Care Fiji Commitment

Care Fiji Commitment

The Care Fiji Commitment was launched by Tourism Fiji on 15 October 2020 and was developed to be a destination-wide assurance that Fiji is ready to welcome travellers to its shores in a post COVID-19 world.

It is Fiji’s commitment to traveller safety: a programme developed to include enhanced standards of safety, health protocols and measures so that Fiji can safely welcome back international visitors.

By committing to the programme, businesses follow key steps to ensure they have a COVID Action Plan in place and staff are trained in COVID mitigation best practice.


FHTA recommends that you do the following to ensure your business, your staff, your guests and therefore our communities remain safe:

DownloadThe Care Fiji Commitment – Industry Guide (Tourism Fiji)

This is a step-by-step guide compiled by Tourism Fiji illustrating the Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) and the necessary pathways of the programme. It outlines the six main steps to becoming a CFC-accredited business.

For queries or clarifications – contact James Pridgeon, Tourism Fiji jpridgeon@tourismfiji.com.fj.


For details on what these safe Guidelines are and how you can incorporate these into your Standard Operating Procedures:

DownloadMinimum COVID-safe Guidelines and Recommended Standard Operating Procedures (Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association)

This document has been crafted to provide the guidance and tools for industry to develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that comply with the standards required for COVID-19 Safe operations and achieve compliance with the Care Fiji Commitment. You are encouraged to use this document to develop your own SOPs in consultation with your workers, then share it with them. You may need to update the plan in the future, as restrictions and advice changes.

Also included is the FHTA COVID-19 Compliance Checklist to ensure that you have taken all the necessary steps to keeping everyone safe in your business environment.

For queries or clarifications – contact Litia Mario, FHTA eo@fhta.com.fj.


The CFC and the Minimum COVID-safe Guidelines have been developed in reference to the Fijian COVID Safe Economic Recovery Framework and Ministry of Tourism’s Guidelines.

DownloadFijian COVID Safe Economic Recovery Framework or Fijian Tourism Industry Guidelines (Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism & Transport)


Registration is open for all tourism businesses in Fiji. If you would like to adopt the Care Fiji Commitment, expressions of interest are HERE.

If you missed out on the Tourism Fiji CFC webinar held on 20 October 2020, you can still watch a recording here and register your interest in the programme by filling in the expression of interest at www.cfc.com.fj.

Tourism Talanoa: Our Road Back Looks Difficult But Promising

Tourism Talanoa: Our Road Back Looks Difficult But Promising

FHTA, 15 October 2020

The road back for Fiji tourism is long and winding but rest assured, it is already happening. With the Blue Lane initiative picking up slowly but with high revenue impact; the VIP Lanes are being discussed and refined in considerable detail and we are working closely with the relevant authorities and stakeholders to ensure that all the boxes are ticked, in preparation for safer travel when the borders reopen.

There are now countless studies relating to travel restarting and traveler impacts post-COVID-19 and the response from around the global tourism markets is a mixed picture on the recovery of the air transport industry as well the connected revival of tourism around the world.

The data and information remain fluid and dynamic, and the figures and opinions keep changing, depending on the state of key markets and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in those regions.

Travel date specialist OAG (Official Aviation Guide) provided their ‘Covid-19 Recovery: Getting Passengers Back on Board’ study on traveler confidence which is based on a global survey of over 4,000 users of its flightview travel app.

It reveals that more than two thirds of users (69 per cent) intend to fly internationally within the next six months, while more than three quarters (79 per cent) have plans for domestic air travel.

Their other key findings include: the eagerness to travel is more apparent among younger professionals (millennials and Gen Z); nearly one-third have not and do not intend to change their travel habits; and more than three quarters of those polled (76 per cent) agreed compulsory mask wearing is the most effective safety measure airlines and airports can implement, followed by improved cleaning procedures.

That bodes well for tourism-dependent nations like ours and the only major hurdles for these would-be travelers are the border closures for commercial passengers and mandatory quarantine regulations currently in place for incoming travelers, whether local or otherwise. But globally, we still need to set the right conditions to turn these sentiments into actions.

But will this be enough to start adjusting our marketing accordingly or should Fiji rely on its anecdotal and historical information that supports Fiji’s attractiveness to many market segments based on our location, safety, accessibility and naturally blessed diverse environments.

Apparently most travelers are still worried about catching the virus while on a plane (40%), followed by airports (17%), which suggests that the travel industry is not adequately getting their key messages out there on the reduced risks of infection in modern airline travel. More importantly that the vast number of steps that have already been introduced throughout the travel industry to protect the customer right through their journey to reduce potential infection has not gotten through, or been loud and clear enough.

Tourism in Fiji has recognised very early, that the major prerequisite for the industry to rebuild confidence in the country as a preferred destination, was to ensure we prepared well and to provide clear, consistent communication to our target markets exactly what we were doing to keep them safe.

These travelers will be itching to book given the chance, because they have been isolated in lockdowns or limited with where they could go for much of the year and we hope, have disposable income to use.

FHTA continues to collaborate with Tourism Fiji and the Ministries of Tourism and Health to ensure that the enhanced Care Fiji Commitment & COVID-19 Safety Guidelines is detailed, and relevant for the entire Fiji tourism industry.

The changes to business operations, in anticipation of the opening of international borders, must be implemented nation-wide to help build up consumer confidence and reinforce the marketing of Fiji as a holiday destination that has prepared well with everyone’s safety as a priority.

Along with COVID-19 Safety Guidelines being shared, the processes will require industry wide confirmed commitment, action plans being put into place, staff training scheduled and day to day business practices re-aligned for compliance. As well as consistent reminders and checks to do the right things always.

Hotels, activity providers, tours and transport suppliers have already integrated some of the new normal practices that will now be around for a long time. Training and reinforcement and more training is planned to take place.

These new practices include the installations of plexi-glass at check-in or payment counters, that have now been relocated to comply with the social distancing rules. Also, the re-training of staff on not shaking hands, picking up babies and saying goodbyes with hugs and the training and instilling of discipline for wearing face masks and gloves correctly. Of removing buffet options unless diners are served (to reduce multiple handling of serving utensils), the installation of sneeze guards and training the discipline of consistently wiping high touch points (like menus, salt & pepper shakers, chairs & tables, menus and table settings).  

These are just some of the difficult but necessary new normal requirements that are being implemented across the industry. These changes incur costs, but more importantly, affect who we are as an industry, as a people and a country.

The Fijian tourism industry was built on the lucky combination of a perfect location and the world’s friendliest people. And of course, those visionaries and tourism pioneers. Fijians are warm, fun loving and happy. We make friends with total strangers and welcome people with smiles, kisses, hugs and reassuring embraces. We love babies and babies love us.

We must now learn to stop these natural instincts that make us the world’s friendliest people to keep ourselves and our families and our communities safe. We must now learn to stop shaking hands, to stand further away than we would naturally like to when we say “Bula!”, and refrain from sharing our food, drinks and even cigarette rolls with each other. We must also learn to drink kava from our own bowls, while serving it with a long-handled ladle. Because this is how our behaviour must change to keep each other, our families, our visitors and our communities safe.

We continue to wait, with collective bated breath for when planes will fly freely again and the visitors come back to our improved and enhanced Fiji.

It is not a simple process by any means, and one made even more difficult to inculcate into our more widely practiced communal living. It will take a concerted effort from our national airline, our suppliers, our visitors and airports, the regulators and the whole of government. We know it is already being embraced and adopted beyond Fiji’s borders to international agencies such as IATA, ICAO, WHO and more. The new rules must also be applicable to the special bubble that is Suva and not just to those in the tourism industry.

Of the utmost importance though, is the slowly dawning realisation that there now appears to be genuine demand for travel to the Pacific and we know that is the lifeblood for Fiji’s recovery.

So, as difficult as those changes seem, we must adopt them as part of this strange new normal and like all sacrifices, hope that the payoff will be well worth it.
By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 15 October 2020)

Tourism Talanoa: Happy Fiji Day!

Tourism Talanoa: Happy Fiji Day!

FHTA, 9 October 2020

On the eve of Fiji’s 50th anniversary as an independent sovereign nation, we take the time to acknowledge all those that have shaped our country’s path. Good or bad, the experiences we have undertaken as a nation continue to harden our resolve to persevere, to overcome and to succeed.

Tourism in Fiji has grown in leaps and bounds from the early days and has risen to become an undeniable force in Fiji’s revenue-earning potential.

