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.


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.


Fiji Immigration: Clarification on Permits

  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.

Our Fijian escape fantasy

Our Fijian escape fantasy

Ensemble Magazine 1 February 2021 – But then a stroke of genius befell me: we could go to Fiji. I cautiously got some quotes and was pleasantly surprised. It really wasn’t too much more than renting a decent bach in peak season. And, no traffic delays, stressful supermarket shopping, cleaning or cooking. Also? Kids club.

So, instead of battling Farro at 8am on Christmas Eve, we casually Ubered to the airport, and by that afternoon my children were happily ensconced in the kids club, while my husband and I drank mojitos with a lovely family from Brisbane while we all congratulated ourselves on being so clever and so relaxed.

Santa visited our bure that night, bringing with him sunblock, books and a pack of cards. We were woken by local villagers singing Christmas carols on the glorious beach at dawn and as we all stood to watch, the big man himself flew past on a jet ski.


Five Fiji resorts we’ve been dreaming about

Five Fiji resorts we’ve been dreaming about

NZ House & Garden 18 January 2021 – Yes we’re blessed with a beautiful country and yes we’ve been lucky to have escaped the long laborious lockdowns others around the world have experienced. But we’ve been gagging to escape from these shores and indulge in one of our biggest national pastimes – travel.

And when those international flights start up again, one of the best – and wisest – choices may be closer to home. Think Fiji.

Fiji holidays are like no other. Just a three-hour flight away, they are the ultimate in relaxation with superb weather, beaches and pools galore, and wide smiles and exuberant “bula” greetings from its friendly, welcoming people. Bliss in early post-Covid lockdown times.

Restrictions are also likely to ease between New Zealand and Fiji right at the best time to visit – during our winter when the Fiji weather is mild, settled and dry.


Backpacker Tourism Faces a Changing Landscape Post-Pandemic

Backpacker Tourism Faces a Changing Landscape Post-Pandemic

Skift 23 February 2021 – For decades, hordes of travellers have explored vast sections of the globe with a backpack in tow. Whether they were hitting up the tried and true Banana Pancake Trail in Southeast Asia or memorably losing a journal during those travels, many people have viewed those trips as seminal moments in their lives.

But backpacker tourism faces an uncertain post-pandemic future. Several destinations, like New Zealand, that are popular with backpackers may focus more on attracting high-end visitors.

Moreover, the death of backpacker tourism has already been foreshadowed as the cheap flights many young travellers have relied on may become less frequent as airlines seek to recoup the massive losses they’ve suffered.

But is such fear warranted? Maybe not. Outdoor tourism remains a popular option for travellers looking for socially distanced activities.

“I don’t think that anything will ‘kill off’ youth tourism,” said Wendy Morrill, the research and education manager at the WYSE Travel Confederation. “And I say, ‘youth tourism’ as ‘backpacker tourism’ as what I consider Australia and New Zealand’s branding/labelling of the segment of travellers who are 30 to 35 years old or younger and utilize their working holidays schemes,” she added.


Fiji and PNG: no room to move on COVID-19

Fiji and PNG: no room to move on COVID-19

Devpolicy Blog 25 February 2021 – Neither Fiji nor Papua New Guinea, the two economic giants of the Pacific, has been able to increase spending to respond to the health or the economic fall out of the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.

In both countries, after adjusting for inflation, spending in 2021 will be about the same as it was in 2019. The consistency of spending before COVID-19 (2019) and after the onset of the pandemic (2021) across both countries over the three years is quite remarkable, and clearly evident from the graph below. (2020, though not shown, is hardly different either.)

What the graph also makes clear is that the situation in both Fiji and PNG is very different to that here in Australia, where the government has engaged in a massive spending splurge, increasing spending by about 39% to protect Australians against the pandemic downturn.


Tourism Talanoa: The Change Expected or the Change Forced

Tourism Talanoa: The Change Expected or the Change Forced

FHTA, 26 February 2021 – “How many human beings have to die before some people understand the gravity of the situation?” The plea from British author Wayne Gerard Trotman is succinct but weighty.

