Tourism Talanoa: We All Know What To Do

Tourism Talanoa: We All Know What To Do

FHTA, 8 July 2021 – As we move into another week of this second wave of high volumes of COVID-19 infections, Suva City has introduced an innovative drive-through vaccination option to cope with the influx of people seeking protection from the deadly virus.

The line of vehicles lining up to access this service at Suva’s Albert Park pavilion is inspiring to see and we applaud all those citizens that are making use of this opportunity to get vaccinated.

It’s highly plausible that Fiji will reach its targeted vaccination target of eligible adults in the coming months if the demand remains at current levels. We have achieved 54 per cent of first-doses for the target population while a total of 9 per cent have now received both doses and are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19 once they move past the 2 weeks post receiving the last vaccination.

Vaccines are effective at preventing COVID-19 disease, especially severe illness and death and reduce the risk of people spreading the disease further.

Some people have shared the experiences of getting their elderly parents and even grandmothers making the often-difficult effort to get vaccinated, including a young lady with her 101-year-old grandmother. All shared the same concern about doing their bit and caring that those around them are protected.

A remarkable effort indeed from senior citizens that puts to shame some members of our society with little to no regard for their fellow citizens, members of their community or their families.

If the elderly and compromised can get the vaccine, your excuse ‘not’ to be vaccinated is invalid, inconsiderate, uninformed and unpatriotic.

The 7-day average of new cases per day in Fiji has increased to 383 cases per day or 433 cases per million population per day.

With the increasing case numbers, there have been also been increasing numbers of people with severe effects and far too more deaths in the Suva-Nausori containment zone.

This is of deep concern to many of us doing all we can to practice and adopt the protocols that keep us safer.

The tourism industry has seen many of its workers get inoculated and several hotel properties have joined the increasing numbers of businesses jubilantly confirming that they are 100 per cent vaccinated.

We thank them for their perseverance and patriotism in seeing that all who were eligible received the vaccines because we understand that this has not been easy to achieve.

As the annual National Budget announcement by the Government looms near, the tourism industry is refocusing efforts to ensure we can lay critical pathways in preparation for the much-awaited reopening of borders.

There has never been any doubt that a vaccinated workforce will be a critical factor in a border reopening framework, with the reciprocal expectation of international visitors being able to confirm their vaccinated and COVID free status.

Still, the misinformation exists and is perpetuated by those who remain vehemently against getting the jab. Their choice to not be vaccinated is their universal right of refusal but they shouldn’t be influencing those around them who may be more gullible.

If their family or friends choose not to be vaccinated due to their misinformation and fall ill and possible die, the onus must be on the carrier of fake news to shoulder that guilt.

Our villages and settlements are rife with murmurings to that effect and this could hamper Fiji’s drive to reach our target population requirement of 80%.

Due to current regulations on social distancing, the Ministry of Health & Medical Services is actively recruiting COVID Ambassadors who will ensure that all health protocols set by MOHMS is adhered to and the correct protection is being worn in all areas following the reopening of many businesses.

Despite these innovative moves to ensure compliance, if the naysayers achieve what they set out for, which is standing against vaccination, Fiji will have no other option than to move into the next phase.

That would be moving our focus and resources from total virus suppression to entirely virus management.

That is not the preferred scenario obviously because the only losers will be unvaccinated.

Israel has been serving as an example to other countries as it went through a similar second wave of Delta-variant COVID infections recently.

Israeli health officials were more focused on hospitalisations and deaths, which has remained relatively low and in the past two weeks, their health ministry has recorded only one death from COVID-19. In January, at the height of the country’s second wave, it was recording close to 80 deaths per day.

When we read these staggering figures, we simply cannot imagine that happening in Fiji.

We must NOT let that happen.

Our level of civil disobedience and breaking of national regulations therefore should be of great concern to more people.

We do not just want to protect our families, our people and our communities from getting sick. Neither is it just about getting to a point where we can reopen our borders safely and get back to business and kickstarting our struggling economy.

These are certainly important milestones.

However, many more people are missing their loved ones because the current situation has forced them to stay apart because of work in high-risk areas like medical and emergency services, or because of the containment zones restricting movement, while closed borders for 16 months have forced millions around the world apart.

And let’s not forget the current inability to feel “human” again that includes being able to give and see a smile without masks, to shake hands and embrace, to share stories, food, kava and love with family and friends on special occasions.

To be able to see a sick loved one in a hospital or pay our respects in our own personal, traditional ways at a funeral, wedding or birth.

Those small but very important elements make us feel like we are part of society or communities and make us feel inherently connected.

Let’s not allow this virus to take those things away from us that connected us and made us who we still are.
We know what to do.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 8 July 2021)

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji delivered $10,000 worth of Staff Assistance

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji delivered $10,000 worth of Staff Assistance

Since the second wave of Covid-19 in April, with lockdowns and travel restrictions, life has not come easy to anyone in Fiji, especially in the Tourism Industry. Radisson Blu Resort Fiji continued to stay open for business 7 days a week and looked at strategies and opportunities to sustain business and to provide jobs for the staff. The outbreak and lockdowns that followed brought the business to a critically low occupancy level and subsequently reducing employee numbers and working hours for almost 3 months now.

