Nature Fiji- Mareqeti Viti to work with five local tourism operators to support the development of income generating opportunities

Nature Fiji- Mareqeti Viti to work with five local tourism operators to support the development of income generating opportunities

Fijivillage 18 August 2020 – Nature Fiji- Mareqeti Viti who received $85,000 grant from the US Embassy will work with five local tourism operators to support the development of income-generating opportunities in key biodiversity areas while positioning these businesses to be market-ready when tourism returns to Fiji.

Director, Nunia Thomas-Moko says they are partnering with places such as Rivers Fiji, Talanoa Treks, Namosi Eco Retreat and Leleuvia Island Resort.

Thomas-Moko says they will be using the grant to implement their vision of environmentally and culturally responsible tourism.

She further says they are also looking at how in these times when there is not much income coming from tourism, how the organizations are working with their local communities.

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Mercy flight guide

Mercy flight guide

Fiji Times 16 August 2020 – The Standards Document — Mercy Flights released by CAAF on July 17 also says a mercy flight should not be undertaken unless the pilot-in-command held a valid professional pilot licence (commercial pilot or higher licence), states CAAF.

“A mercy flight shall not be undertaken when alternative means of transportation or relief is available to the patient or person concerned”

CAAF says a flight cannot be taken if the crew and other occupants of the mercy flights will be exposed to undue hazard as a result of the flight. For a night flight, CAAF requires the aircraft to be equipped with all necessary instruments.

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34 yachts arrive under Blue Lane

34 yachts arrive under Blue Lane

FBC News 17 August 2020 – Business in Denarau, Nadi is slowly picking up following the opening of the government’s Blue Lane initiative a month ago.

A safe “blue lanes” is being piloted at the Port Denarau Marina for yachts and pleasure craft sailing to Fiji but the requirements are strict.

All visitors must complete their quarantine before they are allowed to disembark and begin their holiday.

Port Denarau Marina Limited Chief Executive Cynthia Rasch says more than thirty yachts have been cleared to berth at the Marina since last month.

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Extreme weather impacting Pacific exporters

Extreme weather impacting Pacific exporters

PTI 14 August 2020 – Sixty-five per cent of Pacific Island exporters reported that extreme weather has negatively impacted their business over the past year according to Pacific Trade Invest (PTI) Australia’s ‘2020 Pacific Islands Export Survey’.

Among those affected, 41 per cent said extreme weather conditions have had a major impact on their business.

Now in its eighth year, the biennial survey provides insights into trends, changes and business sentiment across 16 countries in the Pacific Islands. For the first time, the survey of 226 export businesses was expanded to explore the impacts of weather patterns.

Increased frequency of storms (38 per cent), extreme rainfall (26 per cent), rising air temperature over land (19 per cent), decreased rainfall (17 per cent), increased flooding (16 per cent), prolonged drought (14 per cent) and rising sea levels (12 per cent) are some of the weather patterns respondents said have affected their businesses.

According to the survey, agriculture was the industry hardest hit by extreme weather. Of all export businesses affected by extreme weather, decreased productivity (56 per cent), damage to crops or products (50 per cent), and an increased cost of supplies (32 per cent) were reported as some of the main impacts.

“While nearly half of all businesses experienced an increase in export orders over the past 12 months, the survey found a quarter of exporters are now reporting a decline in revenue, as extreme weather and COVID-19 affect productivity and disrupt operations,” said Caleb Jarvis, PTI Australia’s Trade and Investment Commissioner.

“As businesses navigate economic uncertainty, they are feeling less confident about the coming year. Twenty-seven per cent expect a decline in revenue and there has been a significant decline in exporters looking to hire new employees over the next 12 months.

“However, despite the crisis, manufacturing and agriculture remain confident, indicating a strong ongoing demand for their products.”

The Lowy Institute’s Pacific Islands Program Director, Jonathan Pryke, said that while many Pacific Island exporters were doing it tough, there was good cause for optimism.

“The persistent constraints of natural disasters, alongside high fuel, finance and logistics costs, did not stop nearly half of exporters in the survey reporting growth in export revenue in the previous year. However, the pace and ferocity of COVID-19 have up-ended this optimism,” Jonathan said.

