In New Zealand, shopping, parties and big hugs mark start of ‘COVID-free’ life

In New Zealand, shopping, parties and big hugs mark start of ‘COVID-free’ life

Fiji Times/Reuters Tuesday 9 June 2020 – New Zealanders hugged and kissed, shopped, and planned parties on Tuesday as the country took off all coronavirus restrictions for the first time in more than three months, while much of the rest of the world is still grappling with the pandemic.

The South Pacific nation of 5 million declared on Monday that it was free of the coronavirus, becoming one of the first countries in the world to return to pre-pandemic normality.

This meant no more limits on people in cafes, malls, stadiums, night clubs or public and private gatherings. Life, for the most part, is back to normal.

“I’m just walking in the city today and I’ve seen more people than I have seen in months,” said Steve Price of the capital, Wellington.

“People are shopping, dining and just hanging about holding hands… it’s so lovely to see,” he said.

New Zealanders are emerging from the pandemic while big economies such as Brazil, Britain, India and the United States continue to struggle with the virus.


PADI: Dive Best Practices to Reduce COVID-19 Transmission Risk

PADI: Dive Best Practices to Reduce COVID-19 Transmission Risk

PADI, May 2020 – As the most sought-after dive professionals in the world, PADI Dive Centers, Resorts and Dive Boats are readying their operations to carefully resume diving, training and business operations while responsibly reducing COVID-19 transmission risk and giving the health and safety of their staff and clients top priority.

Though no business can guarantee zero risk, implementing a proactive policy to manage and reduce the threat of COVID-19, and implementing it consistently, is key to reducing the risk of spreading this disease. Providing staff training on your COVID disinfection and risk reduction procedures both assures them that you take health and safety seriously, and demonstrates that you expect deliberate attention to it. Communicating your policy to your customers assures them of your interest in protecting their safety and develops confidence in returning to diving with your operation.

Most dive operators find that with a little forethought and a few resources, they can make COVID-19 risk reduction part of their normal business practices without a significant burden.

Use the following resources to get started, or to cross check what you already have in place…read more


Fiji urged to tread carefully

Fiji urged to tread carefully

Fiji Times 5 June 2020 – Fiji must have measures in place to ensure it is able to effectively handle COVID-19 cases once borders are open.

This was the view of one of the tourism industry’s biggest players, Rosie Travel Group managing director Tony Whitton.

He said successfully managing and treating Fiji’s 18 COVID-19 cases was a huge achievement but how well it would play out for the tourism sector would depend on how educated and prepared Fijians were to participate in a COVID-19 world.


Local tourists should be treated the same way as other guests are treated

Local tourists should be treated the same way as other guests are treated

Fiji Village 8 June 2020 – As calls are being made for locals to take part in tourism, the CEO of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association, Fantasha Lockington says it is absolutely necessary for locals to be treated the same way as other guests are treated at hotels and resorts in Fiji.

She says the association has received complaints in regards to the treatment of locals at hotels.


Launch of ‘Love our Locals’ Campaign

Launch of ‘Love our Locals’ Campaign

Fiji Times / MCTTT 5 June 2020 – A campaign launched yesterday is being seen as an initiative to build consumer confidence and ignite economic activity in the local tourism sector.

An initiative of Tourism Fiji and the Ministry of Commerce, Trade and Tourism, the Love our Locals campaign hinges on a spirit of community and solidarity with the local tourism industry showing their love and appreciation for Fiji residents by offering a range of exclusive deals and locals reciprocating by taking the time to explore their own back yard.



Fiji Airways Converts ATR 72-600 for Regional Freight Operations

Fiji Airways Converts ATR 72-600 for Regional Freight Operations

Fiji Airways 5 June 2020 – Fiji Airways recently converted a Fiji Link ATR 72-600 aircraft to a freighter configuration to operate a cargo trip to Port Vila. This is the first time the airline has reconfigured its ATR aircraft for freight operations. The freighter service carried 3.8 tonnes of cargo from Nadi to Port Vila and 1.6 tonnes on the return sector on Sunday. Outbound freight included medical supplies, while the outbound carried a number of consolidated items, including coffee and mail.

Mr Andre Viljoen, Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO said: “We remain committed to operating freight services to maintain essential supply lines between Fiji and its key markets, and have been exploring ways to similarly assist our regional neighbours. We recognise the leading role Fiji Airways plays in travel and trade for the entire region. With the approval of aircraft manufacturer ATR, our regulator CAAF as well as the relevant governments, we were able to reconfigure and operate our first ATR freighter to Port Vila.”