To assist their team during these difficult times, Radisson Blu Resort Fiji has delivered $10,000 worth of groceries shopping vouchers and packs for their staff and families who have been affected since the outbreak on April 21.

‘Our colleagues are the main asset of our company, they have contributed to the success of our business, and we are determined to assist and look after them and their families to the best of our capabilities. To make it easier and safer for them, we delivered the vouchers to their homes to spare them unnecessary movements and risks. I hope that with the vaccination efforts we will be able to return quickly to a normal operation and be able to bring them back to work’, says General Manager, Mr Charles Homsy.

Tourism Looks Forward to Industry Support from 2021/2022 National Budget to Survive and Recover

Tourism Looks Forward to Industry Support from 2021/2022 National Budget to Survive and Recover

FHTA 30 June 2021 – The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) appreciated the recent opportunity to consult with the Ministry of Economy to discuss the National Budget expectations, sharing that the industry must first survive the current crisis to emerge safer and ready to do business in what is emerging as a changed COVID focused world.

With the previous support from last years budget only being able to make a significant impact with borders reopened and international visitors returning; tourism’s major contribution to foreign exchange earnings, employment and large, beneficial multiplier effects on the economy are on pause until it can be supported to survive through clear and specific recovery strategies.

“Our focus is on recovery and revitalisation,” says Ms Lockington.

Ms Lockington added “It was a great opportunity for us to present directly to the minister and give him first-hand information on what the industry is going through and areas the industry needed critical support”

FHTA has requested for the current level of taxes and duties to remain for at least the next 3 years, for financial support through government initiatives and as well as bank assistance for hotels to be revamped and refurbished after an extended period of closures, and to restocked to receive guests

Pre-COVID, the tourism sector was responsible for bringing in over 40 per cent of the country’s foreign exchange earnings and was a major tax contributor.

Almost 16 months after borders closed, SME businesses that form the core of the tourism industry are closed and cash strapped, with many hanging on by a thread.

“When tourism is on its feet again, the Fijian economy rebounds,” said Ms Lockington. “But this means that Fiji needs to have all its available products and services ready to welcome back visitors, including the different accommodation options, activities, transport systems, tours and supply lines who are now either closed or struggling to stay open”.

FHTA has also assured the Government of the industry’s full support for the current vaccination programme being undertaken around the country, reflected in the west having the highest uptake of vaccines so far.

The Association continues to actively campaign for its members and is optimistic that with more employers supporting the need for vaccinations to keep the Fijian population safer, they will soon be able to focus on more business activity.

Tourism Talanoa: Stemming the Flow

Tourism Talanoa: Stemming the Flow

FHTA, 1 July 2021 – Hindsight, they say, is 20/20.

The ability to sit back and analyse and dissect past events or instances is a joy that most, especially critics, can find solace (or pleasure!) in doing.

There has been quite a few should-have, could-have and would-have but they don’t change the fact that we are where we are right now.

This second wave has consistently recorded 300 plus confirmed COVID cases daily for the past few days and that tells us that the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 is no average virus for which most vaccines were initially planned to protect us from.

Even our neighbour to the West, Australia, is grappling with several community outbreaks of the extremely contagious out Delta variant, with a wave of restrictions rolling across the country and plunging some cities into lockdown for the first time since the pandemic began.

Sydney, Darwin and Perth have gone into full-blown lockdowns and light restrictions have been implemented in Adelaide and Canberra.

Australia has not reached our numbers of infections and confirmed cases in the current situation and the rapid response with mitigative measures have been put into place to counter their currently low vaccination numbers.

Fiji’s total vaccinated adults is around 7 percent of the target recipients, or 80% of our total population, with 49 percent having received the first dose of vaccine by the 29th of June.

The outbreak in Australia pales in comparison to Fiji’s but both nations enjoyed a charmed life in the early days despite the global pandemic due to the rigid rules that were implemented from when international borders closed.

New Zealand has paused its Trans-Tasman bubble for a few days as Australia manages this new wave of infections and we have no doubt that Fiji is paying close attention because these two nations are our tourism industry’s key target markets.

Visitors from these countries accounted for at least 75 percent of total visitors into Fiji pre-COVID.

We believe we were actually getting closer to being included in the Trans-Tasman bubble until the current wave started. Or at the very least, being considered.

So, we know what we’re capable of, what is required of us and, we have a fairly good grasp of what lies ahead.

We just need to tame this beast in front of us.

How? And this might start to sound like we are repeating ourselves (and we are), but it is clear to those of us in the tourism industry that getting vaccinated, following the current health regulations and changing our current behaviour is our only chance to get out of this.

By staying in our own bubbles, washing or sanitising our hands, keeping our distance from others and avoiding crowds. By calling 158 or 917 if you see gatherings or other violations of Fiji’s health measures. By being the best patriotic versions of ourselves and doing the right thing, at the right time.

Many of us fail to realise how difficult this might be for many people to actually do though.

If the only way you know to survive is to go out and sell your fresh produce, the baked goods you prepare daily, the items you sew each night or to do work you are paid daily for; your alternative options are limited.