“The rapidly changing economic context is reflected in the exporter sentiment. While 61 per cent of businesses expect to see export growth in 2020, these numbers are anchored by manufacturing and agriculture.

“Tourism operators – almost half of the survey sample – are less optimistic, with 49 per cent expecting to see revenues decline,” he said.

The survey found revenue generated from international tourists is expected to decline from all geographic areas, particularly tourists from China, Japan and North America.

“The resumption of air travel through a trans-Pacific bubble will be a critical lifeline for the tourism industry and will help to drive down costs for agricultural exporters, who rely on air freight to get their goods to market,” said Mr Pryke.

To help address economic and environmental challenges, the survey found businesses are driving growth through improving process efficiency, developing new products and services, and enhancing digital marketing. Three-quarters of businesses, particularly in manufacturing, are also using online channels to generate export revenue.

Caleb said, “Following this survey, PTI Australia will continue to help exporters grow their online presence by providing data, knowledge, training and technology – making them more resilient to external shocks. It’s critical that solutions are found to key challenges such as access to affordable online payment solutions, cross-border payments and cost-effective small parcel logistic services.”

The survey also found that 74 per cent of businesses are planning to export to new markets over the next three years. Asia continues to hold the most appeal, while export to Europe and Australia will become increasingly popular, according to the survey.

Export to regions outside of the Pacific Islands continues to be high (94 per cent), with Australia and New Zealand remaining the two major export destinations.

“If there is any silver lining to 2020, it’s that Pacific exporters are accustomed to doing it tough. Despite significant headwinds, many exporters not only prevailed but prospered. Let’s hope that resilience continues in 2020,” Johnathan said.

Please visit the PTI Australia website to access the 2020 Pacific Islands Export Survey full report and highlights report.

Tourism Talanoa: Reassuring Travellers

Tourism Talanoa: Reassuring Travellers

FHTA, 14 August 2020 – Earlier this week, New Zealand announced that they were considering the draft framework for into entering into a travel bubble with the Cook Islands as a first step to opening their borders.
As they iron out the logistics regarding that initiative, indications are that this bubble should commence around the end of the year, at the earliest.

Many punters have been quick to point out that other Pacific Islands, including us, could be included in that bubble. However, we should be mindful that the Cook Islands is an associated state or realm of New Zealand and many Cook Islanders are generally New Zealand passport holders.

Thus, this makes the initial travel bubble between the two countries a logical step as it could almost be deemed as domestic travel either way and probably less complicated with shared or similar immigration regulations for travel between them.

In the meantime, Fiji continues to work on ensuring its own criteria for safe travel becomes acceptable for inclusion into any bubble agreement with New Zealand.

They are the prime target for all our tourism efforts at the moment as, like Fiji, they had gone over 100 days without a community transmitted case of COVID-19 until earlier this week where a few more cases were found in Auckland city which has moved into alert level 3 and the rest of New Zealand moved into alert level 2.

Before those new cases were confirmed and announced, New Zealand had seen 1,219 confirmed cases and only 22 fatalities reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Australia, on the other hand, continues to work on their containment measures as their figures hit 21,000 total confirmed cases with almost 300 deaths.

If that makes Australia an unlikely bubble partner for Fiji in the short term, it may mean that could be the status quo until mid-2021 or later.

Overall, there have been over 19.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, including more than 720 000 deaths, reported to WHO through the week ending 9 August. Over the past seven days, over 1.8 million new cases of COVID-19 have been reported, a slight decrease of 2 per cent, compared to the previous week, while the number of deaths increased by 2 per cent in the past seven days with over 41 000 new deaths reported during this time. This amounts to an average of 254 502 cases and 5 858 deaths per day.

As these terrifying figures continue to escalate globally, planning continues to take shape regarding the reopening of Fiji’s borders to international travellers.

Many changes and tax reforms have been introduced by Government, as announced in their recent historic National Budget for 2020/2021 and even for the foreseeable future.

In preparation for marketing Fiji as a preferred destination for potential visitors, we continue our behind-the-scenes planning, regardless of the economic pressures being felt, and even escalating now. We know this will go a long way in instilling confidence in our prospective visitors as they plan vacations to let off some of that pent-up quarantine pressure.