46 per cent of Fiji’s total Gross Domestic Product in 2019 was from the tourism industry and this speaks to how heavily we have come to rely on tourism in Fiji, perhaps by default.

On the global stage, the nation’s tourism industry has solidified its position in the Pacific as a preferred holiday destination, the quintessential tropical island getaway promising rejuvenated bodies and uplifted spirits. ‘Fiji’ conjures up idyllic beaches, swaying palm trees and smiling, friendly people and has become a renowned brand reinforced by other famed foreign exchange-earners like our natural mineral water, a strong national airline, coconut-based beauty products and talented rugby players.

There is steadily growing demand also for agricultural products like our aromatic ginger, kava, coconut, cocoa and herbs. Eventually, someone will start juicing the easily grown and readily available local fruit to replace the cheaply imported, sugary juices and another supply chain will find a new demand in tourism that can provide the necessary product development testing grounds and provide a natural pathway to export quality.

That is testament to the hard work that the industry has put into the promotion and marketing of Destination Fiji, demanding quality local products and services and subsequently delivering uniquely Fijian experiences to visitors from around the world.
Growth in the industry has become more broad-based, increasing demand for local products where quality and nature-based goods get exposed to international markets and provide more employment opportunities with steady growth. Beauty products, soaps, oils, snacks, gift items, jewellery, alcohol, souvenirs and clothing are just some of the supply lines that get launched by, through or because of tourism.

The trickledown effect to the grassroots level expands even further with the growing interest in eco-tourism and focus on protecting and conserving natural environments through tourism exposure and the demand for experience-based travel.
A brilliant example of how Fiji is capable of so much more than beaches and surfing has been epitomized in the adventure series with Amazon TV’s “The World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji” hosted by survivalist Bear Grylls, which did an amazing job in showcasing Fiji’s natural, wild beauty.

During the gruelling race, the 66 teams traversed through dense forests, deep ravines and less travelled, but stunning terrain; highlighting opportunities for Fiji to begin marketing Eco-Destination Fiji as an alternative to the normal high-end tourism products.

Before the pandemic struck, the rapid growth in international visitor arrivals was anticipated to continue growing with the added demand for new products, infrastructure and services. This would have paved the way for more local and foreign investment opportunities and consequently more jobs and more taxes for services.

That vision is still valid, but the timeline has obviously shifted. If the demand for Fiji is still there, and we have no doubt it is, there is no stopping the momentum once we get the green light.

The industry is also the largest employer in the country with over 150,000 employed directly or indirectly in the sector, with more women and young people than other industries.

These numbers have dwindled to record lows as unemployment figures soared for the first time in many years when no work was available after borders closed. And if the predicted start to tourism is as slow as expected, then the return to full employment may also start slowly.

The pandemic has affected the estimation of tourism hitting the F$2.2 billion mark by 2021. We can say we came close though.

The figure will have to be revised and revisited in 2022 at the earliest if our vision of increasing arrivals to 930,000 or more is to be achieved. Especially if we are still intent on deepening visitor spend, spreading benefits from tourism even further throughout the country while planning to develop the industry to be more increasingly sustainable and inclusive going forward.

It cannot be downplayed how desperate the situation on the ground still is many tourism businesses as we creep into our seventh month and can start to see the end of the year draw invariably closer without even a whisper of the good news we had hoped to hear by now.

Local specials and rates are a fun distraction from a world turned upside down, but many of these operators are really struggling to break-even.

While some properties have seen a positive influx of locals, there are far more properties that have not seen any activity at all. The cessation of scheduled ferry services due to no international visitors makes it unviable for resorts in the Mamanuca’s and the Yasawa Islands to open. Less frequent services by air and sea to the northern and eastern islands make transfers to resorts out in these areas more complicated and expensive. And making sales only on weekends is not sustainable by any means, regardless of what type of business you may operate.

So this Fiji Day weekend, when you take your family to a hotel or resort to celebrate Fiji’s milestone anniversary in a relaxed setting; know that you are helping pay wages that will, in turn, pay for bills and food. Appreciate your comfortable room and enjoy food from their restaurants that are helping local farmers and suppliers. Take advantage of the happy hour cocktails at sunset and tip your waiter generously to show your appreciation.

Enjoy the beauty of our country that has been independent for 50 years now and think about how much you really know about Fiji and how much of this beautiful country you have actually seen.

And one small kerekere; please leave wherever you go, just as good as, if not better than you found it. So someone else can enjoy it next time.

Happy Fiji Day!

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 8 October 2020)

Tourism Talanoa: Commemorating Businesswomen’s Day

Tourism Talanoa: Commemorating Businesswomen’s Day

FHTA, 1 October 2020

This past weekend saw the world, through the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, celebrating World Tourism Day on September 27. Another special day celebrated in the United States last week was the Business Women’s Day on September 22. Not least because it was mostly ignored as being anything of importance to celebrate in the Pacific given our COVID related economic situations, but more so to appreciate and give recognition to one of the largest groups represented in the industry, women.

It is now well recognised that the tourism industry is one of the largest employers in Fiji. This is also true of most Pacific Island countries that rely on tourism. There are more women and young people employed in tourism than in any other sector of Fiji’s economy.

While tourism’s overall gender balance leans in favour of women, there is still a relatively lethargic imbalance of gender representation in management positions throughout the country in most industries.

But tourism is not alone in the reasons behind this, and coupled with the often 7 days a week job requirements, long hours and industry-related usual challenges; local women have had a more difficult time moving up the proverbial ladder.

So, what does it take for a local woman to succeed in tourism? The Tourism Association checked in with two of them to share their experiences.

Ogina Lata, currently General Manager of locally owned The Palms Denarau, has spent 33 years working in the tourism sector. As a single parent, she found balancing her demanding work and a frenetic personal life to be tremendously challenging.

“When I was first promoted as General Manager at a previous workplace, I took over from a male manager which made it so much more difficult because the staff weren’t used to having a woman in the position, so I was tested by the more experienced staff” she shares.

With nearly all the General Managers on Denarau and the Nadi area at the time of her promotion being male, earning their respect and getting their cooperation was also challenging.

She adds that “eventually sharing experiences, consulting with them and exchanging information made it possible to work together and resolve issues and finally for them to accept her as another experienced colleague in the industry.”

As a businesswoman, she attributes her success to her tenacity as a single mother having to show consistent strength even when you are at your lowest and firmly believes in providing other women with as much support and encouragement as possible.

In an industry that can be brutally demanding of time and consistent reinforcement for best practices and competitive service, she has personally mentored and assisted many young women to stay on track with their goals while remaining passionate about their jobs.

“It is easy to get side-tracked, so young women need the motivation to remain focused”.

Ogina has been the GM at The Palms, located on Denarau Island opposite the Denarau Marina, and catering to the local corporate as well as the international market for the last 5 years. She continues to counsel and mentor young women in the industry and is extremely proud of those who have now moved into senior roles.

She is also really pleased to see more empowered women emerging, leading to many more being recognised for their confidence and professionalism in what used to be an almost all-male area.

“As females, we are proof that we can also adapt to other cultures, new technology, be creative, as well as be good leaders that can manage businesses and be in competition with our male colleagues,” she states.

Resort Manager at Maqai Beach Eco Surf Resort Catherine Bukayaro agrees with these sentiments. The Resort is located on exquisite Qamea Island (Taveuni) and has won multiple awards for excellence and sustainability. The majority of their employees are from the nearby community of landowners (mataqali).

Cultural and traditional expectations form our next set of challenges for female leaders in business.

“In the beginning, it was extremely difficult for the staff to accept me – being a female leader, as well as not being from their Mataqali.”

Catherine shares that she had to earn their eventual respect by meeting them at their level and play a mothering role in motivating the staff and that this helped them to accept the inevitable changes.

“We now have an awesome team culture, almost like a family, so that now makes my role easier. Happy staff serving happy guests gives us awesome online reviews!” she believes. And rave reviews kept the guests coming.

Catherine also shares that women face harder choices between professional success and personal fulfilment.

She believes women’s leadership in an organisation can increase productivity and profitability. And lives by her belief to “Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man and work like a boss.”

When asked for advice to other businesswomen and young women entering the tourism workforce and considering it as a long-term career; Catherine insists that they ‘create their impact.’

“There will be people along the way who will help support you, but it is ultimately up to you. You control your own destiny. Do not wait for someone else to create a path for you,” she extols.

Ogina’s advice to the younger generation of women is ‘Nothing is impossible.’