The reconfiguration included removal of all passenger seats from the aircraft and was done in line with manufacturer specifications by Fiji Airways’ Engineering at the airline’s Hangar facilities in Nadi.

Mr Viljoen added: “A converted ATR 72-600 freighter allows for carriage of up to 8 tonnes of cargo, while a normal passenger ATR can only cater for up to 1.7 tonnes. Our converted ATR freighter service is ideal for Pacific Island countries, given the demand and operating conditions in the region.”

Another ATR freighter service is scheduled for Nuku’alofa, Tonga next week. Fiji Airways will switch the ATR 72-600 aircraft between passenger and freight-only operations as required.



FHTA 3 June 2020 – The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) has recently signed a Memorandum of understanding with the Society of Fiji Travel Associates (SOFTA) to strengthen the bilateral collaborative relationship that both associations share.

The MOU will also ensure that both bodies continue to work closely to ensure that a wider range of tourism stakeholders continue to be a part of their consultation, information sharing and more recently, developing post-COVID response strategies.

The document was endorsed by FHTA Chief Executive Officer Fantasha Lockington and SOFTA President Beatrice Nast at the FHTA Secretariat Office in Suva.

Members of both associations represent a sizable portion of Fiji’s tourism operators that covers all segments of a diverse industry, including accommodation, marine, tour and transport services.

In addition to the MOU, both FHTA and SOFTA are key members of the Tourism Recovery Team (TRT) which was formed in the past month to develop strategies and guidance for the country’s tourism sector.

Coming under the stewardship of the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, the TRT includes other key tourism and Government agency representatives, as well as the Ministry of Health and Medical Services for their input and advice during the current global health crisis.

The task force is exploring practical solutions to the challenges being faced by the nation’s largest revenue earner and seeks to ensure recovery is safe, sustainable, and pragmatic while looking into establishing what critical conditions must be planned and implemented to prepare Fiji for its own borders opening up in the not too distant future.

Established in 1965, FHTA has grown from strength to strength over the past fifty-five years and with the increase in membership that now accounts for 80 per cent of total room inventory and industry representation.

SOFTA was formed a few years later in 1967 and has played an integral role in the tourism industry with over 53 years of existence in support of inbound, sightseeing, transport, rental car and cruise operators.

Both bodies are recognised by Tourism Fiji and the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport for their advisory functions, vetting processes and industry experience for tourism stakeholders.

Tourism Talanoa: Plan First, Travel Later

Tourism Talanoa: Plan First, Travel Later

FHTA, 5 June 2020 – The pressure is palpable. As a global economic recession starts to unfold and unemployment numbers steadily rise to record levels, an air of uncertainty and great anxiety continues to grow steadily around the country.

Fiji’s entire tourism sector took a nosedive as the borders were closed off and planes were grounded. The same of which was seen around the world as the current health crisis tightened its grip on global travel.

Most of the tourism hot spots like Denarau, Nadi, Taveuni et al are reeling from the effects even though the flow-on consequences have yet to make any real mark on the capital city, Suva.

As tourism’s revenue has been nullified for the first half of the year, the ripples will inevitably trickle down to Suva and throughout Fiji as Government’s main source of GDP earnings dries up.

The rapidly growing outreach programs for community assistance that includes food drop-offs, religious, charity and organizational support for the mounting numbers of the needy, the increasing demand for bartering programs and the huge demand on social services and access to the pension funds show a critical, underlying societal challenge created directly from unemployment.

While it has been over 40 days since new cases of COVID-19 have been reported, we still have three cases that are still recovering from the virus. Once these patients are given the all-clear, can we then begin seriously planning for a staggered return to what the new normal will look like? Or should we begin planning for that now?

Some plans have already been put into place. These include a date for schools to start and some relaxing of earlier restrictions like curfew hours, restaurants opening, some contact-less sports allowed, people have returned to work where work is still available, while buses and minivans have continued to operate at nearly normal levels.

We know that Fiji just cannot afford to have another outbreak of the virus. Apart from being a real threat to people’s lives and a real fear that it could overwhelm our health system with an all-out outbreak, it would also destroy any chance the country has in instilling confidence in potential travellers considering visiting visit our shores when the border restrictions are eventually relaxed.

No-one wants the virus to return and threaten lives and no-one wants to go back into full lockdown again. But what about the growing number of unemployment creating our rising demand for support for food, to pay electricity and water bills, manage loans, get rents and leases in order and send kids to school soon with lunches?