One of these preparatory behavioural changes along with the distancing and hand cleansing practices is being comfortable about downloading and using the careFIJI app that was launched in mid-June.

The app is available on Google Playstore and the Apple App Store for free and FHTA has recommended its widespread use for members to encourage with their staff and guests.

As the new way of keeping safe, the more we use the careFIJI app, the more we get used to it being in our lives as this is expected to assist the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to streamline and speed up its manual contact tracing efforts.

This could potentially increase our chances of Fiji getting invited into a travel bubble faster.

In the meantime, other plans are going on behind the scenes even though it may look quiet in the industry right now. Not only are businesses planning their safety training programs and implementing this, but they are also preparing for different scenarios. This includes looking at the safe passage of the different categories of visitors from potentially different COVID backgrounds and ensuring our staff and communities can remain safe when borders start to open up.

There will be opportunities for direct travel from COVID contained countries that do not have to quarantine on arrival or on their return to their own country. For COVID suppressed countries, we must consider what options are available if quarantine on arrival does not look like a drawcard for a visitor to confirm their travel. How else might we ensure we can keep our staff and communities safe while ensuring they can still come in for a holiday that would potentially provide such far-reaching economic benefits. So navigating the extent to which we organise safe pathways or lanes is at the forefront of planning discussions.

Then there are similar opportunities to be considered for the film industry, as has been enabled for the yachting sector. This is another lucrative economic activity that has also been curtailed that has the potential to reignite those many communities, towns and islands wherever a film production has taken place. Creative arrangements and logistical planning are being investigated, to weave safety and protection as an added layer to how we can bring this activity back.

The national airline was the first cab off the ranks with their safety planning process and likewise, the international airport, hotels, tour and transport companies and eventually every business involved with tourism will be expected to have their specific plans and training programs ready to go.

This is how Fijian tourism businesses are preparing for that next phase.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 14 August 2020

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji, first resort validated as an SGS PLEDGE COVID-19 compliant hotel

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

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji is proud to announce the successful completion of the SGS PLEDGE audit on Disinfection
Monitored and Cleaning Checked mark by Standard Global Services SGS, the world’s leading inspection,
verification, testing and certification company.

This is the first resort in Fiji to complete this global program and its now a COVID-19 compliant hotel. The
official SGS PLEDGE shows that Radisson Blu Resort Fiji has met the requirements in the highest cleanliness,
disinfection and safety measures and is based on the successful completion of an independent, comprehensive
testing by SGS including a remote in-depth validation to ensure the hotel has implemented all safety step
protocols as outlined and recommended in the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol.

Mr Charles Homsy, General Manager of Radisson Blu Resort Fiji said, “We remain committed to delivering a
clean and safe environment with maximum hygiene standards to protect our guests, team members and
partners. We are pleased SGS PLEDGE has validated that we are in full compliance with all the health, safety,
disinfection protocols as outlined in the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol. We look forward to welcoming back our
guests to Radisson Blu Resort Fiji.”

The Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol includes:

  • Increased cleaning and disinfecting frequency of all hotel areas, paying special attention to high-touch
    items.
  • Social distancing practices around the resort.
  • Stations installed with alcohol-based hand sanitizer and gloves at the front entrance and hotel public
    areas.
  • All room keys disinfected and presented safely upon check-in.
  • Cash-free methods of payments made available and encouraged.
  • Comprehensive hygiene and prevention training programs for team members.
  • Team members provided with personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji is following the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Fiji Health Authority’s Regulations for sanitation, social distancing, health and safety.

Radisson Hotel Group recently announced its support and endorsement of the World Travel and Tourism (WTTC)
“Safe Travels” protocols, the industry’s new global hospitality framework and stamp, to provide consistency to
destinations and countries as well as guidance to travel providers, operators, and travellers about the new
approach to health and hygiene in the post-COVID-19 world.

For more information on Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol, please visit:
www.radissonhotels.com/en-us/social-responsibility/health-safety

Fiji Airways Extends Cancellation of Scheduled Flights to end of September

Fiji Airways Extends Cancellation of Scheduled Flights to end of September

Fiji Airways 12 August 2020: Fiji Airways, Fiji’s national airline, has extended the cancellation of scheduled international services through to the end of September. This is due to ongoing border closures and travel restrictions as a consequence of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The airline continues preparations for a revised network plan, which will be revealed when the easing of border restrictions is announced. Fiji Airways also is progressing with the implementation of its Travel Ready programme, which details measures to safeguard the health and medical safety of customers and staff when international flying resumes.