It has been said often enough before, that we should hire for attitude and train for skill. To develop the tourism industry into a workforce of more inspiring local leaders, our ambitious youth must be encouraged to embrace positive, “can do” attitudes if they are serious about being in an industry that can throw the most experienced, or highly qualified manager unexpected curveballs, with a crisis seemingly always just around the corner.

It is, after all, an industry that works in paradise-like conditions but has seen almost all manner of challenges. Floods that removed roads, cyclones that flattened roofs and removed beaches, political upheavals that frightened guests, cancelled flights and boats, or union strikes and landowner blockades, high seasons with insufficient inventory and low seasons with far too much inventory, tidal surges that removed kilometres of sea walls, guests emergencies and staff not turning up for important events and conferences where managers have had to double as receptionist and dishwasher.

A measure of one’s passion for the work is often simply staying in the industry to see each challenge through.

And yes, even the most unwelcome and unexpected pandemic crisis keeps the diehard industry people ready to leap this challenge with the same persistence.

That includes these two inspiring women doing what they know best. Persevering, supporting and ready to make any changes needed once the pandemic dust settles.

Onwards and upwards, ladies. The industry acknowledges you and everyone else that is hanging in there doing the best they can to preserve and prepare our piece of paradise.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 1 October 2020)

Tourism Talanoa: Commemorating World Tourism Day

Tourism Talanoa: Commemorating World Tourism Day

FHTA, 24 September 2020

Since 1980, World Tourism Day has been celebrated on September 27 by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
While 2020 might not have given us much reason to celebrate in the tourism industry, this Sunday, the global tourism family will quietly commemorate the occasion and continue with our post-COVID planning.
Tourism has been the hardest hit sector by the current health crisis, and it has truly been a global event as no country, regardless of size, has been unaffected.
The border closures and an immediate drop in demand for travel led to new lows in international tourism numbers, which has then affected entire economies and employment figures.
UNWTO states that the global tourism sector has been a major source of employment because of its labour-intensive nature and the flow-on effect on employment in related sectors. It accounts for one in ten jobs worldwide.
Industry experts have estimated that just one job in the core tourism sector creates about one-and-a-half additional or indirect jobs in the tourism-related economy.
The sections that have been hit the hardest have been women, youth and informal workers who have seen their employment or income avenues dry up due to tourism sector job losses and business closures due to the pandemic, that was brought to the fore when countries shut their borders and planes stopped flying.
The chosen theme for 2020 is “Tourism and Rural Development” and will highlight the unique role that tourism plays in providing opportunities outside of the usual hotspots and preserving cultural and natural heritage.
Fiji’s geography and economic forces have moulded the way many of our tourism businesses, especially resort operators have implemented sustainable measures into their operations.
Business ventures in eco-tourism have increased, the inclusion of visitor activities that showcase our marine biodiversity and ways to contribute to its protection have become part of the normal offerings for holidaymakers looking to make a difference or be more interactive with nature.
Small farms and gardens that supplement many resorts fresh produce sources have been the norm for years now, as has recycling waste, water, and the widespread use of renewable energy. Understanding that how you look after your environment reinforces your business’s longer-term sustainability is widely accepted and coupled with reducing overhead costs makes it even more practical.
Other “return to nature” experiences like volunteering for community and school projects in the outer islands or rural areas, exploratory inland walking and biking treks, river rafting, zip-lining through forests and “unplugging” in remotely located ecolodges without Wi-Fi and phone connections are just some of the many new tourism offerings that have gained increasing popularity for Fiji.
These impact the economy in other less noticeable ways like encouraging small locally owned businesses, providing employment to informal workers in the rural areas, while allowing widespread benefits to communities in these areas; thereby spreading that tourism dollar even further.
While tourism is recognised worldwide as being one of the fastest-growing sectors that can provide an indispensable economic boost for holiday destinations, it has also been known historically to have devastating effects on the environment, people and their cultural identities.
Being especially cognizant therefore to find a balance through sustainable tourism calls for a variety of best practices to be observed. Conserving resources and protecting biodiversity, respecting and preserving our community cultures whilst looking for ways to benefit them, and responding to our visitor needs and the industry as a whole while providing the maximum socio-economic benefits for the whole country is the most recognised of these.
Wildlife conservation initiatives around the world and closer to home; marine protection programs have come under threat because of the fall in tourism earnings, the usual visitor support and tourism staff involvement that has cut off the funding for the biodiversity conservation.
With livelihoods at risk in and around protected areas, cases of poaching and looting of protected species and nurseries are expected to rise.
This World Tourism Day, FHTA urges the Fiji tourism family to rethink the future of our tourism sector and in particular how it contributes to the sustainable development goals of the country, through its social, cultural, political, and economic values.
No entity is just another tourism business, whatever your business might be. As an industry we are connected and complex; a supporting network that contributes individually and collectively to the economy.
If there’s one thing that tourism can do, it is that it can eventually help the country move beyond the pandemic, by bringing people together and promoting solidarity and trust – crucial ingredients in advancing the global cooperation so urgently needed during these trying times.
This year’s international day of observation comes at a critical time, as countries around the world look to tourism to drive recovery, including in rural communities where the sector is a leading employer and economic pillar providing jobs and opportunity, most notably for women and youth.
It comes as communities in rural areas also struggle with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Especially as these communities are usually much less prepared to deal with the short and longer-term impacts of the crisis.
However, Fiji and many of our Pacific Island neighbours, have had a far better experience than other communities in developing countries around the world that have lost a critical economic lifeline in tourism.
With unparalleled access to fertile land and surrounded by oceans teeming with marine life, even with borders shut and higher unemployment, we have been able to sustain ourselves with what we have or by helping out one another as island people usually do.
UNWTO estimates that by 2050, 68% of the world population will live in urban areas, while 80% of those currently living in ‘extreme poverty’ live outside of towns and cities.
But with Fiji’s communal living framework, we can work together to ensure that estimation does not happen here.
Tourism is a lifeline, offering workers a chance to earn a living where they live, or get a skill and use it to travel further for a richer experience.
We can use this World Tourism Day to reflect on the work that has been done in the past and continue to put our heads together, to work collectively towards making Fiji the destination of choice.
We deserve to be on top of travellers’ wish lists and it’s up to us to prove to them that they were right to choose us.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 24 September 2020)

Fiji Immigration: Information on International Travel – COVID-19

Immigration-Dept

• Fiji has established a safe “blue lanes”, open to those yachts and pleasure craft sailing to Fiji. Any boat coming to Fiji will be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis. The only port of entry will be Port Denarau Marina. If this pilot project and if successful, extending blue lanes to other ports and marinas will be considered.

• Those eligible to sail to Fiji fall under two categories, both of which will require them to be tested in another country before departing.

• If their journey to Fiji will take 14 days or longer uninterrupted at sea, once they dock in Fiji and show proof of a negative test result, everyone on board will be screened by the Ministry of Health for symptoms. If they’re deemed to be healthy, their yacht will be allowed to freely visit other ports throughout Fiji.

• Alternatively, those with a journey at sea shorter than 14 days will be required to make up the difference in quarantine once they dock in Fiji at their own cost. So, say they spend eight days alone at sea –– they will then be required to pay for six days of quarantine in Fiji, after which they can be cleared by a negative test result, also at their own cost.

• Cruise ships are still strictly banned.

• From, Monday, the 22nd of June, Fijian citizens and Fiji residents in Australia and New Zealand will be permitted to travel to Fiji only after passing through a net of new safety measures.

• These are the options for returning residents and citizens:

• A health certificate from hospital or health facility recognised by MHMS in their respective country stating that he or she quarantined in Australia or New Zealand for 14 days immediately before departure from Australia or New Zealand

• Proof of a negative COVID test result within 72 hours of their departure for Fiji.

• If you haven’t done your quarantine in Australia or New Zealand but have been tested, you can present a negative COVID-test result within 72 hours of travel and, on arrival to Fiji spend 14 days in a government-designated quarantine centre. You can then go straight home if you are symptom-free.

• Mandatory: If you’re a returning Fijian citizen or Fiji resident, and regardless of whether you arrive by air or sea, you must download the careFIJI App to enter the country. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can buy one upon landing at Nadi Airport for as little as $100. If you come to Fiji, bring a smartphone or buy a smartphone and download careFIJI.