If you choose to stay home because it is deemed safer, or because they locked down your residential area, then you must rely on others to provide the food you can no longer buy, with money you could not earn.

The reliance on others to support you and your family may impact your self-esteem and if this support comes late or intermittently, can also affect your mental health.

Just a few areas that many of us that are more fortunate may not fully appreciate.

On the positive side, our rugby 7s teams, both the men’s and women’s teams, had a wonderful weekend of rugby this past week and they have provided some very positive messaging for fans to follow in their successful strides by getting fully vaccinated.

Even our rugby champions have been vaccinated to not only protect themselves, their teammates and families, but to ensure they could travel abroad and play against any other team.

And yet, we are still seeing resistance in many of our communities.

The tourism industry has been at the forefront of getting all employees vaccinated and this has probably been easier to implement in an industry that has had to implement the COVID safe protocols early.

That is not to say we have not faced some resistance, but only that we have had more time to work on our collective communication efforts and monitor where we need to work harder on efforts.

This is despite the vast amounts of misinformation and well shared false claims on the virus and/or the vaccine. Suddenly social media is awash with overnight medical ‘experts’ extolling the virtues of not getting the vaccine.

These false prophets might be harmless enough but can be disruptive if they are believed and become self-professed influencers.

But we can and must learn from them to derail them at their own games.

What can each of us do to get the right messages out and ensure we protect Fiji?

Speak out on the positives. Share your stories and why protecting your family, friends, colleagues or customers is important.

Share your pictures. Explain the science and provide the evidence. Talanoa, listen and discuss the concerns people have and help them to understand.

In the language of preference, by people they respect and will heed or at the very least to consider.

While we still have some way to go for a fully vaccinated industry, there are many operators who are already happy to share their success because they know they have a critical layer of protection in place, and can now focus on their reopening strategies.

We are extremely proud of the bulk of our tourism staff who have been loyal and fully onboard with what it means to be vaccinated. Thousands of them rushed to their nearest vaccination station and did their bit despite the naysayers.

And that’s how the entire tourism fraternity continues to plan for receiving international guests, despite the current wave of infections and negative press.

We are focusing on survival.

We are focusing on recovery.

We are focusing on coming back better and stronger.

We need our staff to get back to work.

We need our tourism business machinery to start humming again to make Fiji the destination of choice again.

We need our suppliers to get to work so our once fruitful relationships can recommence.

We need all the ancillary SME businesses we cannot do without to be back up and running again.

Bottom line, we need our national economy to begin to hum again.

Sounds simple? That’s because it actually is.

Spread that positive vaccination message.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 1 July 2021)

COVID-19 made deep-sea mining more tempting for some Pacific islands

COVID-19 made deep-sea mining more tempting for some Pacific islands

The Conversation 15 June 2021 – While most Pacific islands have escaped the worst of COVID-19, a cornerstone of their economies, tourism, has taken a big hit. By June 2020, visitor arrivals in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu had completely ceased, as borders were closed and even internal travel restricted. In Fiji, where tourism generated about 40% of GDP before the pandemic, the economy contracted by 19% in 2020.

One economic alternative lies just offshore. The Clarion-Clipperton Zone (CCZ) is a deep-sea trench spanning 4.5 million square kilometres in the central Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Mexico. On its seabed are potato-sized rocks called polymetallic nodules which contain nickel, copper, cobalt and manganese. These formed over centuries through the accumulation of iron and manganese around debris such as shells or sharks’ teeth.

There are estimated to be around 21 billion tonnes of manganese nodules in this trench alone, and demand for these metals is likely to skyrocket as the world ramps up the development of batteries for electric vehicles and renewable power grids.

While much of the CCZ lies beneath the high seas where no single state has control, it’s adjacent to the exclusive economic zones of several Pacific island states, including the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and Tonga. Lacking the means to search for the metals themselves, these states have sponsored mining companies to take out licences with the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which is responsible for sustainably managing the seabed in international waters. This would allow these companies to explore the seabed and determine how viable mining is likely to be, and its potential environmental impact.

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How hospitality is adapting to a contactless world

How hospitality is adapting to a contactless world

eHotelier 25 June 2021 – The pandemic led to an increase in contactless technology and experiences in the hospitality industry, and even as we return to a new normal, many of these innovations are likely to stick. A hotelier’s job is to make guests comfortable, and if guests have become accustomed to new ways of doing things, then hotels will need to accommodate.

However, instead of removing the personal touch, contactless technology can actually provide a more pleasant — and personalized — experience for guests. Throughout 2020, hospitality and travel companies found ways to provide memorable experiences while improving health and safety standards. It’s also nothing new — as people do more on their phones, online retail companies have been developing strategies and systems for years that hotels can now take advantage of. Virtual tours, video, streaming, and other tech tools are quickly becoming necessities for hoteliers.

Guest expectations have changed
Guests are eager to have more control when it comes to their own experiences, and they want hotels to provide a simple (yet functional) digital experience that reaches across all departments. They want choices when it comes to communicating with the hotel, being able to pick up whichever device is nearest to make requests, update reservations, and manage their stay. Guests also want convenience. This includes not having to wait for a waiter to make a payment at the end of a meal, skipping the front desk entirely, or not having to pick up the phone to order their car from the valet. It’s control and convenience — plain and simple.