That age-old belief that things will worsen before they improve rings true too as in a December 2020 briefing by the World Health Organization, that the ‘destiny’ of COVID-19 is for it to become endemic, rather than to disappear as many are hoping.
Simply put, that means that COVID becomes a part of our lives that will have to be adapted to a level that will be eventually considered ‘normal’.

Think back to post 9/11 airport protocols that when first imposed we vehemently opposed and criticised. Believe it or not, that was twenty (20) years ago and we have been observing travel protocols at airports and in aircraft and airlines that relate to the safety requirements that were put into place as a result. These are now considered normal.

So as Fiji endeavours to maintain its ‘COVID-contained’ status amid a sprinkling of confirmed cases at border quarantine facilities, we need to adopt the mindset that the changes that will have to be imposed for future travel as well as into our daily lives will be changing to protect our lives, our livelihoods and consequently our economy.

The United States reported this week that their total COVID-19 deaths have surpassed 500,000 and that is out of their confirmed cases of 27 million. That death toll figure is a sombre one especially for a small island nation like Fiji where that would translate to about 56% of our population.

WHO’s tally of the global death toll is at 2,462,911 out of a total of 111,102,016 confirmed cases. So, if one thing is certain in these most uncertain of times, it is that the virus is slowly but assuredly making its slow trek around the globe. Hitting some countries twice and even three times in devastating and waves that bring entire cities to a complete halt.

With COVID-19 recognised as a new coronavirus, there has not been sufficiently solid research or enough experience with its infection rates until now.

Around mid-2020, whilst the world was in the throes of the pandemic, Fiji was struggling with an outbreak of dengue and leptospirosis. At that time, we only recorded one COVID-related fatality, but there were four from dengue and 10 from leptospirosis.

So, while we are well aware of the issues that the world is currently facing, sometimes it is the lesser-known issues that relate the most to us in Fiji as a developing island economy.

We have done well to remain COVID contained, but the impacts of COVID on our economy has now been well-documented.
It is therefore heartening to see and often be part of support being offered for a range of people and businesses from all walks of life.

Initially support poured in that targeted tourism workers who had lost their jobs. Donors, development agencies, NGO’s and multinational organisations have looked for practical ways to provide guidance, funding, training and support to both industry-affected businesses and their employees.

Many initiatives have provided direct support as well as facilitating partnerships that create opportunities that benefit individual, groups and communities. These provide access to training, upskilling, direct financial assistance or financial literacy programs.

Connecting small businesses owners to tools, support networks and mentors is helping provide survival options. Thousands of unemployed Fijians are being assisted to look for alternative revenue channels, understand basic business principles in their new ventures or learn new skills.

People who were employed in the creative arts that relied on tourism are tapping into technical advice provided by a recent partnership of ILO and Market Development Facility (MDF) that provided support for Business Development Services.

It is not generally appreciated that dancers, entertainers including meke groups, singers, craftspeople like carvers, weavers and jewellery makers, children’s nannies and activities or fitness staff rely on tourism for employment but can get left out of formal Government support because they are part of the informal sector.

Several initiatives are now available in Fiji which supports sustainable economic development by targeting the unemployed sectors (both formal and informal), women’s groups, communities, SME’s, entrepreneurs and even first-time farmers.

Whatever we were doing before COVID hit, must be reevaluated to first survive the crisis – because we do not know how long it will last, and then tweaked first to determine whether that product or service is needed now for the market that has changed as a result of the crisis, and then reviewed again for the post-COVID timeframe when that market may again shift and change as a result of borders reopening eventually.

This is a key basic message that is being discussed and delivered during these support programs and training sessions.
Change is hard but survival is key for anyone considering being around in business for the years ahead that are expected to be extremely positive, especially for travel in the post COVID world.

So, while we remain protected with our borders still closed and the worst of the virus still far away, we know the floodgates could open once travel resumes. We are working hard behind the scenes to provide guidance, communication avenues and support where needed, and with the relevant agencies to survive the crisis and stay safe.

