Jeff Probst announces Survivor season 41 to start filming soon in Fiji

Jeff Probst announces Survivor season 41 to start filming soon in Fiji

EW 23 March 2021 – The host has spoken.

EW reported back in February that Survivor would go back into production in Fiji for filming on seasons 41 and 42 of the CBS reality show, and host Jeff Probst has now made it official with a social media video announcing the show’s impending return to filming.

“Hey, Survivor fans,” Probst says in the video. “I have some exciting news to share. Survivor is going back into production. Fiji has invited back to their beautiful country to shoot season 41. We have all of our COVID protocols in place so that everyone in Fiji will remain safe, all of our crew will be safe, and, of course, our players will be safe. And I gotta tell you — I can’t remember a time I’ve been this pumped to shoot Survivor, and I’ll tell you why: The past year has reminded me, and I hope it’s reminded you, that you’ve got to live your life like it’s one big great adventure, and Survivor fulfils that. So I am thrilled to say, I will see you on the island for Survivor 41. Let’s do it!”

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Fiji’s Bula Bubble suffers setback

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Credit: BIANCA DE MARCHI/AAPIMAGE

RNZ 23 March 2021 – Fiji’s government said it has proven itself as a safe destination for travellers during the pandemic with no cases reported in the community for more than 320 days.

Fiji said it was ready to open its border to Australia and New Zealand and urged both countries to join its so-called Bula Bubble scheme.

But its major regional partners say the Fijians are not on the priority list for a seat on the trans-Tasman travel bubble, just yet.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday several concerns needed to be resolved before a trans-Tasman bubble could go ahead.

However, the government hopes on 6 April to announce a start date.

New Zealand will also work on contact tracing requirements, QR codes, arrangements of testing that might or not be required, between now and 6 April, Ardern said.

“When we have met these criteria, we anticipate we will be in a position to open the bubble.

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Tammie Tam Honoured To Receive Lifetime Achievement Award

Tammie Tam Honoured To Receive Lifetime Achievement Award

Fiji Sun 23 March 2021 – Tammie Tam has vowed to continue to serve the hospitality and tourism industry to the best of her ability. Ms Tam was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award during the 23rd Annual ANZ Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards (ANZ FETA).

The 2019 Awards Presentation was held at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa Denarau, Nadi past Friday.

Ms Tam is the Senior Vice President Warwick Hotels and Resorts International and Executive Director – Pacific.

Warwick Hotels and Resort own Tokatoka Resort, Tambua Sands Beach Resort, the Naviti and the Warwick Fiji Resort and Spa.

She is a member of the Tourism Fiji Executive board. and she has been a board member of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association for about 25 years and elected as vice president in 2020.

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The trouble with bubbles: When will we get quarantine-free travel in the Pacific?

The trouble with bubbles: When will we get quarantine-free travel in the Pacific?

The Spinoff 23 March 2021 – Much of the Pacific is Covid-free, so our island neighbours need to negotiate opening up travel with New Zealand and other countries carefully. Collin Tukuitonga explains the factors at play.

Most Pacific Island nations have remained free of Covid-19 since the pandemic began in early 2020. This is attributed mainly to early and effective border closures and public health measures by island governments.

Many of the islands’ economies rely heavily on trade and tourism, and most are now struggling with employment and income as a result of the prolonged lockdowns. For example, 80% of the Cook Islands economy is powered by tourism, and the absence of tourists has had a major negative impact on lives and livelihoods of people in that nation.

As a result, Pacific business and political leaders are exploring ways of opening their borders to tourists and other travellers while minimising the risk of introducing Covid-19 into their countries. Families also welcome the prospect of reconnecting with whānau living in the islands. In addition, political leaders in New Zealand are calling for less restrictive measures at the borders to enable seasonal and other workers from the islands to come to New Zealand to assist employers in areas where there is a labour shortage. The leader of the opposition has recently called for a quarantine-free-travel QFT arrangement with Fiji, Tonga and Sāmoa.

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Businesses call for ‘immediate dialogue’ on opening up travel between New Zealand and Fiji

Businesses call for ‘immediate dialogue’ on opening up travel between New Zealand and Fiji

STUFF 23 March 2021 – The Fiji New Zealand Business Council says a quarantine-free travel bubble between New Zealand and Fiji is long overdue and both countries need to “commence immediate dialogue” on the matter.

This follows Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s comments last week on Radio Tarana that the government was focused on safely opening up travel with Australia, and was not talking to any other country at the moment.

The government has recently opened up quarantine-free travel with the Cook Islands and Niue and has indicated opening up a trans-Tasman bubble by the middle of next month.

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Marriott International Hotels Resorts in Fiji Launch Women In Leadership Program

Marriott International Hotels Resorts in Fiji Launch Women In Leadership Program

Nadi 18 March 2021 – Marriott International Hotels & Resorts in Fiji launched the Women in Leadership program on the 17th March 2021 to support female leaders. The programme helps women through a “series of initiatives including a networking programme for existing leaders, a mentorship programme for future leaders and more focused learning and development initiatives”.

Regina Wilson, Market Director of Sales & Marketing – Fiji & Samoa who will champion the program said Marriott International’s founders, J.W. and Alice S. Marriott, were partners in every sense, with Alice Marriott being a force behind every major decision and a “woman of firsts,” as the company’s first woman vice president and board director. She set a high standard for the role women would play in company leadership.”