The importance of data for a contactless experience

We expect data management to become more important in day-to-day hospitality operations, especially in on-property activities, guest preferences, hotel restaurants, and facilities used for events and conferences. If we have data online that’s entered by guests and easily accessible by staff, we don’t need to have people bother with keypads or give that information to a worker on-site in close contact. And as elements of the hotel experience that were once done in-person switch to digital, the potential synergy means new levels of personalization and efficiency.

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Hotel brands have lost more than a third of their worth

Hotel brands have lost more than a third of their worth

CTC 24 June 2021 – The world’s top 50 most hotel brands have lost more than a third of their worth as nearly USD23 billion is wiped from their value.

The total value of the top 50 most valuable hotel brands has decreased -33% year-on-year, down from USD70.2 billion in 2020 to USD47.4 billion in 2021, according to the new 2021 edition of Brand Finance’s Hotels 50 report, an annual review of the most valuable and strongest hotel brands.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts once again is the world’s most valuable hotel brands, despite recording a -30% drop in brand value to USD7.6 billion. While Hilton’s revenue has taken a significant hit since the outbreak of the pandemic, the brand is “showing confidence in its growth strategy,” according to the report, announcing a further 17,400 rooms to its pipeline, bringing the total to over 400,000 new rooms planned – an uplift of +8% on the previous year. Hilton also boasts the most valuable hotel portfolio, with its seven brands that feature in the ranking reaching a total brand value of USD13.8 billion.

Hilton’s rival, Marriott International (down -60% to USD2.4 billion), has dropped down to the fifth spot from second, after losing more than half of its brand value. Last year, the brand’s worldwide revenue available per room was down -60% from 2019 and global occupancy was just 36% for the year.

Hyatt moves up into the second spot, up from third, bucking the sector trend as one of only two brands in the ranking to record brand value growth, +up 4% to USD4.7 billion): the other being Conrad, which has seen a +11.9% rise in brand value.

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Staff and guests at Radisson Blu fully vaccinated

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

All staff and guests staying in-house at the Radisson Blu Resort have been fully vaccinated.

General Manager Charles Homsy says considering the current COVID-19 situation – the resort has tightened its policies and has implemented strict booking protocols.

The resort is open 7 days a week and is a non-quarantine property.

Homsy says they are committed to doing their part and contributing in the effort to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Being certified with CareFIJI Commitment, he adds the resort has implemented a number of mandatory policies and regulations as well.

The resort has also acknowledged the Ministry of Health and frontline workers for their response efforts.

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Tourism Talanoa: It’s Worth Your Consideration

Tourism Talanoa: It’s Worth Your Consideration

FHTA, 24 June 2021 – As Fiji crossed the 2,000 mark this week in total COVID positive cases, one thing has become glaringly clear in these past few months of second wave transmissions and infections.

There is a critical need to ramp up our vaccinations and share more widely, the very real repercussions if we do not succeed in doing so.

We realise that we have many people who have accepted that this is the safest and most sensible thing to do, just as much as we acknowledge that there are slightly more people that still need to be convinced, are not sure or simply have not made a decision because they do not appreciate the tenuous situation Fiji is in.

Those unwilling have been resolute in their beliefs, and we respect their decision.

But how do we get the willing (and yet to be vaccinated) and those still on the fence to get vaccinated?

From free beers to lottery tickets, many locations around the world have introduced vaccine incentives.

A village in Indonesia is giving out live chickens. A town in the Netherlands is offering fish and even the state of Ohio in America allows vaccinated adults to enter the draw for five US$1 million cash prizes.

Yes, US$5 million in cash. For a needle in your arm that could ultimately save your life, the lives of those around you and determine whether Fiji will be able to open up her borders again.

From one end of the spectrum to the other, the need to make vaccines appealing and a must-have for adults is as necessary as ever, especially for Fiji.

As incentives go, these examples may just be the beginning of where things may move so we can eventually “get on with our lives”.

Countries around the world have practised hard lockdowns in various forms and these have been challenging for families, businesses and entire cities both financially, economically and psychologically.

Whether impacted by the trauma of sickness and death from COVID around them or having to suffer through lockdowns and restricted movements; once the vaccines became available, it appeared easier to convince the larger proportion of most of these affected populations to get vaccinated to get their curtailed freedoms back and ensure they could save more people from contracting the virus.

Despite calls from many avenues for harder lockdowns in Fiji, doing so ignores what the fabric of our society is really made up of.

If for example only 30% of our population pays taxes and around 40% are below the tax bracket, what is the size of our informal sector who depend on daily wages to provide food and shelter for their families?

Remove the ability to access this daily wage because of the current restrictions and business closures, and we put an already fragile part of the population at greater risk.

So, lockdowns might work in developed countries with access to easy credit, wage support and insurance amongst other supportive programs; but unless we have better social nets to support our own less fortunate people, we are simply pretending they don’t exist, or do not appreciate the need for more support from those of us fortunate enough to still have a job and bank accounts.

