with business”; the low season was higher than expected and the high season looks to have started a little earlier.

Time will tell if we have got the measure of this shift and whether this will be simply a border reopening adjustment or here to stay for the longer term.

But if there’s one thing that you can say about Fiji’s tourism industry, it is that it never stays surprised at anything for long, because years of resilience teach you to adapt quickly and take it all in stride.

Every good, bad and ‘what the?’ moment appears to have been dealt with in the last 2 years and counting.

It is in this current frame, therefore, that we recently met with the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) and his team to provide some feedback and hear his reflection on where we were with a quick snapshot of where it looks like we’re heading.

Economic green shoots are evident in the country right now, with Fiji on track to recovery with the worst of the pandemic behind us.

A highly vaccinated population, easing of COVID restrictions, no (expected) devaluation, borders reopening and tourism kickstarting amongst other activities, have all contributed to a pickup in consumption and retail activity.

The pandemic wiped out around nine years of growth, but the experts are optimistic about Fiji’s growth and this was echoed by economists adding their voices to the post-budget contributions.

The RBF says we’re in a time of Fiscal Trilemma in which policymakers are struggling to balance national spending, debt levels and equitable taxes.

Not at all difficult to grasp how challenging this must be to achieve balance in the current environment and make the population at large happy that the increasing cost of living is being addressed while assuring the taxpayers and the many industry stakeholders that their businesses will be able to thrive and grow.

For tourism, there is a collective appreciation for the suite of incentives that was required to get the industry reopening ready, that included the reduced departure tax, removal of Service Turnover Tax (STT) & Environment & Climate Adaptation Levy (ECAL), Short Life Investment Package (SLIP) extensions and wider scope, the waiver of departure tax on 72-hour stays & the removal of Family Care Leave & Paternity Leave amongst others.

So the change to 15% VAT from 9% if you were a smaller operator (and therefore not paying the STT & ECAL with a turnover of below $3m) or a larger operator moving from 14% (9% VAT + 5% ECAL) to 15% VAT, with only a few days to decide whether you were going to charge your customers (and upset years of wholesaler and supplier confidence) or wear the difference (coming off 2 years of little to no revenue) was still a jarring impact whilst being reminded to take into consideration those incentives mentioned, with the wider impact of a realigned VAT change to 15%.

Any changes, we have said often enough, are always easier to assimilate into business practice if given sufficient time to work through, adapt to and incorporate into complex supplier contracts and delivery systems.

Especially as these support critical supplier networks that Fiji relies on to on-sell our products and services to overseas, who are governed by their consumer laws.

We hope they persevere with us because coming on the heels of this sudden tax change is another change to how our visitors book their 2nd day Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) before departing for Fiji.

With the removal of the 3-night mandatory stay in a hotel that has been widely welcomed, effective from the 7th of April, all visitors will be required to book and pay for their tests online and show confirmations of these along with their vaccination status, their pre-departure COVID test results and their travel insurance when checking in for their flights to Fiji.

As global travel moves back into its faster-paced practice and travel restrictions reduce, the pre-departure requirements and the post-arrival requirements around testing need to be reviewed in line with global practice and health advice moving in tandem.

We understand Fiji’s need to be early in the detection of new variants, and our continuing need to keep testing everyone – before they arrive after they’ve arrived and again before they leave. So what is our plan if we do detect said variants?

Having seen the green shoots of economic recovery the RBF discusses; will we consider shutting down again with the confirmation of new variants that have been advised as the reason for the constant testing of Fiji’s inbound travellers?

Or will we reimpose previous travel restrictions swiftly?

What is certain is that we should be prepared for how we are to react as an industry, and as a country or all, these often onerous requirements are moot.

With all the effort that is being put in to get those green shoots going, we should be working on how we keep those emerging shoots alive and growing and quickly recognise and pull out the unnecessary weeds that threaten them.

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