What is being done strategically to get people back their jobs and what are these plans and timeframes? We know that the fastest way to kickstart Fiji’s economy is to get tourism back on track and this, in turn, needs us to consider how we open up our borders and to which countries, so we continue to keep our population safe.

As the trans-Tasman bubble discussions continue, both New Zealand and Australia are firmly of the belief that they do not wish to spread the virus to the smaller island states in the region, while Fiji would want to ensure we could keep their citizens safe while here.

New players have now arisen in the Tasman bubble talks with Japan, Thailand and Vietnam weighing in with options like access to business travel only, noting no fatalities (Vietnam) and well-planned travel requirements.

Across the world, changes are also being seen already, even in places that suffered many casualties and had widespread infection. European countries are staggering their border openings to one another with tourism-dependent Mediterranean countries already opened with specific conditions in place. Many of them have outlined clear border control requirements and put in place strict public conditions like the wearing of face masks, social distancing rules and mandatory sanitation regulations.

Japan is reportedly budgeting around US$3 trillion in economic stimulus to help the country weather this health catastrophe. This is an astonishing amount as it is around 40 per cent of Japan’s annual GDP. However, the world’s third-largest economy is now in a recession and needs all the help it can get. That is why they are seriously looking at business bubbles and moving their economy forward in a stagnant market.

As these countries get their ducks in a row, Fiji is also kicking into gear, just not as quickly.

The Care Fiji app is expected to make its appearance this week following the completion of tests by mobile app stores and is expected to be the main tool in the fight against COVID-19 and the lifeline for the country’s tourism sector. We think.

We have yet to hear what plans are being considered to get the rest of Fiji COVID-Safe and whether there is a plan that discusses border opening times, under what specific conditions and whether the public in Fiji might need to change their behaviour to adhere to any new rules that may have to be put into place as a lead up to the opening dates. Like wearing masks in public, making soap and sanitisers compulsory in schools, reducing seats in buses, or enforcing social distancing rules at restaurants, in hospitals and waiting lines at supermarkets.

The tourism industry is ready and has been practicing COVID-safe rules for some time with planned training for staff considered once they open and currently working with Government ministries on a guidance document. Around the world, the aviation industry including the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and airlines have been gearing up with their own COVID-safe changes to operating and service procedures. Hotels and restaurants have their own guidance manuals in place and training institutions are catching up quickly.

Everyone wants to get back to business and get people working again. We just have to get these plans structured, budgeted for and operational so that everyone in Fiji understands what they must do to change and what needs to happen before we can declare any borders open. We will then start to reduce the rising unemployment levels and help our economy get back on track.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 5 June 2020 

“Our Bula Spirit Awaits You”

“Our Bula Spirit Awaits You”

Tourism Fiji 28 May 2020 –Following ongoing optimism and easing of restrictions across Tourism Fiji’s source markets it has progressed today into Stage Two of its Market Re-entry Plan.

Tourism Fiji, the destination marketing arm of the Fijian Government, developed their Market Re-entry Plan to coordinate an aligned return to market across all its international destinations in the wake of COVID-19. Stage One of the Market Re-entry Model focused on staying in the hearts and minds of consumers through its “Sota tale” messaging.

However, as the destination enters Stage Two the organisation’s marketing message has now changed to Our ‘Bula Spirit’ awaits you.”

Tourism Fiji’s Chief Executive Officer Mr Matthew Stoeckel explained that “It is an optimistic message that will rebuild consumer confidence and anticipation of a holiday to Fiji. What I like about it the most is that it focuses on what makes Fiji so special—our people.”

“Stage One was all about inspiring consumers to dream about a trip to Fiji. Now, as we transition to Stage Two, it is all about giving reasons for visitors to choose Fiji for their next holiday and giving them the confidence to start planning for it,” continues Stoeckel.

To drive this message, Tourism Fiji is launching a range of digital initiatives, which includes a ‘Bula Series’ that is airing across all social media channels, along with their own positive news segment called “Happy Hour TV”, which both bring to life Fiji’s “Bula Spirit” that the destination is world re-known for.

As well as changing the message for international markets, Tourism Fiji is also working on a campaign to promote domestic tourism in Fiji.  The Love our Locals campaign already has around 50 special offers ready to entice local travellers and Tourism Fiji will launch it in conjunction with the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport to local Fijians in the coming week.