We must therefore all collectively convince those who are undecided or against being vaccinated, just why they should vaccinate or must make up their minds and get vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Because surely, that should be the far simpler and less traumatic thing to do than locking us all up and telling us not to move around, while many of our own people will be forced to rely on the goodwill of social workers and the Government to provide food and medicine.

What would incentivise more people to accept being vaccinated? An incentive is something that motivates, rouses or encourages and convinces us that we should make a decision or take a recommended action.

What has motivated people in Fiji before?

Rugby teams winning in grand style, religious leaders moving their congregations because their words have touched people’s hearts or musicians singing rousing renditions of old favourites that bring tears to the eyes?

What incentivised the recent causes of queues stretching for blocks in towns and cities around Fiji, with people waiting patiently for hours in the sun and rain?

From access to work to entry into restaurants, free coffee and the chance to win money, the list is steadily growing for innovative incentives to get people to get vaccinated or ensure they complete their second dose.

In Fiji’s case, that means two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, spaced out between eight to ten weeks.

As the tourism industry continues to thrash out detailed plans for a safe post-pandemic return to some form of new-normalcy, one important piece of the puzzle is employee vaccinations.

We are also recognising that some of our tourism workforces have also been hesitant about getting vaccinated for some reason or another, and we continue to diligently provide support and access to factual information to ensure they have everything they need to make their decisions.

But, when all is said and done, we will support our industry’s employers to access the best advice on the policies they must have in place to ensure they can confirm that only vaccinated workers, and therefore a safer workforce, is in place before those borders reopen.

It then falls onto the employers to remind their employees that taking the vaccine isn’t just a positive individual action, but rather a collective embrace of the greater good for the nation.

That might be a lot of pressure.

In comparison to Fiji’s borders remaining closed for the rest of the year and even next year, however, that pressure does not come close.

These are difficult times we all agreed in 2020 when COVID first shut international borders. It is now a whole year on and we are losing our grip on keeping our communities safe, with infections rising and already far too many deaths.

Local employment experts indicate that while the personal choice and freedom of an individual are well protected, employers are within their rights to cease employment if being vaccinated is essential to carrying out one’s duties.

That would be the case with many tourism operations that have a majority of staff that interact with or share spaces with guests. The vaccination requirement will be added to the list of protection tourism workers will need to come to work along with safety shoes, face masks, uniforms and relevant work tools.

What has been a positive for the industry so far, is the general acceptance, understanding and eagerness of the majority of our industry staff to be a part of the vaccinated statistics.

That’s Fiji’s tourism sector in a nutshell – always looking to go above and beyond to get the industry moving in the right direction.

We know there is no other way that the borders will reopen until the target of 80 per cent is reached.

We can incentivise the vaccinations, make it a simpler process, communicate at the levels that our people need to be engaged with and appeal to everyone to spread positive information on getting vaccinated.

It makes economic sense and will shorten our current, collective pain eventually.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 24 June 2021)

Tourism Support for COVID-19 Vaccination Programme

Tourism Support for COVID-19 Vaccination Programme

Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) fully supports the Fijian government’s current nationwide vaccination campaign.

This was endorsed by the FHTA Executive Committee during its meeting on Friday 18th June 2021.

The current vaccination campaign is targeting the inoculation of 80% of Fiji’s adult population and is working towards ensuring this critical layer of protection supports the industry’s current adoption of the COVID safe practices that have been in place since April last year.

FHTA continues to encourage all eligible adults in the tourism industry and surrounding communities that it operates within to be vaccinated to keep our staff, guests and communities safe.

While the Association acknowledges that workers have the choice to not be vaccinated, FHTA supports the rights of tourism employers to require vaccination as a condition of employment for the protection of all and will guide members accordingly.

The Association has always maintained that COVID safe practices of frequent hand washing, social distancing, avoiding crowds and the wearing of masks be part of the industry’s new normal.

Chief Executive Officer of FHTA Ms Fantasha Lockington said “We recognise that it is only through a sufficiently vaccinated population that we will be able to safely and effectively reopen our borders to allow tourism to once again become the major contributor to foreign exchange earnings, provide the highest employment options and restart its multiplier effects and benefits throughout the economy.”

Making sense of your competitive landscape today

Making sense of your competitive landscape today

Competition comes in many forms. A hotelier may think the two international branded properties on their street are their biggest threats, but in reality, anything from a resort in a different state to a family member’s house can be in competition with a hotel’s ability to sell its rooms and services. While it is easy to overlook these indirect competitors, it is just as easy to assume certain hotels are main competitors, when a closer look may reveal otherwise.

To accurately benchmark against the competition, it is crucial that hoteliers understand who their true competitors are. Today, a hotel’s competitive set will have been impacted by COVID-19 market disruptions. Properties that used to be your competitors may no longer be targeting the same business (or targeting any business at all if they’re no longer operational). Conversely, a property you never considered to be in competition with you—perhaps because they were a higher rated business-focused hotel and you primarily target the leisure market—is now producing compelling family packages with better amenities, at competitive rates to your own.

So how do you benchmark against your competition when no one appears to be swimming in the same lane anymore? Hoteliers must ask themselves: what happened to their competitive environment, who are their competitors now, and what impact are they having on their own business?