The Economist Intelligence Unit recently predicted that most low-income countries would not ‘have wide access to a vaccine before 2022–23”. While that paints a grim picture for small island nations’ immunization efforts, Fiji and her Pacific Island neighbours appear to have had better luck in accessing at least the first shipments of vaccines being made available through friendly larger neighbours and better networks.

Ben Franklin said “When you’ve finished changing, you’re finished” and he wasn’t even an entrepreneur or businessman.
Fijian tourism is evolving into its next stage, involuntarily as it has been from COVID. Fiji as a young country is also evolving, forced as well by the dynamics of COVID.

How we embrace the changes will determine our eventual success.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 26 February 2021)

Travel’s COVID-19 Blues Are Likely Here to Stay

Travel’s COVID-19 Blues Are Likely Here to Stay

Bangkok Post 23 February 2021 – The outlook for a rebound in travel this year has dimmed after the global pandemic ravaged the industry and hurt tourism-dependent economies, with travellers postponing plans amid vaccine delays and border restrictions.

Tourist destinations from Thailand to Iceland had been hoping Covid-19 vaccines would allow countries to reopen their borders and drive a much-needed recovery in 2021. Now, with vaccine rollouts delayed in some places and new virus strains appearing, it is looking more likely that international travel could be stalled for years.

After declaring that 2020 was the worst year for tourism on record, with one billion fewer international arrivals, the United Nations World Tourism Organization says prospects for a 2021 rebound have worsened.

In October, 79% of experts polled by the agency believed a 2021 rebound was possible. Only 50% said they believed that in January, and some 41% didn’t think travel would reach pre-pandemic levels until 2024 or beyond.


Tourism Talanoa: Keeping Fiji Safe is Everyone’s Business

Tourism Talanoa: Keeping Fiji Safe is Everyone’s Business

FHTA, 18 February 2021 – Preparing to restart business at some stage this year from the imposed hibernation of the past year will be a challenge for many in tourism industries around the world.

In Fiji, this planning might not have started quite so urgently, but there is still much to do to ensure businesses survive for the next few months to thrive in what is expected to be high demand for international travel when borders eventually do open up,
As the nation gears up to this eventual opening of borders that many are hopeful will be later in the year, our tourism family continues to estimate the continued closure timeframes against their dwindling cash flows.

Some resorts have been able to open for a variety of reasons and under various conditions. These include providing quarantine facilities for Government for use by residents and permit holders returning on repatriation flights for 14 days each.

They also include offering residents the opportunity to experience a taste of our famous Fijian hospitality in beautiful surroundings at a fraction of the usual rates. Others are offering boutique holiday experiences to small groups of international visitors using the Vacation in Paradise (VIP) Lanes or Blue Lane corridors which require that 14 days be part of the journey that makes up their isolated quarantine confinement period.

The success of these available options has been defined by the adoption and adherence of the new COVID safe protocols and collaborating closely with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Tourism to coordinate arrivals, transfers and monitoring of testing requirements.

Confirmed COVID positive cases have generally been border quarantine cases, meaning they have arrived into the country and whilst in quarantine have been confirmed as positive through the required testing processes, so would have contracted the virus whilst overseas or on their way home.

There has been very little media coverage in Fiji and even around the world on the condition of people with COVID once confirmed as positive, what contributed to patients’ eventual recovery and how families have dealt with this.
Information is sparse at best and often speculative or through highly questionable social media sources.

While the devastation it caused to families and communities in Italy where extended families with inter-generational family structures are similar to Fiji, and initially in the US provided glimpses into how terrifying the virus could make life for entire countries, Fiji’s relative isolation has cushioned our understanding to a “not likely to happen to us” type scenario.

Perhaps that is why we are so complacent with learning to live with the expected new hygiene requirements and why many are often shocked to hear that we must learn to live with this virus despite the planned vaccination program rollouts here and world-wide.

Far more effective public awareness campaigns must be carried out to make keeping Fiji safe everyone’s business and not just be about hand-washing and coughing into elbows.