“I had implemented the Women in Leadership program for Marriott Thailand Hotels & Resorts a few years back and am honoured and eager to take on the challenge to champion this program here in Fiji,” she said.

Speaking also at the event, Farrah Shazleen, Cluster Director of Human Resources – Fiji highlighted that 41% of total Fiji associates are women and 40% women representation in Executive Committee. In addition to this, 30% of women are in management position roles within Fiji Hotels and Resorts.

As a leader in diversity, equity and inclusion, Marriott has firmly established its commitment to women’s advancement:

– Nearly two decades ago, Marriott established a board of directors’ committee focused on accountability and advancing inclusive opportunities for women, people of colour and other stakeholders. The committee is chaired by Debra Lee, Marriott board of directors’ member and former CEO BET Networks and comprised of other board members and Marriott senior executives.
– Marriott’s Women’s Leadership Development Initiative, established over 20 years ago, focuses on increasing the presence of women at the highest level of management and in other decision-making positions. Core components of the initiative include leadership development, networking and mentoring, and responsive workplace policies that promote work-life integration.
– The Emerging Leader Program is Marriott’s 12-month program launched in 2014 to ensure the development of high-performing front-line leaders, senior leaders and other managers who demonstrate the ability to excel to higher levels. The program has been instrumental in increasing the number of women and people of colour in leadership roles with 100 per cent of program participants promoted or selected for strategic developmental roles.

Tourism Talanoa: Don’t Hesitate to Vaccinate

Tourism Talanoa: Don’t Hesitate to Vaccinate

FHTA, 18 March 2021 – Last week Fiji `made history as it joined the many countries that have begun vaccination programmes for their people and became one of the first few Pacific Island nations to do so.

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) welcomed the news that the first dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines is being administered to our frontline workers who include medical staff, disciplined forces involved in maintaining border security and COVID-safe operations, and relevant airline, airport, transport and quarantine hotel staff.

These frontliners have continuously put themselves at risk since the onset of border closures by being the first line of contact for repatriated citizens and residents and we commend them for their service in keeping Fiji safe. The country must also acknowledge with deep appreciation the many medical staff who have also been managing the successful, continued containment of border cases as and when they are confirmed, within the 14 days of their quarantine period.

The vaccine has been brought into the country as part of the COVAX facility initiative to distribute the vaccines to countries like Fiji and there is expected to be over 100,000 vaccine doses in total brought in-country, with more expected to be accessed to sufficiently cover our adult population.

This news has been greeted with and being discussed with much enthusiasm by tourism stakeholders.

The anticipation that vaccines would be eventually available was always going to be a game-changer for travel and tourism around the world.

For Fiji, an effective rollout will be critical for everyone’s health and safety, the revival of the tourism industry and thousands of people getting their jobs back.

FHTA has reiterated industry stakeholders’ support offered earlier to the Ministry of Health & Medical Services with the logistics of rolling out the vaccines and any other support including transport and communications.

After several lead-up meetings and the recent launch in Nadi of the first of several Tourism Talanoas expected to take place that will continue industry consultation forums; the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Health officials were appraised of the type of support available that could enhance efficiencies, reduce costs and provide innovative solutions to accessing remote communities.

Let it be known that the Fiji tourism industry has been, and is ready to assist, and understands how critical it is to maintain Fiji’s COVID containment status and to continue to be recognised as a “safe destination.

The pace of recovery for the tourism sector will be directly linked to how quickly the majority of our population gets vaccinated and we acknowledge that this may take some time.

Countries around the world including New Zealand and Australia are now progressing their vaccination programs as quickly as they can, along with reviewing border reopening conditions and timeframes.

Anyone waiting for the economy to gear up, hoping to get their jobs back, or trying to get their business off the backburner should understand the need to support efforts to successfully access the balance of vaccine doses urgently needed for Fiji to stay aligned with vaccination programs taking place around the world.

This may be the one time that Fiji cannot afford to be different from the rest of the world. The COVID-19 virus is not leaving anytime soon, so we would be best prepared by being vaccinated against it.

In the 1950s and earlier. Polio was a feared, life-threatening disease. The Polio vaccine is now given to young children and over decades of continued vaccinations, the disease has been almost wiped out in countries around the world.

In Fiji, it is part of the list of vaccinations we ensure our children receive that are included in their health cards which are checked when reaching school entry age. We consider the list of required vaccines part of growing up safely in Fiji. They are not new, have become part of our lives so people do not turn to social media to question it.

So, recent fear-mongering on social media regarding the vaccine for a recently discovered disease that spreads very similarly to other airborne viruses damages the good that is being done to protect our population. Some of the false information being circulated has been somewhat disingenuous as well as cynical or it may be simply a fear of needles or the unknown, spurring the spreading of false information.

It must be noted that side-effects are always expected for any vaccine. Some of us carry the scars on our upper arms for vaccinations in high school while others had no reactions. Most of us laughed at those poor kids who fainted at the sight of the needle. Some became feverish later, but most did not and certainly, no-one ever died.

FHTA has continued to work closely with our members to ensure that they are always kept abreast of the recent relevant updates that affect or impact the tourism industry including the vaccination programme, with the widespread response from the industry indicating readiness, even impatience, to be next in line to get vaccinated.