The airline is contacting impacted guests who were booked to travel in September. Similar to previous advisories, impacted guests booked through travel agents and third parties will be contacted by those parties. Fiji Airways’ freighter flights and Fiji Link domestic services will continue to operate.

Fiji Airways Increases Weekly Freight Services

Fiji Airways Increases Weekly Freight Services

Fiji Airways 07 August 2020:   Fiji Airways has increased its weekly freighter services to up to 10 flights per week. Freighter services between Nadi and Auckland have increased to up to 3 flights per week, while freighter services between Nadi-Sydney and Nadi-Los Angeles operate up to twice a week. Weekly freighter services between Nadi-Hong Kong and Nadi-Port Vila remain at one per week.

Mr Andre Viljoen, Fiji Airways Managing Director & CEO said: “We remain committed to dedicated freighter services which are vital to the supply chain for Fiji’s export sector. As we have stated before, our freight services keep the economy moving and benefit primary producers, farmers, fisherfolk, workers, exporters, freight forwarders and consumers alike.

Between 1 April to 30 June, Fiji Airways carried about 1205 tonnes of exports from Fiji. The exported goods consisted of fresh produce, garments, kava and seafood. Inbound freight consisted of consignments important to Fijian businesses, as well as almost 52 tonnes of essential medical supplies including vaccines, test kits, medicine and humanitarian aid.

Exporters are advised to contact their Freight Agents for bookings on Fiji Airways Freighter flights.

Yachtie calls on Aust, NZ to set up Blue Lanes

Yachtie calls on Aust, NZ to set up Blue Lanes

Island Business 30 July 2020 – The skipper of a yacht that has just been cleared under Fiji’s ‘Blue Lane’ program says Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific island nations should follow Fiji’s lead and create an easy pathway for yachts to visit their countries.

Keith Whitaker, who is sailing on the Zatara with his family, says this would ensure the sustainability of Fiji’s ‘Blue Lane’ program as the cyclone season approaches.

“In order for Fiji’s Blue Lane to be really successful, you need a country like New Zealand or Australia that’s out of the cyclone belt to create a Blue Lane and to imitate what Fiji’s done. And they need to do that right away because what’s hurting the cruising community right now—yachties right now that are stuck in New Zealand—is the uncertainty of where they can go once the cyclone season comes.”

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Tourism Talanoa: Economic Preparations and Changes

Fantasha Lockington

FHTA, 6 August 2020 – While countries continue to reopen their communities at their own pace, online studies indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only forced business to reconsider their processes, products and services but has also forced consumers to rethink the way they spend their time and money.

It still shows a strong willingness for future travel (both domestic and international), and that they are invariably interested in safer dining choices, alternative options and now want to be able to select from a range of socially distanced leisure activities for them and their families.

As tourism in Fiji navigates unknown waters, there has been some relief for the hospitality sector. Not unlike a cool towel on a fevered brow; it is welcome relief even though the fever rages unabated.

No-one is under any illusion that an end is in sight yet as the tourism sector is still on its knees with thousands of its workers unemployed.

For the many tourism operators who played a part in bringing in 46 per cent of Fiji’s Gross Domestic Product earnings last year, the question for them is not when they’ll see the end of this pandemic but rather how they can survive through it. Because we must get through it as best we can.

Estimates from the early days of the pandemic put a return to any plateauing of the virus cases to the last quarter this year. As we move closer to the fourth quarter, we do not appear to be seeing the expected plateauing, so the worst-case scenario expectation of first quarter 2021 looks more than likely. But we have been proved wrong before by this pandemic with flareups, second waves and world populations not heeding medical advice or agreeing with Government imposed shutdowns.

In looking for innovative ways to keep our economy going, it is not just businesses that are rethinking strategies. The gradual lifting of restrictions in some countries, together with the creation of travel corridors, the resumption of some international flights and enhanced safety and hygiene protocols, are among the measures being introduced by governments as they look to restart travel and tourism.