Tourism Fiji Director of Marketing Emma Campbell says, “The domestic tourism initiative is the first steps towards getting our tourism industry back on its feet and have had a great response from those operators who are able to participate in it.”

Tourism Fiji has also provided a platform for its industry partners to participate directly in activities around the new messaging of Stage Two and encourage them to align with the messaging so the destination’s voice is incredibly strong at this time.

Expect More Layoffs in Tourism Industry

Expect More Layoffs in Tourism Industry

FHTA 26 May 2020 – Following last week’s discussions with the Ministry of Employment and tourism businesses in Nadi that included 5 face-to-face sessions and a Webinar to allow stakeholders who could not attend to also register their issues, the Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) notes the increasing anxiety of their tourism members as the current options of reduced hours and Leave Without Pay timeframes are due for review in the next few weeks.

While revenue earnings have ground to a halt since Government shut the borders to protect Fiji’s population, expenses and operating costs still remain and there is a great concern for businesses remaining viable during what is now looking to be a long drawn out hibernation period.

With travel and tourism being very labour intensive it is expected that not only are many more jobs at risk but that this will be felt throughout the whole tourism value chain.

“Of even greater concern is that we can also expect that this will affect the most vulnerable groups of the population such as women, youth and rural communities” CEO for FHTA, Fantasha Lockington noted.

“We are hopeful that the Tourism Bubble discussions between our Governments continue positively but there is a need to understand that this is not going to happen anytime soon until safety concerns are adequately addressed and in the meantime, every business is continually reviewing their operations to simply survive”.

As the business transition into the next phase of survival, they will be considering extended leave without pay options and terminations and redundancies will be more common in the coming weeks because tourism operators are struggling to continue holding on to staff with their current arrangements.

“We are optimistic that things will pick up eventually, however, this may take months and even years to get to the visitor arrival levels that Fiji was used to. So we are expecting a slow start, which in turn will translate to a smaller uptake in employment until the demand grows,” Ms Lockington added.

Tourism has a proven capacity to bounce back and drive the recovery of other sectors. For this to take place, Fiji needs strong tourism businesses, a viable national airline and an innovative national tourism office; all of whom need nationwide support.

Tourism Fiji Innovating Through Digital Channels to Engage the Market Amid COVID-19

Tourism Fiji Innovating Through Digital Channels to Engage the Market Amid COVID-19

Tourism Fiji 28 May 2020 – COVID-19 has brought vast and unprecedented disruptions to the travel industry, and in response to it Tourism Fiji has adopted new digital approaches to help partners navigate this rapidly changing landscape.

Tourism Fiji launched a series of destination webinar programs throughout March 2020 with support from twenty-two Fijian tourism industry partners. The twenty-three webinars have been successfully conducted to over 300 China travel agent partners. The webinars received over 8,000 playback views as well as over 15 million media impressions (equal to about FJD$800,000 advertising equivalent value).

Tourism Fiji chief executive officer, Matthew Stoeckel, said: “the webinars are an effective way to build the Chinese trade partners’ destination knowledge on Fiji, and help our trade partners to be prepared for the recovery of the market once travel restrictions start to ease”.

“It’s important that we continue to stay engaged with our partners. Our team in China has done a great job of this through adopting innovative and efficient ways for engagement and we are thrilled will the results of our webinar series in China,” he said.

Tourism Fiji was the first island destination to adopt a digital approach for engaging Agents in China, and its innovation has been well received by its trade partners.

China Weilan International Travel general manager, Adan Zeng, said “even though demand for international travel is currently on hold and the timing of the recovery is still uncertain, we encourage our product managers and frontier sales team to upgrade their knowledge on destinations. Tourism Fiji has been one of the most active national tourist offices in the market to provide their leadership and help us overcome the challenges. We appreciate Tourism Fiji has led Fijian industry partners to conduct those webinars for us. We have seen the huge benefits for our team and we thank Tourism Fiji China team’s professionalism, dedication and commitment throughout those challenging times.

Last year, Tourism Fiji became the first island destination to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Weibo and Ctrip to accelerate the existing marketing activities of the organisation. The strategic partnership has been reinforced throughout these challenging times as Fiji was only island destination selected to participate in their live streaming programs amid Covid-19.

Tourism Fiji in partnership with Ctrip and Weibo respectively launched a live streaming program with a famous reality host and travel influencers to introduce the appealing experience of their Fiji trip as well as promote Fiji to armchair travellers. Fiji’s live streaming partnership welcomed over 550,000 views, over 1.8 million engagement and over 2.5 million impressions to name just a few.