However, while the vaccine adds another, deeper layer of protection, it is not a magic bullet that will allow us to go back to how things were pre-COVID. It has been widely accepted that it is highly unlikely things will ever go back to pre-COVID times. Too much has changed and the enforced pause on our daily lives and businesses has caused a re-evaluation of how we do almost everything.

We will therefore have to continue observing the COVID-safe guidelines of reduced crowding, protective masks, hand washing and sanitizing. At least until we can get confirmation that we have eliminated the virus. Which will never happen unless we are all vaccinated. And continuing with border closures for years to come is not an option for this industry. Or for Fiji’s economic recovery.

So, this is our new normal. Fiji can and will be on-par with the world in terms of keeping our people safe and being ready to confirm our COVID-contained, soon-to-be vaccinated status and nearly ready for international travel again.

And we simply cannot wait for that happier, safer day!

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 18 March 2021)

Westin Denarau Celebrates World Sleep Day with Breakfast in Bed

Westin Denarau Celebrates World Sleep Day with Breakfast in Bed

Nadi 19 March 2021 – The Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa celebrated the power of a great night’s rest with World Sleep Day by offering guests Breakfast in Bed. Guests who checked in to the property on Thursday the 18th had the option of their breakfast being served in bed so they could enjoy additional hours of rest to prepare for an incredible day ahead.

The World Sleep Day is an annual event supported by the brand, intended to be a celebration of sleep and a call to action on important issues related to sleep, including medicine, education, social aspects and driving. The initiative is organized by the World Sleep Day Committee of the World Sleep Society and aims to lessen the burden of sleep problems on society through better prevention and management of sleep disorders.

A good night’s sleep is foundational to the well-being of our guests but getting a restful night is not always easy these days. This yea’s World Sleep Day at the Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa, encourages guests and the community alike, to reset nighttime routines and make new healthy habits around sleep. The resort invites guests to a night of relaxation and calm, with some Westin White Tea bath products, herbal tea and getting into the Heavenly Bed® early. The resort prompts guests to prioritize a good nights rest, whether at home or at the resort.

Sleep Well which is one of the six pillars of Wellness for the Westin brand understands good sleep is critical for both mental and physical health for guests and have created an assortment of products and programs to ensure that every guest has a sound night’s sleep to prepare for an incredible day ahead. This includes the Heavenly Bed® which transforms the sleep experience by providing a deep restful sleep. In addition to this, every room has a Sleep Well Lavender Balm which is a complimentary amenity to the heavenly sleep experience. It is infused with calming essential oils of lavender and chamomile and the Sleep Well Lavender Balm soothes the senses, eases tension and promotes revitalizing rest. Guests can roll onto pulse points before bedtime to foster sound sleep.

FETA to Livestream Tourism Event

FETA to Livestream Tourism Event

FETA 17 March 2021 – The ANZ Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards (FETA) will be shown live for the first time in its history to allow the tourism industry and the public to view the event.

FETA Co-Chair Olivia Mavoa said the trustees have decided to Livestream on social media platform, Facebook to be able to reach audiences who will not be able to attend this Friday’s awards function.

“The trustees of the ANZ Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards are pleased to announce that this Friday’s event will be live-streamed on the FETA Facebook page. Unlike previous years, this year the event is being hosted by invitation only. We would like to reach our tourism family and friends who will not be able to attend but can now watch it for free on our Facebook page,” Ms. Mavoa said.

“All our winners of the 13 categories and our Lifetime Achievement and Visionary Awards winners will be recognised in this special event that we had to cancel last year due to COVID-19. The pandemic has had a prolonged impact on tourism affecting everyone that has been directly or indirectly involved in this sector. As a sign of encouragement and hope, we will continue to recognise excellence in Fiji Tourism.”

Prime Minister Hon. Voreqe Bainimarama will be the chief guest at the 23rd annual ANZ Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards.
“This event will recognise winners of the 2019 awards season with our chief guest presenting the main awards, the prestigious Lifetime Achievement and Visionary Awards to individuals who have contributed significantly towards the tourism industry. The Hon. Prime Minister will also present a special memorial award for the late Dixon Seeto,” Ms. Mavoa added.

“Tourism is very much alive and operating in this constrained business environment through initiatives like Love Our Locals Fiji. We are all looking forward to borders re-opening and hotels ramping up operations in the near future.”

The ANZ Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards will be held on Friday, March 19 at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa.

Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards to Recognise Winners

Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards to Recognise Winners

The ANZ Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards will hold a winners event on Friday, March 19 as a symbol of encouragement and hope for the tourism industry.

FETA Co-Chair Bill Whiting said the event which was cancelled in March 2020 due to COVID-19 will now go ahead to acknowledge the courage and resilience displayed over the last year.

“Over the last 12 months, COVID-19 has brought about unprecedented challenges that required courage and resilience from all those who are directly and indirectly involved in our tourism industry. Recognising this spirit and the enormous challenges that we are overcoming, FETA trustees would like to further encourage and support our fellow industry colleagues in time as we start preparing for when borders will begin to reopen. We are working as an industry to again proudly achieve Excellence in Fiji Tourism,” Whiting said.

“Our Prime Minister, Hon. Voreqe Bainimarama has graciously accepted our invitation to be the chief guest. Minister for Tourism, Hon. Faiyaz Koya will also be attending and a number of government officials and VIPs. Following the cancellation of last year’s event, the Trustees wanted to hold an event to recognise all our finalists and winners from the 2019 season.”