While governments around the world now doing things differently, our own recently released Fijian Budget was a huge confidence booster to the tourism sector that is being seen as the required revolutionary thinking that post-COVID economic recovery needs.

The usual economic responses are not going to work this time around as the largest world economies are discovering right now. Too much has changed and far too much is at stake. And while there are higher risks, the outcomes if progressed correctly and safely, will be worth it.

While governments in other tourism-reliant countries are bailing their economies out with direct capital injections, we do not have those same luxuries in Pacific Island economies. Our responses must be cognizant of the length of time for recovery, the effects on our population and the growing unemployed within it, and the long-term consequences of a stagnant economy. All the while ensuring throughout it all, that we have ensured the protection of that population as our highest priority. Anything short of that risks lives and long-term economic devastation that would be difficult to come out of.

Researchers and academics continue to dissect and predict the fallout of the downturn in economic activity around the world in the face of the virus. But we are reminded that they did not see this coming, so we may just hedge our bets on their future predictions.

While some effects are staring us in the face, one unvisited repercussion of the tanking of global tourism is that the increasing statistics of layoffs and redundancies and wage reductions will play a major part in dissuading young people in choosing a career in the tourism sector.

Any industry must have access to the brightest minds to flourish and given our limited resources, tourism cannot afford to lose these bright minds before they’ve even set foot in a hospitality school or university.

On the other side of the scale, a positive outcome of the pandemic will be that more businesses and stakeholders will be reassessing their business models and taking the time to pivot their objectives and expected outcomes. Or at the very least, to understand the need for flexibility and preparedness.

Being able to shift their business to other industries will bode well for them, as it will ensure that the business will be able to withstand most threats, within reason. A pivot is intended to help businesses survive factors that make the original business model unsustainable. The adage of not keeping all your eggs in one basket has never been more apt now.

Our Blue Lane initiative has gotten off to a good start as, very slowly, yachts and pleasure craft find their way to Denarau Marina to take advantage of the great hospitality and service available, following the necessary quarantine requirements. We hope they move into other areas of Fiji to spread the love afterwards.

In the meantime, and as disheartening as it is to see it happen, we understand the need for our neighbours Australia going into a full-scale lockdown as Victoria declares a state of disaster for a minimum six weeks and NSW is closing their air borders for the time being. We felt the collective sadness in the industry as this means that Australia is still some time away from safely opening their airports and Australians flying internationally.

Across the ditch in Aotearoa, they are preparing for their general election in just over a month and we wait patiently for this to be completed understanding the need to focus on this first. However, it appears they may be on their way to opening up their borders as Auckland Airport recently released a statement indicating their preparedness to segment travellers into different categories of travellers who pass through their international terminal.

This will enable New Zealand to open their own ‘safe bubble’ air corridor between New Zealand and the Cook Islands, and hopefully other Pacific Islands like Fiji and Niue.

But, for now, all we can do is wait watchfully and keep on planning together with Government and other tourism stakeholders. And to continue preparing to open up again safely.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 6 August 2020

Tahiti cruise passenger confirmed Covid-19 positive

Tahiti cruise passenger confirmed Covid-19 positive

Fiji Times / RNZ – 5 August 2020 – A cruise ship passenger in French Polynesia has tested positive for Covid-19, forcing all travellers onboard MS Paul Gauguin to isolate in their cabins.

The French High Commission confirmed the positive result today after the individual yesterday self-tested for the coronavirus while the ship was on its way to Rangiroa.

The ship to Papeete overnight and the person and a family member sharing the cabin were removed to isolation.

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VitiKart launched by Vodafone Fiji

VitiKart launched by Vodafone Fiji

Fiji Times 6 August 2020 – Fiji’s first fully fletched online market place VitiKart was launched by Vodafone Fiji at their headquarters in Tamavua today.

Acting Chief Executive Ronald Prasad said VitiKart was a smartphone application for both iOS and Android devices.

“The VitiKart draw parallels with eBay, AliExpresss and Amazon albeit on a small scale with independent merchants using a common digital platform to offer products directly to consumers,” he said.