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Tips to outsmart the competition in the post-COVID hotel market

Tips to outsmart the competition in the post-COVID hotel market

eHotelier 18 June 2021 – As travel slowly begins to recover, a renewed hospitality market is emerging. Most notably, travellers’ behaviour has been drastically affected by the pandemic, which is bound to impact the way hotels envision their acquisition strategy for years to come. Properly handling this radical shift in the market is no small task and will require hotels to demonstrate both long-term foresight and impeccable execution to thrive.

Moreover, we can expect the post-COVID hospitality industry to grow increasingly competitive. Indeed, the lengthy period of lockdown, during which hotels saw very little to no commercial activity, gave hospitality professionals the time to pause and reflect on their future strategy. As soon as borders start to reopen, most hotels’ marketing efforts will be in full swing and missing that recovery train will likely spell doom on unprepared establishments.

The purpose of this article is to leave no hotel behind in the post-pandemic rebuilding process. By considering and applying the subsequent five pieces of advice, hotels ought to be able to enter the recovery market with confidence and start working towards sustainable success.

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How Do We Know the COVID-19 Vaccine Won’t Have Long-Term Side Effects?

How Do We Know the COVID-19 Vaccine Won’t Have Long-Term Side Effects?

MU Health Care 12 June 2021 – One of the reasons some people haven’t signed up to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is that they’re worried there might be unknown side effects that will show up months or years later.

Although it’s true there are still a lot of things we’re learning about the vaccines — like how effective they are against variants and how long their protection lasts — there are plenty of things we do know that give experts confidence in the long-term safety of the vaccines.

History tells us that severe side effects are extremely rare, and if they if do occur, they usually happen within the first two months.

The most recent example of this phenomenon is the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine was put on pause when health officials learned that a small number of people who received the vaccine experienced a serious blood clotting problem.

About 7.4 million Americans had received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine when regulators paused its administration to investigate a handful of cases in which people had blood clots. All of the cases emerged within two weeks of vaccination.

Upon reviewing information about the cases, federal health officials determined that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risk, and they approved resumed use of the vaccine.

This is how the system is designed to work if unexpected side effects emerge.

History shows this is a common pattern. When new vaccines are released, the unknown side effects, if any, show up within two months of vaccination. This history goes back to at least the 1960s with the oral polio vaccine and examples continue through today.

Because of this, scientists and public health officials continually monitor vaccine data before, during and after a vaccine becomes available to the public.

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The Delta Variant Could Soon Become the Dominant COVID-19 Strain

The Delta Variant Could Soon Become the Dominant COVID-19 Strain

TIME 16 June 2021 – The COVID-19 pandemic is increasingly becoming an arms race among the emerging variants of the virus, and at the moment, there’s no question which one is winning: the Delta variant—formally known as B.1.617.2—one of four strains to have emerged originally in India. It was just last month that the World Health Organization labeled Delta a “variant of concern”—joining with the Alpha strain, which emerged in the U.K.; the Beta strain, from South Africa; and the Gamma strain, first seen in Brazil. But Delta is fast becoming the most worrisome of the bunch.

Health officials are sounding the alarm that Delta threatens to reverse the progress made in countries, like the U.S. and U.K., that have lately been beating the pandemic into retreat and worsen conditions in countries, like India, that are still deep in crisis. Researchers have found that Delta is at least 60% more transmissible within households than the Alpha strain, the dominant variant in the U.S., according to the Public Health of England.

According to accounts from doctors on state-run television in China—which were first reported in English media by the New York Times—Delta-variant patients there have seen symptoms develop more quickly and grow more severe than those in people infected with other variants. Viral loads also climb faster and decline more slowly. Still, epidemiologists say it may be too soon to know for certain if Delta causes more severe illness, and it’s important to recognize that other factors, like lockdown restrictions and vaccination rates, may be affecting disease spread as well. “I’m pretty wary of putting too many eggs in the basket of ‘the variants are making things worse’” says Dr. Gigi Gronvall, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center Health Security at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. “It’s very convenient for some political leaders to blame variants like an act of God for policy decisions that have led to the situation that we find ourselves in.”

In the U.S., the Delta variant now represents roughly 6% of all cases, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. Those numbers are likely to climb. “I think that with the data we have, there’s a good chance that it could take over the 117 [Alpha strain] as the primary variant just because it’s more infectious,” says Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “It’s going to create a real additional challenge.”

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Tourism Talanoa: Are You Vaccinated?

Tourism Talanoa: Are You Vaccinated?

FHTA, 17 June 2021 – This is has become the start of many conversations around Fiji whether catching up on a Zoom meeting, on Viber message groups and family catch-ups or lining up in the marked out 2-metre spaces at supermarkets, coffee shops, doctors and mobile network outlets.

And if the answer is yes, the conversation moves on to “So, when is your second jab due?”, “Where did you go?”, and eventually, “How long were you in line for?”.

When vaccinations commenced on 9th March this year, Fiji became the first Pacific Island country to begin vaccinations for COVID-19.

Fijian businesses along with thousands of Fijians gratefully acknowledge the vaccine donations from Australia, India, the COVAX facility and soon, New Zealand and China.

Herd immunity is the current buzzword even though it is still unclear to many just how this will help protect us from becoming severely ill and even dying of COVID-19.