“Thanks to the high standard of excellence achieved by many companies and individuals. Fiji Tourism has always punched above its weight in the global marketplace. We need to remind ourselves of what we can achieve. There is no better place to start than to complete the 2019 ANZ FETA Awards and in doing so recognise Excellence in Fiji Tourism, what we were, and what we will be again.”

The Visionary and Life Time Achievement awards will be presented along with awards for winners in 13 categories.
The ANZ Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards will be held at 10am on Friday, March 19 at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa.
“The trustees feel that whilst overdue, it is very important that as we begin the journey to recover from the impact of the pandemic. FETA will present these awards and continue to recognise the efforts of the wonderful people and organisations that make up our tourism industry,” Whiting added.

The ANZ FETA winner’s event is by invitation only and will be free of charge to all invited guests.

FJ Signs Agreement with ADB for US$65 million COVID-19 Liquidity Support Facility

FJ Signs Agreement with ADB for US$65 million COVID-19 Liquidity Support Facility

Fiji Airways 12 March 2021 – Fiji Airways, Fiji’s National Airline, today signed a US$65 million Liquidity Support Facility with the Asian Development (ADB). The Support Facility is to help the airline cover operating costs and meet financial obligations while the travel demand remains non-existent due to the pandemic-induced border closures. The financing comprises a $40 million loan from ADB and a further $25 million loan from the Leading Asia’s Private Infrastructure Fund (LEAP), which will be administered by ADB.

Mr. Andre Viljoen, Fiji Airways Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer said: “We are delighted to receive ADB’s financial support at this critical time. The US$65 million Liquidity Support Facility from ADB is a great endorsement for Fiji Airways and its strategy of bridging the world to Fiji and the South Pacific with a sustainably profitable, high-quality air service. ADB’s facility, along with the dedicated support of Fiji Airways’ staff, management, Board, and other stakeholders, will allow us to weather the turbulence of COVID-19 and sustain our critical role in connecting the world to the Fijian and regional economies.”

Mr. Viljoen added that the airline was focussed on its ‘future fit’ measures to survive and thrive once borders re-opened: “Fiji Airways will lead the country’s economic recovery through tourism and trade when travel resumes safely, and this historic support facility from the ADB will help us do just that. We thank the Fijian Government, especially the Honourable Prime Minister and the Honourable Attorney General, for their support and the requisite Government guarantee that made this support facility possible.”

Mr. Jackie B. Surtani, ADB Private Sector Operations Department Infrastructure Finance Division Director for East Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, said: “COVID-19 has crippled the international aviation industry. This has severely affected Fiji and other Pacific countries which rely on air links for critical freight, health, education, communication services, and especially for tourism—which accounts for around one-third of Fiji’s gross domestic product. This investment underscores the breadth of ADB’s commitment to ensure continued essential infrastructure services in Fiji and throughout the Pacific.”

Founded in 1951, the Fiji Airways Group comprises Fiji Airways, Fiji’s National Airline and its subsidiaries: Fiji Link, its domestic and regional carrier, Pacific Call Comm Ltd, and a 38.75% stake in the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa on Denarau Island, Nadi. Fiji Airways is the largest inbound operator to Fiji and has the most comprehensive South Pacific network, connecting the region to and from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Asia.

LEAP was established in 2016 with a $1.5 billion capital commitment from the Japan International Cooperation Agency. It is focused on delivering high quality and sustainable private sector infrastructure projects to ADB’s developing member countries.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.

Tourism Talanoa: Balancing The Management Scales

Tourism Talanoa: Balancing The Management Scales

FHTA, 12 March 2021 – Earlier this week, the world commemorated International Women’s Day with its theme of “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” which celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the gaps that remain.

For the tourism sector as well, we highlight the immense contribution of women to the industry.

Let us begin with some acknowledgements. Did you know that in most regions of the world, women make up the majority of the tourism workforces, but tend to be concentrated in the lower-paid and informal jobs in tourism?

In a 2018 Global Report on Women in Tourism, it was noted that 95% of the people employed in tourism around the world were women, yet they tended to be relegated to the lower-level positions and earned comparatively less than men.

As we continue to develop policies to enhance our economic development, we must not hesitate to empower women to participate fully in economic life.

This is essential to building strong economies; creating more stable and just societies; achieving internationally agreed goals for development, sustainability, and human rights; and improving the quality of life for women, and consequently, that of communities and countries they are part of.

For the tourism sector, the impact of greater gender equality and women’s empowerment would be highly beneficial, for the well-known reason that diverse and gender-equitable organizations usually perform better.

As one of the largest employers of women and young people in Fiji, tourism’s overall imbalance of gender representation in management positions is being addressed at all levels.

Part of the recognised reason for this imbalance comes from the very nature of tourism as an industry. To be a business player in this environment requires being open every day of the week, working long hours and managing teams that must deliver consistently great service. Or risk losing your competitive edge and eventually your customers.

Add to this the challenges of ensuring a holiday or special event can still take place despite adverse weather like cyclones, flooding or storm surges and the ensuing impact of these on power or water shutdowns, transportation links cut off and medical emergencies, and you get a sense of the strength of character and leadership qualities tourism managers are expected to have in spades.

And if you can do all this as well as repair a boat engine in time to get your guests out on the last flight before the borders shut, there is no doubt you can get a job with this industry tomorrow. Or, when it eventually opens.