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Tourism Fiji Share Positivity and Entrepreneurism Through Happy Hour TV

Tourism Fiji Share Positivity and Entrepreneurism Through Happy Hour TV

Tourism Fiji 31 July 2020 – Tourism Fiji is pleased to share the second episode of Happy Hour TV, a YouTube series that showcased a range of positive news stories emerging from Fiji during this COVID-19 pandemic.

In episode two our charismatic local host Masada Vuikadavu is joined by a new co-host in Komal Singh and the famous, fun-loving weatherman Eroni Bole as they share feel-good stories from across Fiji with locals and international viewers alike. Filmed and produced locally, Tourism Fiji is proud and happy to continue to share the stories of our people.

Tourism Fiji Director of Marketing Emma Campbell said, “We’ve been blown away with the stories that people have been sharing with us. These stories truly demonstrate the power of kindness, togetherness and the sheer resilience and determination of the Fijian people. We simply cannot wait to share these amazing stories with Fiji and the rest of the world through the Happy Hour TV platform.  I’m very proud of my team for creating a video that is sure to make people smile.”

This second episode of ‘Happy Hour TV,’ hosts report on the incredibly successful Votcity Market in Nadi that has enabled hundreds of people, who have been made unemployed due to COVID-19, a chance to make a living selling food, crafts and other items. The episode also shares the inspiration behind ‘Vasaqa Productions’ – the latest foodie joint located at the Namaka market. The episode ends on a sweet note with an interview about doughnuts that is bound to leave you salivating and craving a bite from ‘Rise, Fry, Glaze’ and are sold at KANU restaurant in Nadi.

Fiji is slowly welcoming visitors back with the message, ‘Our Bula Spirit Awaits You’ and we will be sure to continue to share hope and happiness through this series so stay tuned in! To subscribe to ‘Happy Hour TV,’ follow the link here

Tourism Talanoa: Adjusting our Target Markets

Tourism Talanoa: Adjusting our Target Markets

FHTA, 30 July 2020 – The world has changed forever because of the current health pandemic sweeping the globe and tourism is no different. Currently at rock bottom, surely there is no way other but up from here?

The tourism industry understands it is an unrealistic expectation that business will be fully restored once the borders reopen. For now, no-one is going anywhere. New Zealand is gearing up for an election and Australia is struggling with containment. And the US is, well, far away.

This new reality is slowly dawning on everyone else awaiting the industry’s return as Fiji’s highest-earning sector and largest employer, especially as things get desperate for the workers still patiently awaiting the call back to work.

In the meantime though, there is much planning taking place in the background. Every business operator, committee and council have dug their heels in and begun planning or changing how they are doing business in the short term and for the long term when things will start to pick up.

Planning for when the borders open, planning for when the first commercial flight lands, planning for when the first tourist steps on Fiji soil and planning for insulating them in the VIP lanes.

Our regular and loyal visitors from recent years may not feel like making the trek to our sun-kissed beaches just yet as the impacts of the virus in their countries leave still fresh economical and psychological scars.

International workshops and conferences will not take place for a while as the varied digital meeting platforms provide rapidly improving, cost-effective alternatives and corporate businesses implement travel cutbacks to reduce costs.

But people still need jobs and some resorts and tourism activity providers around Fiji have embraced the “Love Our Locals” campaign. While local rates have always been available pre-COVID on request, the reduced rates now being offered include a variety of weekend specials that were especially exciting while schools were still closed and remain so even afterwards.

Additionally now, for between $40-$50, day rates are also available for locals to take advantage of the use of the resorts facilities like swimming pools and water slides, kid-friendly beach activities, entertainment, as well as special meal and drink rates to use the day rate credits towards.

Marketing in a post COVID world requires reviewing what you can offer now that will at the very least, allow you to bring back more staff and reduce your operational costs somewhat. Changing target markets, being more innovative, when the going gets tough and all the rest of it. Most people are trying to do something.

This may also mean that only some services are available, that only part of your resort opens, that you can rotate more staff and put in practice some of the new COVID safe changes.

For the smaller resorts in the Mamanuca’s, along the Yasawa chain of islands, up north in Savusavu and Taveuni, down south in Beqa, Vatulele and Kadavu or east in Ovalau, Wakaya and Vanuabalavu; all still quietly await news on bubbles and borders. Without the critical scheduled ferry services and flights connecting them and no international customers, almost all of the resorts based in these areas have had to remain closed. Yet many of them continue to employ staff or look after them as best they can.