• As Fiji returns to a “new normal”, there will be a focus on rekindling Fiji’s vital film and television industry. Again, this will be done in a completely safe and controlled manner. Cast and crew won’t even be allowed to board their plane without proof of a negative COVID-19 test and will be screened for symptoms both before boarding and upon landing. They’ll then be entered into government-designated quarantine, whether that’s a pre-approved hotel or a remote isolated island, for the mandatory 14-day period. Absolutely all quarantine and testing costs will be borne by the production company.

  • Expatriate Employees who have been issued 03 months extension of work permits will be eligible to apply for another extension not exceeding 31.12.2020. The requirements are as follows:
    • a. Letter of request from the company,
    • b. Passport Bio data copy [certified],
    • c. Revised contract to suit the company’s need, and
    • d. Fee of $632.00 dependents to pay additional issue fees.

• Furthermore, seeing the current pandemic and uncertainties, if company’s intend to employ the same foreign nationals for longer period may do so but they need to meet all the requirements as per the Departments new checklist.

Source: Fiji Immigration

Other Resources: Fiji COVID-19 Border Control Measures

Tourism Talanoa: The Tourism Experts

Tourism Talanoa: The Tourism Experts

FHTA, 17 September 2020

Alice Springs in the heart of Australia’s “red centre” is becoming famous for another reason now. The dry climate and low humidity have made it an ideal location for the many aircraft needing to be “parked” to wait out the coronavirus pandemic. With Singapore Airlines recently adding 4 of its A380’s to the many Boeing MAX 8’s there since last year, the estimated $5billion worth of aircraft from around the world, wait in the arid, preserving air for when demand for air travel will take off again.
It is difficult for many to appreciate just how far-reaching the implications of the pandemic is on air travel with government restrictions continuing to decimate passenger demand and force potential travellers to cancel or reschedule trips for the foreseeable future.
Few industries are scrambling to adapt quite like the travel industry, which relies on the regular, safe, and unencumbered movement of people for business and pleasure. In many countries, borders remain closed, cities are still locking down every time infections appear to be getting out of hand, making it especially hard to anticipate how people will move around in the future.
According to the latest data, air travel is down 95%, at least half the world’s aircraft are grounded, famously busy international airports have had no passengers pass through their doors, and worldwide, airlines are estimated to be losing US1.6billion a day.
But it’s not all bad news apparently, with the travel experts predicting all sorts of new trends, industry pundits weighing in with their own theories and no doubt Governments around the world struggling to cope with the economic, medical and political fallouts, simply wanting it all to be over. We all do. Apart from the standard cargo runs that never really stopped, several European airlines have begun commercial operations and although passenger numbers have predictably plummeted, global air traffic volume has seen a steady climb to about 50 per cent of what it was last year.
Flight tracker FlightAware has indicated that in 2019, there was an average of 104,132 flights in a day around the world. As of last month, that daily flight’s figure is currently at 54,308 and that number is growing.
As consumer confidence slowly rebuilds to pre-COVID levels, the race for the vaccine speeds up with pressure building around the belief that most travellers will only truly feel comfortable if there is a vaccine available.
Experts have said that it could be years before such a vaccine is found and circulated globally so, in the interim, the world is having to plan to live with the virus sustainably.
International Airline Group, the parent company of British Airways and Aer Lingus, forecasts that the industry will take a few years to fully recover and their CEO Willie Walsh thinks it will be closer to 2023 which he says is a reasonable forecast while admitting that “this is unlike anything we’ve seen before”.
Travel writers have pitched in with trends supporting staycations (domestic tourism) where travelling without a passport will be preferred over travelling with a passport. There are also forecasts predicting a yearning for open spaces, support for environmental initiatives and all things nature based on a world tired of lockdowns and restrictions.
And where older generations might be wary of immediate travel, there are those that believe millennial travellers will be first to test the new travel requirements.
There is consensus on a few areas though for how things will change. These include that a growing number of countries will promote “travel bubbles” and “corona corridors” as first steps to jumpstart air travel and tourism. These measures involve agreements with neighbouring regions that allow for travel across borders for non-essential trips without quarantining upon arrival. Fiji is looking into these as well, or versions thereof.
Most agree that the vast majority of travellers will need to feel confident the destinations they are travelling to are safe and the companies taking care of them are trustworthy and meet international safety standards. Along with effective contact tracing platforms and reduced or contactless service and touchpoints, crowds and crowded areas will be avoided or minimized as unfortunately for cruise liners, travellers will continue to be wary of travel in confined spaces.
Many also agree that the 14-day quarantine requirements will be an issue for travellers, with airlines around the world monitoring the situation with a magnifying glass and admitting an addiction-like fascination with the numbers of cases every day and wondering when the flow-on effects will be felt by other industries.
This is true even for us in Fiji. While the tourism hot spots like Nadi, the Coral Coast and even further North are reeling from the lack of tourism revenue, most of the other cities and towns have not really felt the economic brunt of the global recession.
While this is being mitigated with FNPF access and Government’s assistance as announced in the National Budget 2020/2021, how long can this assistance last and is it sustainable in the long term as we settle in to wait out the rest of the year?
Our own Fiji Airways continues to prepare for a revised network plan, which will be revealed when the easing of border restrictions is announced. They are also progressing with the implementation of their Travel Ready program, that details measures to safeguard the health and medical safety of their customers and staff when international flying resumes.
Despite the many expert predictions, some things are worth keeping in mind.
Firstly, that seeing as this is our first ever pandemic, there are no actual precedents so no one is a real expert which means we might as well be positive, plan our comeback well and hope for the best.
Secondly, tourism needs a national airline to be strong and ready to get those planes out of mothballs or those arid deserts at the first sign of borders lifting, bubbles agreed to and bookings confirmed. The downside of not having a national airline is that we would have to rely on an international airline seeing the merit of scheduling flights to Fiji that will not be based on Fiji’s economic benefit taking precedent. Fiji would be a stopover and not the hub for the Pacific it currently is. Our imports and exports would be slower, impacting other industries that rely on accessibility to international markets, same-day deliveries as well as lucrative commerce and trade partnerships.
So, let us all get behind our national airline with the same national pride we had when those planes were flying in the thousands of visitors, friends and families because we will need them to do that again very soon. And our way, the Fijian way; has always been to offer a hand when one is down, not kick him.
The tourism industry is down but definitely not out. Not by any means. It is hurting badly but still extremely busy consulting, discussing and planning its way out of this. Our unemployed staff need understanding and support. The thousands of businesses and supply chains and SME’s and communities that tourism has supported for decades will not disappear. They too need understanding and support.
Fiji needs tourism. And right now, every tourism worker, tourism business and supplier that set up their business because of tourism, needs Fiji’s support. Because Fiji needs tourism.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 17 September 2020)

Tourism Talanoa: FHTA Holds Historic 55th AGM

Tourism Talanoa: FHTA Holds Historic 55th AGM

FHTA, 27 August 2020 – The global headlines in the 1960s were dominated by the Vietnam War, the assassinations of the US President John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King and the first man on the moon.
Here in Fiji, amongst other things, the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association also came into being during these historic mid-Sixties.

Originally established to look after the interests of hotel operators, the Association has grown from strength to strength as the country’s premier tourism body that has lent its membership’s collective voice in support of the evolution of the industry as Fiji’s strongest foreign exchange earner, tourism’s exponential growth, related infrastructure development and recognition of the iconic Fiji brand.

An integral part of the industry now; the Association continues to lobby and advocate for its membership interests that progress opportunities and investments through reviewing the ease of doing business and provides consultative input on the cost of doing business in a rapidly developing pacific island country .

In the mid-2000s, membership was opened up to Dive operators and a few years later, Marine operators and eventually Yachting became a part of the Association to embrace the diversified segments that operated under the tourism umbrella.

The membership ranks also include Associate members who are indirectly part of the tourism chain as a supplier or distributor significantly influenced by tourism businesses, their employees, trends and infrastructure.

Later this afternoon (Thursday 27th August), FHTA convenes its Annual General Meeting on Denarau Island in Nadi. This will be the 55th AGM in FHTA’s history, making this our Emerald anniversary; one of several firsts that this AGM will mark.

It will be the first time in 21 years of consistent annual AGM’s that FHTA’s President of 16 years and much-loved mentor will not be gracing with his presence, having left us a year ago with his untimely passing. Dixon Seeto was a titan in the tourism sector with a wealth of experience and fortitude that was immeasurable and still missed.