That is not to say there aren’t already some formidable examples of female leadership in this space, only that there simply aren’t as many as there could be, probably because many women choose employment that allows them to continue to be closer to or more closely support their families. Choices, therefore, are more difficult for women.

But it isn’t just tourism that is lagging in its gender balance in management roles. However, tourism can be the leader in changing this as the world resets after the pandemic shutdowns and closures. So, as we have done before, we will continue to highlight in future Talanoa’s, some of our very experienced women leaders who have chosen this tough industry.

While it might be true that with the often 7-days-a-week job requirements, long hours and industry-related challenges; local women have had a more difficult time moving up the proverbial ladder, that’s not to say that it cannot or has not been done.

Women have ascended to top-level jobs in the past and will continue to do so in the future. The instances, however, are too far in between to be considered a revolution. Yet.

It has been said often enough before, that we should hire for attitude and train for skill.

To develop the tourism industry into a workforce of more inspiring local leaders, our ambitious youth must be encouraged to embrace positive, “can do” attitudes if they are serious about being in an industry that can throw the most experienced, or highly qualified manager unexpected curveballs, with a crisis seemingly always just around the corner.

Developing skills that only require sitting with a laptop accessing free wifi is not going to move Fiji from a developing island state into the transformative, progressive society Fiji is aspiring to become.

We need innovative young people to have the energy and will to contribute meaningfully to our development goals and be encouraged to do so in an inclusive environment that celebrates diversity.

The Global Report on Women in Tourism goes on to note that targeted interventions by public, private and civil society actors that include promoting equal pay, tackle sexual harassment and encourage recruitment of women into high-level employment helps to promote decent work for women.

Gender-sensitive policies at the national level increase women’s economic empowerment that is then more effectively implemented into sectors like tourism. While investment in skills training for women can lead to greater outcomes for gender equality.

As a progressive industry, albeit in a holding pattern currently, these issues are already in play and being seriously addressed at several different levels.

So, while in a said holding pattern, we welcome news of the first dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines into the country as part of the COVAX facility initiative to distribute the vaccines to countries like Fiji.

The first batch of vaccines has been earmarked for our frontline workers including medical staff, disciplined forces involved in maintaining border security and COVID-safe operations, and relevant airline, airport and transport staff. This was rolled out yesterday with several frontliners getting the first of two jabs.

There is expected to be over 100,000 vaccine doses in total brought in-country via the COVAX facility and we know that once again, the vast majority of the hard-working medical staff tasked with ensuring Fiji’s population is safely administered the required doses that will provide us with another important layer of safety against the virus, will be women.

Women who will be working long hours, managing anxious and often difficult crowds, while staying away from families and friends until their work is completed.

A measure of one’s passion for their work is often simply noting their time in that industry and their approach to each challenge that comes their way.

The tourism industry may not have much in common with health workers except for the high number of women employed in both sectors. They will therefore find kindred spirits who can match any need to keep going until the job is done.
Persevering, supporting and ready to make any changes needed once the pandemic dust settles. So, onwards and upwards, all women working towards personal, organizational and national goals.

We acknowledge you and everyone else that is hanging in there doing the best they can to preserve and prepare our side of paradise.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 12 March 2021)

Tourism industry vaccine rollout support

Tourism industry vaccine rollout support

FHTA 11 March 2020 – News of the initial phase of the vaccine roll-out commencing is being discussed with much excitement amongst tourism stakeholders.

The anticipation that vaccines would be eventually available was always going to be a game-changer for travel and tourism around the world. For Fiji, an effective rollout will be critical for everyone’s health and safety, the revival of the tourism industry and thousands of people getting their jobs back.

The Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) Chief Executive Officer, Fantasha Lockington has reiterated industry stakeholder’s support offered earlier to the Ministry of Health & Medical Services with the logistics of rolling out the vaccines.

After several lead-up meetings and the recent launch in Nadi last week of the first of several Tourism Talanoa’s expected to take place to continue the industry consultation forums, the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Health officials were appraised of the type of support available that could enhance efficiencies, reduce costs and provide innovative solutions to accessing remote communities.

“We have been, and are ready to assist, and understand how critical it is to maintain Fiji’s COVID containment status to continue to be recognised as a “safe destination”. We also expect that the pace of recovery for the tourism industry will be directly linked to how quickly the majority of our population gets vaccinated and acknowledge that this may take some time”, she said.

As countries around the world including New Zealand and Australia, ratchet up their vaccination programs and advise border reopening conditions and timeframes, we support Government’s efforts to successfully access the balance of vaccine dose numbers urgently needed to stay aligned.

The Association continues to work with its members to share information from the medical teams it is engaged with on the vaccine’s safety and the need to continue to diligently practice the required COVID-safe hygiene protocols.

Marriott International Hotels in Fiji and Samoa Commemorate Commonwealth Day

Marriott International Hotels in Fiji and Samoa Commemorate Commonwealth Day

Nadi, Fiji March 10, 2021 – Marriott International Hotels in Fiji and Samoa partnered with the Victoria League for Commonwealth Friendship, to celebrate Commonwealth Day, the important yearly occasion observed by member countries of the Commonwealth.

The 2021 Commonwealth Day Multi-Cultural Service was held at the St. John’s Cathedral in Brisbane and took place in the presence of His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Governor of Queensland, Commonwealth dignitaries, including Executives from Marriott International in support of the occasion.