Tourism Fiji Regional Manager in Greater China Vincent Zheng said, “The current epidemic has caused a pause for Chinese travel and holiday plans. However, we are committed to keeping Fiji front of mind for armchair travellers by using live streaming as a new digital approach to engage with them and inspire them to plan a trip to Fiji once the time is right.”

Chief Editor of Sina and Weibo Travel, Brenda Yang said, “Fiji offers an unforgettable and exciting Fijian experience and it’s on the rise among island destinations in the market. Chinese domestic tourism industry is in recovery now and we believe the next step will be international travel for China market. Fiji has such a big potential in the China market. After Covid-19, we firmly believe even more Chinese travellers would be interested in a Fiji trip as Fiji can offer a lifetime experience with welcoming people, spectacular nature, unique culture and traditions as well as its range of adventure activities. Most importantly, everyone would dream to be a Bulanaire now.”

Fiji Airways Extends International Flight Cancellations to End of July

Fiji Airways Extends International Flight Cancellations to End of July

Fiji Airways 27 May 2020 – Fiji Airways, Fiji’s national airline, has announced the cancellation of all international scheduled flights through to the end of July. The cancellations are due to prolonged border closures and travel restrictions as a consequence of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The airline had announced the cancellation of June international services earlier this month. A limited number of domestic Fiji Link services will continue to operate.

Mr. Andre Viljoen, Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO said: “Given that there is still next to no demand for international air travel in the region, regrettably, we have been forced to cancel our July schedules, with further reductions expected in August 2020. Most of our international fleet remains in storage, except for aircraft utilised for freighter services. These services are keeping vital supply lines open between Fiji and its key trading partners. Border restrictions will need to ease in order for travel demand to return and international services to resume.”

Fiji Airways is contacting impacted guests who are booked to travel in July. Guests booked through travel agents and third parties will be contacted by those parties.

Tourism Talanoa: Can Tourism Pivot?

Tourism Talanoa: Can Tourism Pivot?

FHTA, 28 May 2020 – The global tourism sector’s troubles are well-publicized as is the oft-quoted fact that tourism’s multiplier effect makes it the largest contributor both directly and indirectly to global job creation and even more importantly, its ability to promote economic recovery.

But the longer it takes to get things going, the harder it is for businesses to remain operational and viable. After all, a business exists to not only supply-demand but to make a profit and this, in turn, pays dividends to its shareholders, promotes product and service improvement as well as enabling further growth and development.

So if closing the business to wait it out is the only option because of the pandemic’s uncertainty,  is not just your building that gets shut to your customers; operations and machinery must get packed away as well to wait it out.

So what happens to our employees during this time? Employees that have been loyally with you for many years, that have been trained and upskilled at your cost, exposed to your business’s specific needs through hands-on and professional training and experience gained through years of growing with the demands of your customers. You need them as much as they need you for their livelihoods but you have no customers so there is no demand. What to do?

In amidst the uncertainty of doing business in a COVID-19 climate, tourism operators, owners and managers around the country are struggling to address the HR challenges and trying to make the right decisions.

Fiji is ranked 13th in the world according to a World Travel & Tourism Council 2018 report on economies most reliant on travel and tourism based on the percentage share of GDP. 2018’s 39.3 percent share of our GDP increased to 42 percent for 2019 and Fiji’s tourism industry was looking to build on that for 2020.

As the most directly affected sector of our economy due to border closures, the Tourism sector is having its fair share of HR challenges. From the outset, workers first had their wages or hours reduced based on available work, allowed to use up accrued leave or offered leave without pay options and now because of the continued uncertainty, employers are having to consider longer-term solutions to save the business and be able to come back again later. This might mean that redundancies or terminations become very real options as the uncertainties continue.

Understanding this current challenge, the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) worked with Tourism Fiji to secure constructive and informative meetings with the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations that was then followed by a webinar to allow 140 employers from around Fiji who could not attend the face-to-face time, to also attend and have their specific issues discussed as well.

As terminations hit the headlines earlier this week, it may have been only the private sector that was the least surprised. A series of redundancies and terminations have been announced over the last 5 weeks that already totalled approximately 1,100 employees which does not include smaller businesses letting staff go without any such announcements.

What makes Fiji’s situation so much more difficult is that each employee has a family of at least 5 people depending on them and as a developing country our unemployment support alternatives are limited.

The emerging human tragedy of the pandemic is not just taking a toll on people’s health and even their lives. It is taking a toll on people’s livelihoods and their access to work as well as how, where and when they work.