It will also be the first time that an AGM will be attended via Zoom as well as in person, during a historical and unprecedented time when the tourism industry is in a forced hiatus. And yet, in contrast to how hiatus’ generally go, this one has not only gone on now for almost 6 months, and quite likely to continue for a further 6 months, it has been anything but quiet. Instead, it has also been a time of consistent adjustment, transformation and forced pivoting for the entire industry.

There has never been a time historically, where while negligible or no income is possible, that businesses have had to review their human resource needs, restructure and amend strategic plans, reconsider products and services and plan for the adoption and implementation of new hygiene practices and marketing strategies.

As the global travel lockdown persists, tourism around the world has been affected and Fiji, being so reliant on it, has been spared the tragic health repercussions but has fared no better than everyone else economically.

During FHTA’s historic AGM, we will vote in new and dynamic members to join our board to lend their expertise and diverse backgrounds to steering the industry back to the pinnacle of what private sector as the engine of economic growth must continue to be.

Creating jobs, increasing trade, providing products and services and generating required tax revenue to fund basic public services such as health and education.

COVID-19 might have thrown us all for a loop and businesses may not be the same again for a long time. We understand implicitly how severely our members and their employees have been impacted and will be working with all of them to implement the new normal of COVID Safe standards expected around the world to instil the levels of confidence needed by potential visitors to confirm travel when the world opens up for travel again.

We continue our consultations and discussions with the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport and the Ministry of Health & Medical Services to set the standard for Fiji’s new health guidelines in terms of what is expected of all tourism operators in the country. It is difficult and often complicated work, but people’s livelihoods depend on the new framework being approved, implemented and in operation as quickly as logistically possible.

Our economy depends on getting these practices becoming second nature in our places of work, homes and public spaces. As does the alignment of the new marketing strategies also being developed and planned concurrently by the national airline and all tourism operators keen to be first cabs off the rank when those borders open.

We also continue our collaborations and consultations with the Ministries of Fisheries, the Maritime Safety Authority (MSAF), Ministry of Transport and the Land Transport Authority (LTA), Investment Fiji, the Immigration Department, the Department of Environment, the Fiji Revenue & Customs services (FRCS), the Fiji Higher Education Commission, USP, FNU, the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC), the Fiji Commerce & Employers Federation (FCEF), Fiji Competition & Consumer Commission (FCCC), the Consumer Council, the Accident Compensation Commission Fiji (ACCF) Fiji Airways, Tourism Fiji, Society of Fiji Travel Associates (SOFTA), South Pacific Travel Organisation (SPTO), Fiji Independent Travel & Backpackers Association (FITBA), Airports Fiji Ltd, the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, the Employment Relations Advisory Board, the various legal fraternity, the Unions, the Ministry of Economy and Departments of Energy and Communications, EFL and Water Authority, the iTaukei Land Trust Board, the Fiji Bureau of Statistics (FBoS), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), ADB, the Reserve Bank of Fiji and the Association of Banks in Fiji (ABIF), the many High Commissions and foreign embassies.

These are just some of the many platforms the Association meets with to navigate tourism’s business processes, obtain legislation clarity or amendments, or develop partnership programs and support with.

FHTA continues to work on understanding what the changing key membership priorities and challenges are in the current economic environment to enable the most advantageous partnerships and cooperation for viable and sustainable solutions.

We will remember Dixon’s timeless legacy by ensuring we continue to work towards that which he had the most passion – “it was good for tourism only if the whole economy benefitted”; a conviction that defined who he was and one that we continue to support with the same passion.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 27 August 2020

Tourism Talanoa: Planning For Opening of Borders

Tourism Talanoa: Planning For Opening of Borders

FHTA, 10 September 2020 – Our Blue Lanes have resulted in a positive turnout with 62 yachts of various sizes choosing to take advantage of one of Fiji’s COVID Safe economic Recovery initiatives implemented on 01 August 2020.
Port Denarau Marina has reported many yachts and pleasure craft sailing into the harbour to quarantine themselves for the balance of the required 14 days if the sailing time was shorter and the Marina team have indicated that there were likely to be more vessels due to pass through in the coming weeks.

While the quarantine period remains at 14 days, the good news for sailors is that travel time from your destination is counted in that period provided you had uninterrupted travel from your departing port. Many visitors, with the means, have taken advantage of this offer to berth and enjoy Fiji’s currently quiet cooler season.

With the cyclone season in the Pacific looming, however, yacht owners will have the added challenge of being able to move from Fiji to Australia or New Zealand to wait out the season in time as insurance cover becomes invalid if a vessel remains in a recognised cyclone area anywhere in the world.

One of the required documents that visitors must bring with them is a negative RT-PCR test for COVID-19 from an official laboratory.

RT-PCR stands for Reverse Transcription s- Polymerase Chain Reaction. It is a method for detecting the presence of specific genetic material in any pathogen, including a virus.

The test detects the genetic information of the virus, the Ribonucleic acid, which is only possible if the virus is present and someone is actively infected.

It is not yet clear how long an immunity period after a Covid-19 infection will be.

Research shows that those who survived the 2003 sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak had antibodies in their blood for years after recovery.

Both SARS and COVID-19 are caused by coronaviruses, but it is unknown whether COVID-19 will generate a similar immune response. There have also been some cases where people have been infected twice with COVID, meaning these patients did not develop any immunity at all.

So right now, the world waits with bated breath for scientists, as one portion races to find a vaccine while another portion studies the genetics of the COVID virus to find out more about it and its legacy.

It seems so long ago that Fiji made the tough decision of closing the borders at the end of March but the focus on keeping the Fijian population safe has remained steadfast.

The tourism industry understands implicitly that we will be ready for visitors when we are sure we can continue to keep our people and our communities safe.

It is not difficult to understand therefore that discussions with New Zealand and Australia about committing to any Bubble talks, Bula or otherwise, maybe still some time away.

We know that more than 75 per cent of visitors to Fiji in 2019 were from New Zealand and Australia and with tourism’s multiplier effect throughout the economy, there is a heavy reliance on these markets from all sectors. All the more reason, therefore, that the industry is fine-tuning its efforts on COVID safe guidelines and practices and the concerted efforts to establish visitor confidence as part of a comprehensive safe opening strategy.

With cautious optimism building for when those borders eventually get opened, preparations are also underway for the Fiji Airway’s led Bula Bubble Campaign and the competitive holiday packages they will develop and oversee with tourism partners.

Fundamental to these initiatives being considered is the adoption and practice of the COVID safe guidelines, the competitive value for money packages being offered and the acceptance and practicality of how the VIP Lanes will operate.

What is equally essential is the training of our tourism workers in the new normal and the support of the entire industry and supply chains.

FHTA is currently working on a standard document regarding new COVID-safe operation guidelines for the industry, that is a collaborative effort with Tourism Fiji and the Ministries of Tourism and Health & Medical Services. All aspects are being reviewed, including the required commitment from tourism operators, staff and Wellness Ambassadors training, supply chains involvement and adherence to expected protocols and enhanced Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) for everyone involved.

It is clearly understood by all of tourism’s many segments – accommodation, air, land and sea transport, activities, tours, restaurants, and bars; that every facet of a visitor’s journey must be covered.

Critical to this is our tourism workers’ health and wellness and ensuring that we maintain our newly adopted standards so that we can continue to keep our communities and our people safe.

It is one thing to have the framework guideline in place and it is another thing to see that it really is being committed to, enforced and practised; so here too FHTA will be working with our partners and the authorities to make sure that all of this is widely practised and adhered to.

There must be no room for complacency and there will be absolutely no acceptance of excuses for why anyone in the industry has not adopted, accepted and is ready to practice the new guidelines when they are rolled out.

It has been mentioned in our many Tourism Talanoa columns in previous months, and we say it again – we can only achieve this through collaboration and teamwork.

Because together, Fiji can do this.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 10 September 20207

Tourism Talanoa: Our New Board

Tourism Talanoa: Our New Board

FHTA, 3 September 2020 – 2020 marks the 55th year in operation for the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA), making this year our Emerald anniversary.

After being delayed due to the current pandemic, our Annual General Meeting finally took place on Thursday 27 August, in line with our FHTA Constitution and following consultations with the Registrar of Companies regarding the timeframe for AGMs.

The highlight of every AGM is the election of members to the FHTA Board of Directors. After several departures in 2019 and earlier this year some through contracts ending and some departures totally unexpected, there were eventually nine open director vacancies during the 55th FHTA AGM.