Associates from Marriott International Hotels in Fiji and Samoa were also able to view the service through a live broadcast that was made available at the hotels. The morning service was a COVID safe event, showcasing multiple unique musical and cultural performances that represent the diversity of the Commonwealth, including performances from Fiji and Samoa.

As part of the collaboration, Marriott International Hotels in Fiji and Samoa came together and organized cultural performances for the event, cultural content to be shown during the service and sponsored transportation for children from Indooroopilly State School to attend and partake in the celebrations.

“We are delighted to be part of the Commonwealth Day commemoration, a day to mark and celebrate our membership of the unique organization which values peace, democracy, equity and inclusion. These values are fundamental to Marriott International as leaders in the travel and tourism industry, where we have taken the lead in the fight against some of the industry’s highest-risk and most pressing issues,” says Neeraj Chadha, Multi-Property Vice President Fiji & Samoa, Marriott International.

Commonwealth Nations and Commonwealth organisations encourage empowerment and inclusion for all people – particularly women, young people and developing communities.

Marriott International Hotels in Samoa would also like to acknowledge Samoa Tourism Authority for their involvement and support in working to curate content for Commonwealth Day.

Recorded live coverage of this dynamic and colourful celebration which will include cultural performances by various Commonwealth Nations is available via the Cathedral YouTube Channel here.

Commonwealth Day – dancers with QLD Governor General Paul de Jersey AC – Barry Street photo (These images have been supplied by Barry Street, Brisbane, Australia)
Commonwealth Day – church with dancers Barry Street photo (These images have been supplied by Barry Street, Brisbane, Australia)

The benefits of vaccinating against COVID-19

The benefits of vaccinating against COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to say that wearing masks and social distancing help reduce the chance of being exposed to COVID-19 or spreading it to others, but these measures are not enough. Vaccines are needed to protect the body against exposure to the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) not only advises that vaccines save millions of lives each year but also reduce transmissions.

Vaccines work by training and preparing the body’s natural defences — the immune system — to recognize and fight off the viruses they target.

One of the most frequent asked questions is can a COVID-19 vaccine make you sick with COVID-19? The simple answer is no, as none of the COVID-19 vaccines contains the live virus.

At the outset, I believe it is important to state that COVID-19 vaccination is a safer way to help build protection. If you get sick you could spread the disease to friends, family, and others around you. Clinical trials of ALL vaccines must first show they are safe and effective before any vaccine can be authorized or approved for use, including COVID-19 vaccines.

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Staff at Challenge Plaza in Nadi Choose to Challenge this International Women’s Day

Staff at Challenge Plaza in Nadi Choose to Challenge this International Women’s Day

Nadi, March 8, 2021 – Staff of Tourism Fiji and fellow tenants at the Challenge Plaza Complex in Namaka, Nadi gathered today to mark International Women’s Day. The event allowed the women to share their experiences, unique challenges, and support for each other as working women.

International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8 to observe women in leadership roles and their contribution to cultural, political, social and economic development.

Speaking at the event this morning was Catherine O’Donnell, owner of the popular western eatery, Mama’s Pizza, who said 2020 was a tough year for the business but that their local customers have kept them going.

In recalling fond memories of her single mum opening up the business back in 1984, Catherine said her mother’s passion and hard work contributed to the success of the business.

She explained, “My mum’s hard work got the business to where it is today, for the first four years she didn’t take a day off. I remember growing up in the business and pitching in where I could whether it was washing dishes or cleaning, it was very much a family affair.”

When asked how the pandemic had impacted the business she said, “It is essential, in challenging times, to stay consistent and be positive – that’s what we’ve done.”

Her one advice to women on International Women’s Day was to challenge themselves to take some time off and to try and keep a positive mindset.

“As women, we’re always working, and I think it’s important to take a break too and have some time to ourselves to rest. I also want to encourage us all to stay positive because there’s always something to be grateful for every single day,” Catherine said.

Tourism Fiji’s Director of Marketing Emma Campbell said, “Today, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, we focus our attention on some of the amazing women who work at Tourism Fiji.  The Global Pandemic may have impacted our ways of working significantly, but we’ve embraced this challenge, come together, and we are a strong team.  This International Women’s Day I choose to champion the amazing talent in my team by embracing their strengths and continuously supporting their personal development.”

Some of the challenges that the Tourism Fiji women chose this year include: 

  • I choose to challenge the negative stereotype around young people in leadership positions in the workplace 
  • I choose to be the best version of a working mom and challenge stereotypes advocating maternity being a speed bump in a woman’s career 
  • I will manage a gender equal mindset 
  • I challenge myself and younger women to stand up against bullying and provide support to those who are victims of bullying 

The day is an opportunity to acknowledge and raise awareness of women’s rights and gender equality. 

Tourism Talanoa: Letting Go and Starting Again

Tourism Talanoa: Letting Go and Starting Again

FHTA, 4 March 2021 – A recent local article repeated a statement that around 2000 tourism workers, who have been on leave without pay due to the economic downturn in 2020, were expected to be made redundant soon.

While this was always been a strong possibility due to the safety measures Fiji put in place by shutting borders against the pandemic early last year, the consequent drying up of international visitors resulted in no work being able to be provided by many business operators.

Putting the overall challenges into perspective, the IMF Departmental Paper “Tourism in the Post-Pandemic World Economic -Challenges and Opportunities for Asia-Pacific and the Western Hemisphere” notes that the COVID-19 pandemic, is a global crisis like no other in modern history, that has led to a sudden stop in travel and a collapse in economic activity worldwide.