Many of us do not know what to expect if someone we lived with contracted the virus and have no understanding of how dangerous it could be if several family members got infected as a result.

In businesses and across entire industries, many have returned to pre-COVID conditions with handwashing not so strictly observed (the water is there but there is no soap in the dispenser), sanitiser gels have disappeared off counters and social distancing has become too hard to do.

Additionally, the initial registration of people entering buildings and getting their temperatures taken has started to disappear with only hotels, Nadi Airport and Fiji Airways demanding proof of the downloaded Care Fiji App to assist with contact tracing efforts.

In tourism businesses, however, these are practised diligently, reminded, trained and monitored. Face masks are expected to be worn and full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is donned in quarantine hotels, airport areas, transport and laundry handling facilities.

Passenger boats, transfer vehicles, airport architecture, aircraft interiors and hotel rooms and surroundings are being cleaned with specific virus-neutralizing cleaning equipment and disinfectants.

Will this be replicated across retail shops, restaurants, public transport, banks and other offices around Fiji? It must if these same businesses expect international visitors to use their services or expect local tourism workers who will come into contact with the visitors to use their services.

The extra precautions mean additional costs but are necessary so must be borne to maintain the practice until advised otherwise.

Fiji’s image is being meticulously rebuilt to add another layer of safety, security and preparedness for when borders reopen.
Destination Fiji continues to put in the hard work to ensure that Fiji remains an attractive destination that is planning its eventual safe reopening.

Marketing Fiji and competing with the rest of the world has never been simple, but marketing in the post COVID world has taken this to new complicated heights.

We must remain a vibrant, exciting holiday destination that can still appeal to our core markets and quintessential family segments while staying abreast of new trends and changing travel habits.

Adapting to understand and deliver conservational sustainability options, adventure and experiential travel while ensuring we can still deliver the expectations of younger travellers who will demand seamless connectivity, must now be integrated with
stronger messages of safety and security from an invisible virus that has the potential to kill thousands. It is a huge task for Tourism Fiji.

There is still much to do in terms of preparedness which is why a whole lot of consultation and discussion has been taking place between tourism stakeholders, Government bodies and agencies, non-government organisations and training institutions.

Safety first as always, with all the connotations of safety our new post COVID world demands before we are ready to meet and greet a whole new, changed world of travellers.

Helping one another achieve a higher level of safety and preparation should be everyone’s business. The tourism industry is collaborating closely with relevant Ministries to offer support in the logistics for the vaccine roll out if required.

Moving over 800,000 people around Fiji requires organisation, project and event management skills, access to transportation and communication services. We just happen to have that exact experience and those very skills in our toolkit.

And we know how to do this safely too.

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

SPTO Launches Job Portal To Assist Former Tourism Workers

SPTO Launches Job Portal To Assist Former Tourism Workers

SPTO 19 February 2021 – In response to the widespread and significant impacts of COVID-19 on the Pacific tourism industry, The Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) has launched SPTO Jobslink. The initiative aims to bridge the gap between unemployed tourism workers and employers throughout the region, via a free and easy-to-use website.

The SPTO Jobslink website is part of the COVID-19 response support programme under the New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade (NZMFAT) and SPTO partnership, formalized in October 2020.

Speaking at the launch event, SPTO Chief Executive, Christopher Cocker, highlighted the importance of this initiative under the current circumstances.

“COVID-19 has delivered an unprecedented blow to the Pacific tourism industry and unfortunately the impacts will be long-term. Through our partnership with NZMFAT we are very excited to be able to provide support for tourism workers”.

“The SPTO Jobslink website will connect job seekers, formerly employed by the tourism sector, with new opportunities. Employers who register with SPTO Jobslink will not only be assisting those truly in need of work but will also be gaining highly experienced and qualified individuals”, he said.

The SPTO Jobslink website was developed by Pacific BedBank and can be accessed via the following link – SPTO Jobs Link Pacific – Pacific Recruitment & Employment Opportunities

The 50 Most Romantic Hotels In The World

The 50 Most Romantic Hotels In The World

Big 7 Travel 14 February 2021 – Romance Concierges, private island villas, outdoor bathtubs and candelit dinners – we’re highlighting the hotels you’ll want to book well in advance for next year’s special moments.