The AGM paid a fitting tribute to tourism icon and past President Dixon Seeto whose notable absence since his untimely passing last year was felt by all who knew and worked with him. This somber reminder was echoed in the address from Association Life Member, Hafiz Khan, who fondly recalled Dixon’s vast experience and deep passion that was always available to guide and steer the industry.

The full board of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association for 2020-2021 are as follows:

  • Allan Gortan – representing Paradise Taveuni Resort
  • Azam Khan – representing Hexagon Group of Hotels (Hexagon International Hotel Villas & Spa, Suva Motor Inn)
  • Bradley Robinson – representing Raffe Hotels & Resorts (Lomani Island Resort, Fiji Gateway Hotel, Plantation Island Resort)
  • Brian Kirsch – representing Robinson Crusoe Island Resort
  • Francis Lee – representing Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa
  • Lachlan Walker – representing Intercontinental Hotel Group (Holiday Inn, Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa)
  • Narend Kumar – representing Tanoa Hotel Group (Tanoa Plaza Hotel, Tanoa International Hotel, Tanoa Apartments, Tanoa Skylodge Hotel, Tanoa Waterfront Hotel, Tanoa Rakiraki Hotel)
  • Neeraj Chadha – representing Marriott International Inc (Sheraton Fiji Resort, Sheraton Denarau Villas, The Westin Denarau Island Resort, Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay)
  • Nicholas Darling – representing Volivoli Beach Resort
  • Patrick Wong – representing Viwa Island Resort
  • Robert Speed – representing Captain Cook Cruises Fiji
  • Steven Andrews – representing Castaway Island Fiji
  • Tammie Tam – representing Warwick Hotels & Resorts (Warwick Fiji, The Naviti Resort, Tambua Sands Beach Resort, Tokatoka Resort)
  • Tarun Patel – representing Vision Investment Ltd (Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa, DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji, Sonaisali Island, Tadrai Island Resort)
  • Viliame Vodonaivalu – representing Grand Pacific Hotel, FNPF
  • Vincent Macquet – representing Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa (Novotel Suva, Novotel Nadi, Pullman Nadi Bay Resort, Mercure Nadi)

The officers elected during the AGM were Brian Kirsch as President with Tammie Tam and Tarun Patel serving as Vice Presidents.

The Board Directors come from diverse backgrounds and experiences and represent members from the northern, central, eastern, and western divisions; further broken down into the Mamanuca & Yasawa Island areas, the Coral Coast, and Sun Coast, as well as representing the now approximately 60% locally-owned tourism businesses in Fiji. The mix of large, medium, and small operators also ensures all member interests are covered comprehensively.

“The last twelve months have been extraordinarily challenging for our industry, and our members are still navigating a broad range of issues that range from keeping our employees and customers safe, managing cash flows, reorienting operations in the new normal to planning for reopening in a still unknown timeframe,” newly elected President Mr. Kirsch had noted at the AGM.

He also added that supporting the membership in addressing these challenges, providing clarity and advice on constantly changing situations, and ensuring that communication was efficient and proactive, was even more critical for the Association to provide now, more than ever.

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association Secretariat and membership extends our heartiest congratulations to the 2020-2021 appointed Board members and Office Bearers and wish them well for their term on the FHTA Board.

This board has its work cut out for them as they will lead FHTA through what is undoubtedly one of the toughest times of Fiji tourism as it navigates itself out of the current doldrums brought about by COVID-19 and border closures.

However, buoyed by Government’s targeted relief from import and excise duties as well as reforms in its tax structures from the National Budget, FHTA has been actively planning for the return to business pending the restart of global commercial travel.

There are general optimism and a firm belief amongst tourism stakeholders that there are unique opportunities to invigorate the economy with the introduction of policies that provide stimulus and can accelerate growth by incentivising job retention, sustaining tourism SME’s and protecting vulnerable groups, while also promoting more investment in the industry. Once international tourism recommences, every effort will need to be made to generate much-needed revenue for the flow-on effect to be felt throughout the economy.

And while no-one is under any illusions about the hard work ahead of the industry to pull itself back up, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the effort must be collective, consistent, and done with the same perseverance that this industry is renowned for in dealing with set-backs from climatic, economic and political upheavals. Even though, this crisis will take out all the records for being the most unpredicted, the hardest to recover from, the longest, and the most devastating.

Only with this collective effort can Fiji tourism look to begin earning its pre-COVID share of Fiji’s National Gross Domestic Product, which stood at 46 percent in 2019.

Another highlight of the FHTA AGM was the passing of a Special Resolution to apply a fifty percent discount on Annual Dues for 2020 for all members of FHTA. This discount is applicable to all members on the member’s registry as at 01 January 2020.

Done in consideration of the financial hardships faced by all the Association’s members due to the downturn in the economy caused by the international pandemic, while taking into account the continued work of the FHTA Secretariat, members welcomed the initiative that would assist with cash flows and operational costs.

Members were also updated at the AGM on the Association’s continued efforts to create opportunities, consult widely, and lobby strongly for its members as it has been doing over the last year.

This included liaising with relevant Government Ministries, agencies and statutory bodies, consulting widely with tourism stakeholders in both the private and public sectors, and ensuring that all tourism businesses get the support they need to be compliant, develop in the industry and grow the economy.

While it may be considered a far more difficult challenge for the industry to get back on its feet now, the work has started in earnest, preparations are well underway and while the real struggles of our smaller members are recognised, the industry remains hopeful by continuing its collective efforts to prepare, respond and recover with anxious expectations on international travel commencing by early next year.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 3 September 2020

Tourism Talanoa: Our Peak Season

Tourism Talanoa: Our Peak Season

FHTA, 21 August 2020 – Had it not been for COVID-19, tourism in Fiji would be enjoying its annual peak season right now as indicated by the 2019 arrival figures of 592,705 visitors that had arrived in Fiji by August, that made up 66% of the total year’s arrival figures.

A good performance in this period would have reinforced tourism’s premier standing as the number one foreign revenue earner for Fiji, bringing in almost half of Fiji’s Gross Domestic Product.

Most of the resorts, activities, transport providers and other tourism stakeholders would have made their targeted revenue during this period that would have sustained them for the rest of the year especially during the off-peak timeframe of January to March.

A sizable chunk of our projected visitor arrivals would be arriving into the country through our Nadi International Airport and looking forward to getting pampered at their intended accommodation providers and planning their activity options around the country.

A good portion of them would have come from Australia and New Zealand and they would have undoubtedly enjoyed their holiday stay of typically five to eight days.

That all seems like a distant memory now as the Fijian economy continues its forced hibernation and remains, for the most part, closed, from the consequences of border closures due to the global shutdown.

COVID-19 will have a lasting effect on the world, no matter how long it lasts or until a vaccine can be produced and tested and approved. And there is no doubt the eager daily scanning of international news media to check updates on this front is not just confined to the tourism sector.

Until then, the uncertainty and slowed pace of tourism businesses and its supply chains look set to continue.

Expert predictions put the initial stages of the resumption of travel at around September and November this year but with the persistent infections inside the various national bubbles, the most optimistic prediction has been shifted to March 2021.

Pacific neighbours Australia and New Zealand, not only popular travel destinations as well as markets for the region but also key influencers of how island governments measure economic activity, travel trends and best practices, are dealing with their challenges.

However, with their countries also closed to foreign visitors and discussions over travel bubbles being put on hold, they have had to look to their domestic markets for the foreseeable future, just like Fiji has.

Here in Fiji, we are being cautious with our reopening and for now, only the Blue Lanes for yachts and pleasure craft has commenced and this is seeing a steady rise in the number of vessels entering our borders having undergone the necessary COVID-safe requirements.

The managed lanes allowing yachts to come into Fiji to enjoy our COVID-contained status should increase Fiji’s visibility amongst the yacht-owner communities and encourage a growing stream of visitors to experience Fiji safely.

In workplaces around Fiji, we have all had to make adjustments to how we conduct business in the new COVID safe environment. From heightened hand and workplace sanitation practices, tracking employee and visitor temperatures and attendance, to meeting size and working from home options.

Initially, due to lockdowns and the inability to travel and now more intrinsic to the natural development of workplace norms, as well as cost-saving responses, unnecessary travel and meetings have been almost totally replaced by digital means.

Even though fatigue might have already set in regarding the use of digital communication mediums like Zoom, Cisco Webex Meetings, Skype or Google Hangouts Meet, these have become necessary tools for businesses evolving in the new normal.

The integration of digital tools and systems into the company’s processes have many obvious benefits, especially now, in these uncertain and dire economic times.