It further says, “As a major economic driver, tourism accounts for more than 10 percent of the global economy and in many countries a large share of exports and foreign exchange earnings. The industry is also highly interconnected; multiple sectors are dependent on its performance. The pandemic has had severe repercussions on the complex global tourism supply chain, putting millions of tourism jobs at risk. Informal and migrant workers, particularly women and youth, have suffered disproportionately from diminished employment opportunities and lack of access to social safety nets, leading to increased poverty and slowing progress toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals”.

The impact on tourism businesses and Fiji’s economy has meant that the more than $2b revenue-earning and tax income generation capacity has been severely curtailed. This has taken a huge financial toll on the tourism industry, and Fiji, as it has on every other country and economy with a heavy reliance on this industry.

Since April 2020, all operational requirements have had to be reviewed to ensure businesses could survive the drawn-out impact of the COVID-19 induced crisis for which no-one around the world could predict (and to a certain extent, still cannot) correctly predict its eventual end.

Like any crisis, every business has had to re-evaluate strategies, change direction, review costs and consider how it must survive the crisis to enable it to reemerge eventually in a relatively strong position to continue to operate when and if circumstances allowed it to operate again.

Where work could not be provided because a business was forced to close, employees had to be let go. Where work was able to be provided intermittently, work hours for employees had to be redistributed. Whether businesses were hovering between closure and specifically timed openings, deciding to focus on scheduled refurbishing or extensions or changing their usual operational focus; all have had to drastically reduce workforce numbers.

The Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association members have been provided guidance and advice to ensure correctly complied with the Employment Relations Act (ERA) regulations. The Association has worked diligently with its members and the Ministry of Employment to apply as far as possible, that fair and transparent options were offered to employees as part of the critically required business restructuring environment that the industry was forced to implement.

Of the approximately 110,000 employees we believe were affected, at least 40% of the total number were provided with reduced hours or rotational shift options based on drastically slashed room inventory being made available, intermittent transport services and other activities that had to be reduced by up to 80% initially.

Employee support from tourism operators has been provided without publicity for the most part throughout the country and initially commenced with care packages at the beginning of the crisis. Other support that included soft loans, accommodation until ferry services restarted, cash and food assistance during the many cyclones experienced and going out of their way to contact staff who had been let go earlier so they could access the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) assistance, reflect the deep roots the industry has with the communities it operates from within.

With the eventual marketing of domestic tourism offering reduced rates to encourage local travel, the industry reached out, often with great difficulty, to reemploy a further 10% of employees for the weekends and holidays that are preferred.

By late 2020, the bulk of tourism employees had returned to their original homes. Many returned to farming available land, fishing or taking up home-based micro-businesses to support their families where alternative employment opportunities could not be found.

With a fortnightly FNPF payment to rely on and perhaps the support of new business ventures or family support, many tourism employees chose not to return to work for weekend-only work and reduced hours based on the currently limited demand. And continue to do so.

There are therefore fewer options available for an employer who has released his staff he currently does not need because he has insufficient or no work for them. What options are available if they have agreed to be on Leave Without Pay and choose not to return to work for the few hours a day they may be needed, and they represent a skill still required? Do you hire someone else to fix the plumbing, maintain the generator or keep the boat engine in working order?

Many tourism employers are scratching their heads considering it might have been a simpler option to have made all their staff redundant earlier, but they may have chosen not to do so initially due to staff loyalty, deep connections with the communities nearby from where their staff generally come from or simply because they know with certainty that they will need those same staff back again.

After all, he has provided the historical training, they understand the business operations and he cannot afford to start from scratch when the borders reopen as they inevitably will.

Yet businesses that took the bold and often painful option of mass redundancies earlier were heavily criticized with very little understanding of the background or reasoning behind this.

It is a vexing situation that no employment legislation or human resource expert could have foreseen or had simple answers for even 12 months into the crisis. Certainly, there are no precedents to fall back on. Each situation requires its own analysis that takes into consideration every aspect of the business needs, its location and organizational structure.

There are so many varying scenarios that MBA students would have hundreds of examples for which to apply their analytical problem-solving skills and still not come up with a generic solution that would be deemed acceptable to all concerned.
There are just as many stories of positivity and goodwill. As there are of the consequence of released tourism employees into other sectors. Chefs from hotels and resorts are making a remarkable difference around Fiji in the restaurants they have joined or personally opened.
Customer service, marketing and event management skills are being improved in many businesses. So, if you have been surprised lately with the friendly face or voice, the tastier food or food options, you might be experiencing the services of an ex-tourism worker who is grateful to have employment.

Human resourcing issues aside, the industry continues to dig deep to not just be able to remain in business but to ensure it can also stay compliant, safe and emerge still as strong and vibrant an industry as it was when it was forced into hibernation.
Fiji has a small population and despite its 300 plus islands, is a small country in comparison to its larger neighbours navigating the vaccination rollout. We, therefore, believe that the right vaccination strategy once implemented and successful, could be the impetus of a faster process to get back on our feet.

Herd immunity will be able to be achieved earlier than, for example, our tourism competitors in South East Asia who have more populous tourism-dependent economies.