So perhaps we should be focusing on opportunities behind the hard decisions being made. The crisis provides a chance to re-evaluate and re-imagine our collective futures whether we were ready to do this or not. The pandemic has inadvertently crashed our communities into what the sociologist Karl Jaspers calls a “liminal space” – a between-time in which the old ways of living and thinking are no longer relevant, but where new ways have yet to emerge to replace them.

More pragmatic people might simply say “when one door closes, another one opens”. We must, as business owners, employees and an island nation decide quickly what our new normal is going to look like, stop wishing for things to go back to where they were and get moving quickly towards making it work.

A similar situation took place after 9/11 and in tourism and the aviation sector specifically forced us to pivot. Once we stopped whining about the new security requirements, the costs, the inconvenience and the many changes we had to make just to travel again; we all eventually accepted that as our new normal and made it work.

It may be time to hit that reset button again and see what we must change to get tourism back on track and get our employees their jobs back. We have always been able to adjust our sails to navigate changing wind directions, pick ourselves up after natural and man-made disasters, test new markets and develop new products based on changing customer demands.

With some clearer indication of what is needed to meet the new normal for keeping our employees and customers safe, tourism businesses have indicated their readiness to move quickly into whatever this new phase will be. The faster we move into this change, the quicker we get more people employed again.

There is no question that Fiji needs tourism to drive the economic opportunities these provide by default. At the same time, it has also needed more innovative entrepreneurs, a more developed agricultural sector, increased exports to balance the high imports, better use of thousands of acres of available land, affordable housing developments, improved seafood and livestock production and the list goes on.

Changing our business processes to get tourism jobs back quickly is definitely achievable in the short term. It simply needs a more concerted effort by everyone to develop and roll out the new rules.

Changing our long-term economic focus to ensure we have more diversity in our foreign exchange earnings, however, will need a deeper pivot.

Both objectives require us to start now.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 28 May 2020 

More job lay offs expected in the coming weeks in the tourism industry

More job lay offs expected in the coming weeks in the tourism industry

FijiVillage 26 May 2020 – As the tourism and hotel business transitions into the next phase of survival, operators involved in the tourism industry will be considering extended Leave Without Pay options, terminations and redundancies in the coming weeks.

More than 150,000 people are directly or indirectly employed in the tourism industry.

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association says tourism operators are struggling to continue holding on to staff with their current arrangements.


Marriott International Fiji Resorts Launch Light for Hope Campaign

Marriott International Fiji Resorts Launch Light for Hope Campaign

Denarau Island – 27 May 2020 – The Westin Denarau Fiji Resort & Spa have launched the ‘Light for Hope’ campaign to build confidence and give guests and associates ‘hope’ and something to look forward to. Marriott International hotels across Asia Pacific have engaged in these ‘feel good and give hope’ initiatives which look to spread positivity amidst the challenging times the world is currently facing.

As part of the initiative, a symbol of a smiley face is lit on the façade of hotels to project a happy demeanour radiating positivity, with hopes that it brings a smile to the faces of everyone who sees it. A smiley face was recently projected on the lobby façade at the Westin Denarau Island Resort and Spa with the support of the inhouse audio and visual company, Micro-Hire.

“On the 20th of May we celebrated Marriott International’s 93rd Anniversary and we hope the lit smiley face on our signature bure at the Westin lobby will act as a beacon of hope to our associates, to continue to spread our Bula smiles and Bula spirits to the rest of the world and stay positive during these challenging times,” says Neeraj Chadha, Multi-Property Vice President, Fiji & Samoa – Marriott International and General Manager – Sheraton & Westin Resorts, Fiji.

As part of the ‘Feel Good’ engagement, the Sales and marketing team have also been conducting virtual calls and meetings with key contacts, sharing positive stories and keeping the spirits high.

“I am grateful our business associates have extended their support, with MicroHire bringing to life our visions for the ‘Light for Hope’ campaign. It is during such times that we must continue to work together, especially as an industry,” commented Neeraj Chadha.

Fiji Airways Announces Further Measures Due to COVID-19 Crisis

Fiji Airways Announces Further Measures Due to COVID-19 Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Radisson Blu Fiji Resort Thinks Strategically And Keeps Business Open


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

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

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

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

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


Fiji’s coral reefs to be protected by new policy

Fiji’s coral reefs to be protected by new policy

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

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

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


Government announces concessional loans for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises

Government announces concessional loans for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises

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

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