At a time when many consumers are not travelling, businesses have faced or executed difficult decisions regarding staffing and as new competitive challenges loom, concentrating some time and budget to digital transformation is gathering momentum.

A whole suite of digital-based solutions is being tested across all sectors including education and training organisations. Turning lectures into webinars and holding corporate meetings on web-based platforms can make organizations more buoyant in the face of unexpected business challenges, help them be nimbler in responding to swings in demand, provide new insights into company processes and consumers, and even allow them to run more resourcefully and save money in the process.

Tourism businesses are going all the way by also preparing with a complete buy-in of safety practices and training guidelines that is being incorporated into their standard procedures, policies, and marketing information.

To survive the long drawn out crisis for which no end is predicted, tourism businesses of all sizes have had to cope with forced closures, releasing staff either temporarily or permanently, manage operational costs with little or no revenue streams, deal with bank loans and due payments, tap into savings or access further credit lines and if they are still able to survive all this; prepare to operate in a new business environment that demands addressing the safety of trained staff and future customers as a key priority. They have even endured a cyclone that added sea wall and tidal surge damages to an already complicated set of challenges at the height of the lockdown, marine travel ban and curfew period.

The challenges have not abated. They have simply changed focus or moved up or down the priority list as we continue to navigate our way to survive this mother of all crisis.

But, as we are learning each day, the resilience of our people and how we respond in the worst times of crisis requires that we discuss our challenges for shared solutions, acknowledge that there are others like our SME’s who are struggling to survive and stay focused on where we want to be at when those borders open, as they inevitably will.

If everything moves in the right direction, especially in Australia and New Zealand, our next peak season could be back to as close to normal as we can still remember. And this might not be influenced by what time of the year it is, but simply by the fact that a COVID weary world is ready to travel to their nearest destination.

So, we must all be ready.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 21 August 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read MORE

Tourism Talanoa: Reassuring Travellers

Tourism Talanoa: Reassuring Travellers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 14 August 2020

Fiji Dive Emergency Notes

Please be advised that the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) has made the latest Fiji Dive Emergency Notes available for your reference here.

FHTA recommends that spare copies are printed and placed in plastic clear view sleeves and posted on staff notice boards, dive shop, front office and receptionist offices for ease of reference in an emergency.

Kindly note that personnel and phone numbers change at any time, FHTA will try to ensure that the most up to date information is available at all times. However, it is your responsibility to check with the relevant emergency departments should this change.

Tourism Talanoa: Economic Preparations and Changes

Fantasha Lockington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 6 August 2020

Tourism Talanoa: Adjusting our Target Markets

Tourism Talanoa: Adjusting our Target Markets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 30 July 2020

Tourism Talanoa: Tourism’s Budget Support

Tourism Talanoa: Tourism’s Budget Support

FHTA, 23 July 2020 – As Government announced their Fijian National Budget for 2020 / 2021 last week, a
collective sigh of relief was heard around the tourism sector.

After months of brainstorming, Talanoa sessions and lobbying, Tourism support has come through with a review of some of the fundamental areas that contribute to industry costs.

The announcement of multi-pronged support for the tourism sector comes at a time when many operators were unsure of the direction of the entire industry.

Among the many incentives declared by Government, the major wins for the tourism industry are the rescinding of Service Turnover Tax (STT) of 6 per cent on all prescribed services and the reduction of the Environment & Climate Adaptation Levy (ECAL) from 10 per cent to 5 per cent.

The increase in the threshold for the application of ECAL from F$1.25M to F$3M will also go down well with the many small and medium enterprises. Initially considered an antithesis to the growth of smaller businesses because once earnings surpassed F$1.25M, they paid the same amount of ECAL as the larger operators in the country, the incentive now gives SME’s a wider scope with room to grow.

Since its introduction in the 2017-2018 financial year, ECAL collections have totalled F$270.2M of which FJ $255.9 has been used to finance 102 projects that address climate change, environmental conservation, and infrastructure. Largely collected from tourism operators.

By comparison, white-goods vendors have only had to apply ECAL since last year, but they too have felt how quickly a 10% increase can distort your price structure and reduce your popularity with a price-conscious market.

Currently dealing with managing staff without international visitor revenue contributions, maintenance and operational costs even during semi or full closures; every tourism business owner has also been relieved to hear of the deferment of the implementation of the VAT Monitoring System (VMS) to 1 January 2022.

This is expected to cost a minimum of $3,000 for a small business to implement and up to $1.25m for a large hotel to integrate into its complex system of transaction processing, point of sale (PoS), Property Management Systems (PMS) and Management Information Systems (MIS) to name a few.

The deferment directly allows savings for critically needed capital expenditure, for which the direct benefits for tourism businesses are at best vague, but is designed to report VAT payments to FRCS in real-time even though VAT payment reports will continue to be submitted as it is now, at the end of every month. We will continue to work with FRCS on both the need to have this and how it can be implemented with less difficulty and cost.

Obviously, many of the budget’s announced measures support the industry’s collective efforts to pick itself up and be COVID-safe and prepared when the borders reopen.

As the earner of 46 per cent of our country’s total Gross Domestic Product in 2019, tourism has taken an enormous hit that has not just been felt economically. The bigger impact has been felt and continues to drastically impact the communities that tourism businesses operate from. With increased unemployment and lower demand for materials, resources, and fresh produce; there is also reduced economic activity in the communities where tourism is the key employer because of lower or lost incomes.

Preparations for borders opening continue to be the focus for many businesses with the constant review of operational costs and how many staff can be brought back during the weekend bookings in support of the “Love Our Locals” campaign that continues to gain popularity. The implementation of the COVID-safe guidelines and training of staff on the new requirements, the completion of refurbishment if undertaken or the reopening after months of being closed are currently some of the activity taking place across the country.

With the changes in tax policies recently announced, adjustments will need to be made on pricing structures, in-house systems and once passed down from suppliers, food & beverage costing. A collective effort is being made to develop attractive and innovative holiday packaging that will convince ready to travel COVID weary international visitors to select Fiji as their preferred destination.

At the same time, the unpacking of the complex scenarios of travel options within the Bula Bubble have begun. This includes how we deal with borders reopening with just one neighbour that is COVID contained, or two neighbours where only one is contained. How we manage pathways without compromising community safety where even the best and friendliest intentions would be considered breaking protocols, or provide safe accessibility to activities and attractions as opposed to making them safer by deeming them off-limits. Fiji is not alone in trying to navigate a safe path back to borders reopening and being sufficiently prepared.

As we look to compete with every idyllic locale in the region and further, we can only do our best and work together to get Fiji back on track and our workers back at work. Around the world, other tourism destinations are moving their own preparations up to open borders. The ever-mentioned Bali looks to open its borders on September 1 to Americans, while the Bahamas have decided to boldly close their borders to that market.

Tahiti is reopening with a self-test and in Jamaica, if you do not follow the health protocols, the Tourism Minister there will close your resort. Some countries are even offering visitors a year’s work visa to locate there. Such is the widespread reliance on tourism’s ability to quickly rehabilitate a flagging economy.

Our own tourism workers are aware of the industry’s preparation to be COVID-Safe and ready to go when those borders open. They are also looking forward to returning to jobs that pay well and include competitive weekend and holiday pay rates, with wet allowance, risk allowance, height allowance, meal allowances, uniforms, and even transport and accommodation provided depending on where they work and what they do.

While we compete with the world with our Bula Spirits and friendly smiles that set us way above other cheaper destinations, let us do so while maintaining who we are.

We are Fiji.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 23 July 2020 

Tourism Talanoa: A Chance To Reset

Fantasha Lockington

FHTA, 17 July 2020 – Late last week I had the privilege of being invited to join a panel of tourism stakeholders for Mai TV’s RESET Fiji show which is produced in conjunction with Oxfam, University of the South Pacific, and Pacific Network on Globalisation.

It is an expectation for any industry to continually raise issues and discuss opportunities, and with the current challenging economic climate, tourism has a responsibility to contribute to debates on how best to move forward.

Debating the potential to reset tourism and make it more resilient through public policy dialogue is another way to simply ”talanoa” on a public platform and create even more opportunities for those listening to gain insight into the industry and initiate even further ”talanoa” sessions of their own, even if only around the grog bowl.

Speakers from the many segments that make up tourism contributed richly from their varied backgrounds. How can we in an industry so heavily relied on, readapt ourselves using our greatest assets: our people, our environment and our diverse cultures to rebound from sliding into recession and reimagine a better version of tourism for Fiji. And with it, hope for a more sustainable future.