Even if you’re celebrating with your loved one from the comfort and safety of your own home this year, you can still dream about where to spend a night or two before 2021 is out. These are the places where you’ll fall in love all over again.


Aviation has headed back to the 1930s; the world could face a similar historic reset

Aviation has headed back to the 1930s; the world could face a similar historic reset

A massive downturn expected earlier to last just a few months has turned into something quite different and even now, we still don’t know just how different it will be. But what’s now clearly apparent is that the now certain extended delay entirely changes the outlook for the industry.

There has been much talk about aviation losing 30 to 40 years of development in terms of passenger traffic, like a trip back to the 1970s, with its reduced traffic levels, the prospect of more active government intervention, smaller networks and higher prices.

But, CAPA – Centre for Aviation founder and chairman emeritus, Peter Harbison warned in Sep-2020 as we remember aviation in the 1930s that the ongoing public health crisis has sent us even further back to the 1930s when you consider international air travel and closed borders and a heightened risk of injury. “There are important lessons to be learned from industry and government behaviour 90 years ago,” said Mr Harbison in his editorial in the Airline Leader magazine.

WWI had spawned the multilateral Paris Convention of 1919, which established that every state had absolute sovereignty in the airspace over its territory – a response to the new aircraft that easily crossed boundaries. “That meant essentially that all borders were closed to foreign aircraft and permission became necessary even to overfly,” said Mr Harbison.

Additionally, in the early, barnstorming days of aviation, the biggest inhibitor of commercial air travel expansion was safety. “There was an uncomfortable tendency for airlines to crash, a feature that would be passengers found undesirable,” explained Mr Harbison.

In last week’s Feb-2021 edition of CAPA Live – a monthly virtual summit, offering insights, information, data and live interviews with airline CEOs and industry executives across a next-gen virtual event platform – Mr Harbison reiterated the travel and aviation industries that emerge from this pandemic will look vastly different than it did before the COVID-19 outbreak.


Preparing for the post-Covid world

Preparing for the post-Covid world

Corporate Travel Community 10 February 2021 – People’s attitudes and behaviours have shifted during months of lockdown and now over a year of a pandemic, and these changes are likely to continue for some time. But what are the implications of these changes for the travel industry? University of Melbourne consumer psychologist Dr Brent Coker noted that when an industry “wakes up again, what tends to happen is that all the brands start scrambling for the consumers”, leading to price competition.

Speaking at the Jan-2021 edition of CAPA Live – a monthly virtual summit, offering insights, information, data and live interviews with airline CEOs and industry executives across a next-gen virtual event platform – Dr Coker said: “It’s the opposite of marketing, where we want to build our services and our offerings and our value based on premium-ness so that we can extract more profit out of consumers. Then, in the long term, we start focussing on loyalty”.

In his presentation, he acknowledged that during the Great Depression, “we saw a whole generation of penny pinchers” noting that it is “likely we might see this again with the so-called ‘COVID’ generation”. He added: “We will likely see what we call a rubber band effect’ towards consumption.

There is also a recognition that returning consumers will be more concerned about their health, hygiene during travel and also more aware of the environmental impact of their journey. Sustainability will become even more important in this emerging world.


Survivor Crew Returning To Fiji, Shooting To Begin Soon

Survivor Crew Returning To Fiji, Shooting To Begin Soon

With the news that Australian Survivor is to begin filming in Queensland in the coming months, Survivor US is also looking to resume production, as members of the crew are set to arrive in Fiji in the coming days.

As previously reported on Inside Survivor, cast and crew will not be allowed to board their plane without proof of a negative COVID-19 test and must enter a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Fiji.

Inside Survivor sources tell us that the cast for season 41 is expected to depart for Fiji in March, with filming expected to begin in April. The production team, which is comprised of people from all over the world, will start arriving in Fiji in groups over the coming days and weeks.