This vision is feasible because our key tourism markets of Australia and New Zealand have begun their vaccination programmes and that bodes well for our tourism sector’s successful Blue Lanes and VIP lanes initiative.

As we make our way to maximizing vaccination across our population, we are also aware that several Pacific island states have not had any community transmissions of the virus, with many others having gone several hundred days without a local case.

So, the concept of a travel bubble with some regional neighbours, where quarantine-free travel between those with low or no incidence of COVID-19, could be closer to implementation as well.

For now, we continue to plan, adjust, look for amicable solutions with our mainly furloughed workforce and amend strategies so that when the opportunity arises, we are ready for whatever scenario we are faced with.

We know staying safe first is a priority and planning for our next steps comes a close second.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 4 March 2021)

Giving Back to the Community – Donations to Animals Fiji Shelter

Giving Back to the Community – Donations to Animals Fiji Shelter

Nadi, Fiji -­ March 01, 2020 – Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay’s team of associates visits Animals Fiji shelter at Nasoso in Nadi, donating retired paper materials through the ‘Solia Lesu’ (Give Back) program. The resort team had a delightful opportunity to also tour and visit the sheltered pets, further recognizing the types of service offered to care for animals at the shelter for adoption, caretaking and livelihood enhancements especially for those staying at the shelter. Animals Fiji also highlighted the engaged community works carried out to help the strays in Fiji, particularly within the areas in the Western and Northern divisions. The donated paper materials will help the sheltered pets to have daily clean flooring to sleep and play on within their safely contained pens.

“The Solia Lesu program was initially founded in 2020 to establish aid towards our associates as well as the community where the resort had fundraised for food packs, school stationaries and toys, including hotel linens for donations. We are glad to have extended our initiative towards the furry friends and placing the recyclable telephone directories into better use at the Animals Fiji shelter. We look forward to continuing developing meaningful and supportive relationships with the community through our TakeCare culture of Marriott International,” says Silvano Dressino, General Manager of Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay.

Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay had also extended love towards animals welcoming pet to stay with the Pawfect Staycation package, an ideal holiday plan for travellers with service animals or well-mannered pets in one of our Duplex Ocean Front rooms. Guests travelling with their canine pets will be offered a special dog biscuit made by our chefs and a drinking bowl is placed into rooms. The room type and location is perfect for guests to go on relaxing walks on the footpaths between lush gardens with calming views of the Pacific Ocean or take a swim in the ocean. Dining areas with comfortable sitting spaces are also specially allocated for guests with their four-legged friend. An additional $50 cleaning fees is charged for pet check-ins. For more information on the Pawfect Staycation, contact the resort directly on + 679 670 7000 or +679 890 6038.

Around 2000 hotel workers expected to be made redundant soon

Around 2000 hotel workers expected to be made redundant soon

Fijivillage 25 February 2021 – Around 2000 hotel workers who were sent on leave without pay since last year are expected to be made redundant soon.

Majority of these workers have been unemployed since April last year.

National Union of Hotel and Catering Employees General Secretary Daniel Urai says 7 major hotels and resorts which had earlier sent their workers on leave without pay are now negotiating with the union for redundancy packages.

The redundancy package is where a staff will get a weeks pay for each year of service.

Urai says these hotels had hoped to bring these workers back when things normalize but they have realized that this is not going to happen any time soon.

He adds these hotels do not want to hold back workers on leave without pay anymore because they realize that the workers need the money they will receive from the redundancy package.

Urai adds most of the hotels are only employing 25 percent of the workforce for maintenance purposes.

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Fiji Immigration: Clarification on Permits

Immigration-Dept
  1. Work Permit extensions should be applied for a minimum of 1 month prior to its expiry to ensure a faster turnaround. Permit processing turnaround has improved tremendously, but we need to do our part as well.
  2. Work Permit holders do not need to leave the country to get an extension
  3. Extensions cover family members/dependents as well
  4. Where a contract with the original organisation is ending and the work permit is still valid, a new work permit must be applied for if a new contract is confirmed with another organisation
  5. Where a work permit is expiring along with the work contract and the permit holder is unable to leave due to closed borders, a “special purpose COVID extension” may be applied for that provides an extension for 6 months, plus a further 6 months after that. No employment is allowed under this extension.
  6. If you have a contracted work permit holder that is currently out of the country & the permit has expired, you can apply for an extension to that permit based on the need for that person’s skills and your expectation that they can return to work after the required 14 day quarantine period on arrival.
  7. The 14-day Business Visa is being replaced with a Visitor Permit that allows business – this can be between 4 months & 12 months and allows multiple entries into Fiji (and reduces the need for extensions and new applications). This and other changes to the Immigration Act will be updated once the approved regulations are released. This permit must be applied for by the hiring organisation.
  8. Special Purpose Permits – covers Yachties (that have yacht permits for 18 months extendable for 6 months or more). These must be applied through recognised Yacht Agents. The permits are also applicable for Pacific Island Country citizens on medical grounds. No employment is allowed under this permit.
  9. Tourist visa holders who have been unable to leave Fiji can apply for multiple extensions, but also cannot take up formal employment. A person on a tourist visa who has not been able to return home and is currently on an extended permit, and has been offered employment, must apply for a work permit through the employer that is contracting them.
  10. Changes are also being implemented with the Investment Fiji Act. Businesses operating with an Investment Certificate will be expected to register their businesses with the Registrar of Companies (ROC). Check FHTA’s information on ROC requirements here.