In the meantime, the first lot of yachts have sailed quietly into Denarau on the high tide with the fresh cool winds that are typical for what would have been the peak of Fiji’s high tourism season. Yacht agents, engineering shops and general port services are in use as more people clock on for available work. The sound of music and laughter from the only restaurant open for dinner on the port echoes happy locals appreciating the very slow move back to more buoyant times while debating the effects of the reduced import duty on wines and beers.

If we want to push Fiji to the top of travellers’ wish lists, we will need to market Fiji more aggressively and perhaps even package it to a new traveller base that have no issues about jumping on a plane straight after borders open and going somewhere they may not have considered previously.

Younger, independent travellers are expected to be booked first, if not already, and scanning smartphones for eco-trekking and other adventurous nature-based activities.

If the families, young couples and returning visitors do not book immediately because they’re still not sure it is safe to travel, we will have to provide more than the offer of cheap holiday packaging to convince people to book.

It would mean embracing our tropical wet weather instead of continuously pushing our sunny days, marketing to a more adventurous traveller who may want a shorter stay but will come back a few times to follow up on the village the project they were part of or to continue volunteering at a school in a rural area or remote island. More interest in the environment, in culture and communities, in the diversity of our people and the variety of our food.

But, over this marketing challenge for who would come when the borders open and by when and at what price point, hangs the cold fear of a COVID contagion creeping in undetected.

How would this all play out if we could only open to some travellers from a particular country because of their COVID contained status, but demanded they only stay where we allowed them to and ensured (somehow) they did not interact with local communities and local businesses to ensure undetected infections did not have a chance to be exposed in our local communities.

Who would book this holiday with limitations? But how else can we ensure we kept our people safe from exposure?

If we allowed travellers from two COVID contained countries to holiday here, how do we select which resorts accommodate which country’s citizens and ensure there is no cross-contamination with each other or the local communities. And this might include restricting access to shopping, sightseeing and activities.

The opportunity to reset Fiji’s travel scene is now and many travellers would be rethinking their normal travel plans. But we must grapple with safety first and foremost before tackling mass unemployment and economic strife.

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” But Mark Twain never experienced COVID-19. So, for now, we continue to be as prepared as we can be from a safety perspective. We appear to have ample time to be well prepared.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 30 July 2020

FHTA joins Fiji Meteorological Service Stakeholder Consultations

FHTA joins Fiji Meteorological Service Stakeholder Consultations

FHTA 29 July 2020 – The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) was recently invited to be a part of the Fiji Metrological Service’s (FMS) Stakeholder Consultations.

The consultation workshop was held on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 of July at the Pearl Resort in Pacific Harbour to strengthen and improve their current relationships with its stakeholders.

16 economic sectors were represented as many Ministries and Government bodies attended the consultations.

Weather impacts tourism and tourism businesses and having the foreknowledge of effective weather information prepares FHAT and the tourism sector to address and recover from situations better.

“Agencies collecting data are of keen interest to us. Data can save lives, reduce costs and improve productivity – our private sector members require that we continually foster these networks,” says Fantasha Lockington, Chief Executive Officer of FHTA.

“Data sharing needs more than just a gentlemen’s agreement, the need for a formal partnership to meet future sector needs is critical,” says Misaeli Funaki, Director of FMS.

FMS looks after the observation of regional weather, Fiji’s climate and hydrological patterns, and provide meteorological and hydrological services.

The workshop was funded by the Government of Russia through UNDP Pacific Office’s Disaster Resilience for the Pacific Small Island Developing States (RESPAC) Project.

Digital Tourism Webinar proves popular with Tourism Operators

Digital Tourism Webinar proves popular with Tourism Operators

FHTA 28 July 2020 – Pacific Trade Invest Australia (PTI), in partnership with the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA), conducted a successful webinar for tourism operators on 23 July 2020.

The webinar was PTI’s Digital Tourism Workshop for SME Operators in Fiji with a key objective to introduce the basic tools and skills needed for marketing online to improve visibility, grow their sales and increase profitability

PTI’s Digital Tourism Initiative provides support to help stakeholders get online or equip them with the right tools to build demand as markets open. They also look into encouraging micro and small tourism operators to explore PTI’s newly launched Digital Learning Hub where customers can learn more about websites, channel managers, booking engines, and other digital marketing tools.