It has been mentioned a few times during the early press conferences of this second wave of COVID infections, but perhaps not enough emphasis is provided for a larger proportion of our population to really grasp the meaning and intention of the herd immunity goals.

The 80 per cent immunity targets often discussed needs to be taken into the context of coverage of the adult population, and while this appears a big ask, is definitely achievable with far more innovative communication efforts aimed at ensuring that our communities that cannot usually access newspapers, TV and regular internet services are not left out.

The only real issue then would be ensuring we have sufficient vaccines to cover the population effectively with two doses. And the good doctor has confirmed we will.

Our Ministry of Health & Medical Services’ target for vaccinations is 587,651 of which 237,940 people have apparently received their first doses so far. So, people of Fiji – if we want to have these movement restrictions lifted, we need another 350,000 people to get vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Most of those in the tourism industry who chose to be vaccinated early is included in that 237,940, after very focused plans and concentrated activity by tourism stakeholders from mid-April to get as many of their staff protected against the virus.

In the months during the vaccination drive, the industry’s stakeholders did a series of outreaches to their staff and the communities they lived in.

Many of these communities are out in the maritime islands of the Mamanucas, Yasawa Islands and up North from Savusavu to Taveuni. They are also spread out from the Coral Coast, moving along the western coastline and all the way to the hotter regions from Vuda to the Sun Coast.

In most areas where there is a resort or tourism-related business, the Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) has encouraged sharing information, holding awareness sessions and ensuring tourism staff, their families and their communities have been provided clear information on the new COVID safe work guidelines and how vaccines can add that critical, extra layer of protection.

We have no doubt that a critical part of the information being shared in the vernacular languages whenever required, helped to get tourism workers in the right frame of mind to agree to be vaccinated.

The recent announcement that the Ministry of Health was rolling out plans to work with the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs to raise awareness of the importance of the vaccine was certainly positive news.

This is an initiative that we have no doubt will make better progress in reducing misinformation and allow many of our people who otherwise might not get a chance, to hear first-hand what this is all about and to ask the niggling questions for themselves.

While tourism businesses still cannot say they have everyone vaccinated yet, there is better understanding even from workers not currently employed, that they can register and change their minds whenever they believe they are ready.

It is a process for many. To understand, accept and then agree that the negative things you heard are actually not true, with tourism employers doing everything they can to support this process.

Employers are in a Catch 22 position over the vaccination issue, especially in what are considered high-risk industries and businesses, with tourism only a step down in risk categories from medical and aged care workers.

On the one hand, they have an obligation to protect their workers and their customers, but on the other hand, must also consider the individual right of the worker to choose.

Many tourism workers are now coming up to their recommended time for second doses and they are understandably excited to complete their vaccination programme for maximum possible protection.

For those who have not had the opportunity or have opted out for whatever reason, they are being urged not to let misinformation and fake news stop them from getting their doses of the vaccine.

The messaging has been simple. That everyone understands that when you get vaccinated, you not only protect yourself from infection, but you also protect those around you, including your close family that you live with first, and then your co-workers, your public transport drivers, your favourite market vendors and supermarket cashiers and anyone you could very quickly infect without even realising.

As more and more people in a community vaccinate, the virus will have a harder and harder time spreading.
Because COVID-19 is such a stealthy virus — it spreads quickly and silently — it is not expected to ever go away so until the vast majority of our people are immunized, we are all unsafe.

Until then, schools, non-essential businesses and houses of worship cannot open.

And while we miss the ability to gather for weddings, birthdays, funerals or work conferences, we should be ready to accept those restrictions will continue to apply in some measure until we have the required number of vaccinations to reduce the virus’s hold on our lives.

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 get the second dose of the vaccine.

We realise things will not magically return to how they were pre-COVID as the virus will never really be eradicated.

We must simply learn to live with it by continuing to observe the COVID-safe guidelines of reduced crowding, social distancing, wearing protective masks, hand washing and sanitizing.

Border closures for months or even years is not an option for this industry. Or for Fiji’s economic recovery.

So, this is our new normal and we have had over twelve months to get to grips with what is required.

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 vaccinated status and ready for international travel again.

We are quite looking forward to that day as I am sure many of you are as well.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 17 June 2021)

Tourism Roars Back in Hawaii But It Looks Very Different As New Challenges Surface

Tourism Roars Back in Hawaii But It Looks Very Different As New Challenges Surface

Skift 9 June 2021 – Experts say Hawaii’s tourism officials are making a genuine effort to build back better, but this is where the rubber meets the road: Who will tackle Hawaii’s overcrowding problem? And with legislators aiming to slash Hawaii Tourism Authority’s funding and authority, how will a majority domestic tourism market impact Hawaii’s travel industry?

A fragmented global tourism recovery has created the perfect storm for Hawaii to rank as one of the most in-demand destinations for American travelers this summer. It’s not the slow ramp-up that the Hawaii Tourism Authority had anticipated, nor a larger reopening in the midst of a global competition for travelers.

With major source markets including Asia, Oceania and Canada still restricted to travelers in both directions, plus the flow of disposable income from federal stimulus checks and controlled pandemic in Hawaii — west and east coast U.S. travelers are flocking to the archipelago.