FHTA CEO Fantasha Lockington says “Once the borders open up and the world starts travelling again, we want to see smaller businesses get direct bookings from potential customers and these trainings provide our members with a solid platform to work from.”

“These training opportunities allow them to be more familiar with getting their digital footprints out there, introduces them to payment gateways and conducting online sales more profitably,” she adds.

The FHTA strives to continually bring relevant training opportunities for its members and their employees with tourism’s current hiatus providing opportunities to prepare well for the eventual opening up of travel.

PTI Australia is an agency of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

300-plus Hilton resort workers handed food packs

Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa

Fiji Times 30 July 2020 – More than 300 full-time staff of Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa were handed food packs and treated to lunch at their Denarau Island property today.

The initiative was made possible through generous donations made by Hilton villa owners.

Hilton area general manager Fiji David Wells said the owners wanted to ensure the team who had looked after them so well during their holidays over the years, were now themselves being supported during this very difficult economic downturn.

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Successful Golf Tournament in Support of Marriott Resorts’ ‘Solia Lesu’

Successful Golf Tournament in Support of Marriott Resorts’ ‘Solia Lesu’

Denarau July 26, 2020 – The Marriott International Fiji Resorts held a successful fundraising golf tournament in support of “Solia Lesu” by Marriott foundation on the 25th July 2020.

The charity golfing event held at Denarau Golf and Racquet Club on Denarau Island received overwhelming support from the domestic market bringing together individuals, sponsors, businesses and sporting communities with 93 participants and a total of 23 teams who participated in the 18-hole game.

The tournament kicked started with light refreshments before tee off and concluded with a prize-giving, live auction and networking opportunity. The charity event managed to raise a total of FJD$10,860 from registrations and the live auction where all proceeds will go towards the Solia Lesu Foundation by Marriott to provide assistance to associates and the local community affected by COVID-19.

“We would like to thank the teams who registered for our event in support of the Solia Lesu foundation and our very generous sponsors who contributed to the success of the event. The money raised from this event will further support our continued efforts with the “Solia Lesu” program over the coming months,” says Neeraj Chadha, Multi-Property Vice President, Fiji & Samoa – Marriott International and General Manager – Sheraton & Westin Resorts, Fiji.

Some of the prizes for the tournament included accommodation at the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay and The Westin Denarau Island Resort and Spa and Dinner at Zing Restaurant. There were also giveaways for best-dressed teams and novelty prizes. Sponsorship support was received from business partners including Fiji Airways, Sheraton Grande Sydney Hyde Park, Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay, Tappoo Limited, and Coca Cola Amatil who provided some of the prizes and refreshments for the event.

Among bidding at the live auction was two airline tickets to Sydney sponsored by Fiji Airways, three nights’ accommodation at Sheraton Grande Sydney Hyde Park, two nights’ accommodation in over-water bure at Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay and 1-year golf membership at Denarau Golf & Racquet Club. An unprompted prize was also donated during the auction in support of the cause, for two nights’ accommodation with all-inclusive meals at Mango Bay Resort.

The charity Golf Tournament was won by Team Marriott International Fiji, followed by Team KK’s Hardware while Coastal Sigatoka Motors took third place.

‘Solia Lesu’ which means to “Give Back” in iTaukei was formed by five Marriott International Fiji Resorts (The Westin Denarau Fiji Resort & Spa, Sheraton Fiji Resort, Sheraton Denarau Villas, Sheraton Tokoriki and Marriott Momi Bay Fiji) to provide assistance to associates and the local community affected by COVID-19.

Fiji opens up to boats in a bid to get some tourism rolling

Yacht Help Fiji

RNZ 26 July 2020 – Fiji’s so-called “Blue Lanes” are officially open and the government says it’s expecting the arrival of 100 boats to the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

With its ‘Bula Bubble’ proposal with New Zealand and Australia yet to get off the ground, Fiji’s Blue Lanes initiative begins what the government hopes will be the ailing tourism industry’s road to recovery.

The first vessel berthed at the Port Denarau Marina in Nadi last week with two New Zealanders onboard.

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