“Tourism is back and it’s very American,” John De Fries, CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. “I would expect that summer in Hawaii is going to really match where we were in summer 2019; that’s a lot faster than any of us could have predicted.”

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A Blueprint for Preventing Another Pandemic

A Blueprint for Preventing Another Pandemic

Time Magazine 9 June 2021 – In hindsight, we could have prepared more seriously, reacted more quickly, communicated more effectively, protected one another more actively and so on. But the next time there’s a public-health threat, we will do better. Right?

Not necessarily. Knowing the many ways that we mishandled COVID-19 is a bit like knowing the number of pages in a textbook to study before an exam. It gives us an idea of the task ahead but not how difficult the work will be. True preparation means studying the problems and working out solutions. There’s a lot of material to cover from this pandemic. And we have no idea when the next test is coming.

TIME’s science and health team, with guidance from the University of Washington Alliance for Pandemic Preparedness, set out to make a study guide of sorts. In late May, TIME sent a list of about 50 initiatives that could mitigate the next health crisis to experts who could expect to be involved. We asked them to score each strategy’s priority and feasibility on a scale of 1 to 5. Seventy-three responses came back from thought leaders in public health, infectious disease, immunology, hospital administration, data and technology, environment and climate, health inequity, supply chains and biosecurity. A third of them were outside the U.S., spanning 16 countries.

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COVID-19: Business Impact Survey to collate data for targeted policy response – Government

COVID-19: Business Impact Survey to collate data for targeted policy response – Government

Fiji Times 10 June 2021 – The 2021-2022 National Budget will focus on socio-economic recovery.

And in its effort to provide a more targeted policy response, the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism, and Transport has rolled out a national survey – the Business Impact Survey – and is designed with a specific focus on the socio-economic crisis triggered by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Business Impact Survey, according to the ministry, would assist it to better address the challenges Fijian businesses were facing at present, and inform strategies that ensured long-term sustainability.

“The survey is simple and focuses on key elements that are critical for the Fijian Government,” the ministry stated in a statement carried on the Government’s social media Facebook page.

“This includes the impact of the second wave of COVID-19 on revenue and employment, businesses’ ability to diversify, and how best they can be supported.”

The ministry is encouraging businesses across the private sector to participate in the survey.

The link to the survey: http://www.survey.mcttt.gov.fj/survey/business will be available on the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism, and Transport website and various social media platforms.

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World Oceans Day: What can be done to improve the health of our seas?

World Oceans Day: What can be done to improve the health of our seas?

Ocean restoration is key
The wellbeing of humanity relies on the wellbeing of the planet. The list of challenges we collectively face can feel endless. The list of solutions addressing climate change, however, is steadily growing, and we may have to look no further than the waters surrounding us.

Our oceans need protection. We must eliminate the eight million pieces of daily plastic waste polluting our waterways by pursuing the long-term solution: prevention. But we wouldn’t be telling the whole story without addressing the fact that ocean restoration will unlock a natural means to mitigate humanity’s excessive carbon footprint and empower climate action.

The power of a common rock to capture 1GT of carbon every year
I believe in big, bold ideas that are based in nature and backed by science. I believe each one of us is the solution. This is why, for the past 10 years, I’ve worked with the TreadRight Foundation to share the sustainable travel initiatives it supports worldwide. Two of the latest projects are marine-based carbon removal solutions, chosen for the way they support TTC’s Climate Action Plan.

TreadRight’s first carbon removal partner is Project Vesta. They are exploring the natural power of the ocean as a carbon sink, while also tackling the problem of ocean acidification. The organisation is on a mission to harness the natural power of the oceans to remove a trillion tonnes of excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

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Taking Care Of Biodiverse Islands

Taking Care Of Biodiverse Islands

Newsday 27 May 2021 – Islands have a special appeal – why else do visitors flock to tropical islands as places of idyll and escape. Islanders must exercise special care of their ecosystems which are fragile. Dr Anjani Ganase explains why islands are more vulnerable; and considers the delicate balance.

The definition of an island is a piece of land surrounded by water. There is an upper limit to how big islands can be; very large land masses, such as Australia, are considered continents. Usually, they are as small as the rocks we observe out at sea. The largest is Greenland, followed by New Guinea. Islands are mostly found in the ocean but can occur in lakes and rivers. The Orinoco River has several islands in its mouth formed by the sediment collected by the river. Consider the high-end New York neighbourhood of Manhattan that sits on an island in the Hudson River?

Islands are found everywhere around the world in all latitudes, but also at different elevations. In South America, there are five islands in Lake Titicaca at 3,000 metres above sea-level in the Andes. The local tribes there built many more artificial floating islands. While islands are home to some of the largest cities in the world, Tokyo, Japan and Jakarta, Indonesia, only the tiniest may be uninhabited. The most remote islands in the world are the Pitcairn islands, an overseas territory of the Great Britain, found in the southern Pacific. It has a population of 49 and the closest major land mass is New Zealand over 3,000 miles to its west. In the southern Atlantic, Tristan da Cunha, another remote overseas territory of Great Britain, indicates how far the reach of empire extended.

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