Around the world, the current pause on all things tourism-related has led to a global review of how we treat our environments, especially when the effects of reduced travel and widespread lockdowns has shown such positive renewal and rebirth in nature.

This in turn has given way to much discussion on over-tourism that exists in all the tourism hotspots, all over the world.

Crowds of international travellers flock to see the Taj Mahal, the Sydney Opera House or Machu Picchu. Often likened to a virus, hordes of travellers are often seen overcrowding the Great Wall of China, the beaches of Bali, Bondi or the Maldives.

Many large cities have now reported rare events of clearer skies and cleaner breathable air. News reports show how the Adriatic Sea which flows through Venice have become so clear now that one can see the bottom of the Venice canals for the first time in decades. Even the usual smog around the Himalayan mountains has dissipated to provide a clear majestic sight of Everest.

In the lockdowns, the major global contributors to air and sea pollution would have been forced to switch off their production machines as factories became unmanned due to furloughed staff. Airlines parked planes, trains remained in stations and traffic came to a standstill.

In the Pacific, reports indicate that our fish stocks have increased, no doubt through a combination of reduced commercial fishing, decimated demand from restaurants and a few months of no noise, pollution or movement of vessels of any size in oceans around the world.

With families forced to stay home, many have been using this down-time wisely by turning their efforts to subsistence farming to address reduced or no incomes and the very real possibility that things could stay this way till the end of the year or even next year.

According to the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) 2018 study of the fresh produce demand from our hotels and resorts, Fiji spends more than FJD 38.48 million annually in importing fresh produce for tourism alone. A further FJD36 million is imported annually to cater for local demand.

The report states Fiji has the potential to cut FJD 24.1 million off the total import bill and focus its resources on growing and producing the high potential produce locally.

Food drives the world; apart from clean water, access to adequate food is the primary concern for most people on earth. This makes agriculture one of the largest and most significant industries in the world. Agricultural productivity is important not only for food security, but its contribution to the economy.

63% of the tourism import demand is for meat (beef and pork), dairy and seafood (prawns) with the key reason for reliance on imported produce being supply inconsistencies, quality and food standards (meat and seafood).

But there is no doubt that Fiji can deliver in some areas and has been able to meet some of the required demand for fresh produce like pawpaws, watermelon and pineapples, as well as for chicken.

Not only would the injection of the potential FJD 24 million into the local economy be a tremendous support for farmers, supply chains, the rural communities and the economy generally; it would offset tourism food costs and bring these costs down for resorts. Reduced overheads mean you can better price your products and services.

It does not stop at farmers. To improve our beef and pork production, we need technical training for farmers, butchers, meat packers and suppliers. We have all heard of Vanuatu Beef but there is no Fiji Beef brand. We have a wonderful variety of seafood, but lack understanding of the required packing and storage requirements demanded by food safety regulations that chefs are trained to comply with.

Tourism demands bacon be served at breakfast, seven days a week throughout the year, but cannot access sufficient stock locally, forcing resorts to pay the highly taxed imported option. There is a wide selection of fruit that are often in abundance seasonally, but no large scale locally produced juice that would be an exotic option for visitors.

Many restaurants and resorts have been planting their own fruit, vegetables and herbs for years. And there is growing interest in making cheese and more sophisticated productions in yogurts and ice creams now, while small scale cottage industries are growing with chocolate making and healthy juices. Many of these small manufacturers report challenges with outdated health regulations that do not recognise new food products or the technology that supports it.

Coming into this mix now are thousands of unemployed tourism workers armed with thousands of packets of cabbage seeds. Luckily, the combined efforts of the Barter for Better Fiji and good Samaritans doing their bit to support the unemployed, will ensure that along with the thousands of bundles of cabbage being released into the marketplace, we will also have eggplants, long beans and cassava. And thanks to closed borders and around 80% of our room inventory still being closed, prices for chicken, pork and seafood have dropped. Even kava prices have dropped.

So, for our local population, there is plenty of fresh produce available and the price of these generally have gone down. This may not be sustainable in the long term, but at least we are focusing on our environment.

We are planting more and eating fresher. Good for us, great for the environment. As we put in place plans to open to a new post-COVID world, we hope that we can convince visitors to travel to Fiji when the borders open.

While we wait, we can re-evaluate our health and eating habits. We can review how we work with, live in and treat our environments because we understand its importance better now, and because we have been given an opportunity to pause, to reflect and consider; we should also review our relationships. With our families, our communities and each other.

We should move out of comfort zones to test new relationships and partnerships. There have been practical guidelines and prolific policies written on public and private partnerships and food security though agriculture.

Tourism may have hit a brick wall, but it is the kind of industry that is already working on how to climb over it or break it down. And while it is, it is also actively looking for opportunities to reinvent itself through its products and services and its cost structures.

Achievable? Most definitely.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 17 July 2020 

Tourism Talanoa: Keeping Tourism Safe, Keeping Tourism Ready

Tourism Talanoa: Keeping Tourism Safe, Keeping Tourism Ready

FHTA, 9 July 2020 – Our COVID-contained status has been updated as our 19th, 20th and 21st cases of coronavirus were detected and confirmed this week.

But this was expected.

The stringent border quarantine procedures for repatriated nationals and residents ensured that the confirmed case was caught in time and manifested while under mandatory lockdown post-arrival.

With the large volume of returnees to Fiji, as with returning residents moving back into other countries around the world, the odds are high that a small portion of those inbound will be unsuspecting carriers of the virus especially if they are returning from a country currently battling high cases of the virus there.

The returning Fiji residents who are quarantined immediately after arrival are closely monitored for a prescribed duration for just this reason.

Currently, the quarantine period is 28 days, which is 14 days spent in a Government prescribed facility and if not showing symptoms, the next 14 days can be spent at home.

Some believe that ideally this period should be increased to preclude the rare case of a late onset of the virus past the 14-day mark or the delayed contagiousness of an asymptomatic carrier. But our medical experts know what they’re doing and we should defer to their collective wisdom to keep Fiji safe.

Australia and New Zealand will be keeping an eye on how the Fijian authorities contain and deal with this new confirmed case as this will showcase how Fiji will be able to successfully operate the anticipated Bula Bubble, while keeping us safe. Our successes, how we work on our weaknesses and our processes should be consistently updated publicly. The world watches and will eventually confirm their confidence with Fiji’s initiatives with a bubble response and confirmed bookings.

Under the proposed Bula Bubble initiative, visitors to the country, amongst other restrictions, will not be permitted to deviate off their prearranged VIP (Vacation In Paradise) lanes.

Everyone involved in the transporting and accommodating of these guests, from their flights to the hotel room and back, would be at a higher risk of infection which is why the industry has prepared itself and continues to upgrade its efforts to keep staff and guests safe by embracing the new normal for the travel industry. This includes committing to the new COVID safe guidelines, having a plan in place, training staff, putting up signage on safe practice reminders, downloading the CareFiji App along with other contact tracing efforts that are built into most tourism businesses as part of their usual security requirements and remaining consistently vigilant.

Resorts are opening slowly with local specials that test the new normal even though only small sections or part of the resort is being made available. This has also allowed some staff to come back to work and get used to the new practices.

Tourism workers have expressed their appreciation at being called back to work and shown their collective joy to be doing what they have been trained for and love doing. The loud “Bula!” and beaming faces in the captured moments by locals shared on social media express the wonderful response from Fijians taking advantage of local specials.

Despite not all of the 400 plus resorts having opened and only a fraction of the approximately 12,000 total room inventory being made available, occupancy tends to only take place over the weekends. For now, it does not matter that most businesses taking part are trying to reduce their costs and hardly coming close to breaking even. Of most importance is that workers are getting paid, systems are getting tested, processes are being reviewed and fine-tuned.

While many more will return to work when borders reopen, it is predicted that a large number will remain unemployed due to the expected slow commencement of a COVID-wary traveling world. Reduced initial demand will dictate tightened budgets and reduced staffing.

Even more reason for the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) to be exploring ways to upskill unemployed workers with training that will assist them in adjusting to life without tourism. For the near future anyway, until tourism’s meteoric rise as an industry continues in the next year or two, from the F$3billion in-country spend confirmed by the recent International Finance Corporation (IFC) study released recently on the International Visitor Survey (IVS) for 2019.

This week, FHTA in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) and Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) launched a regional project in Suva that targets tourism workers in Fiji and the Pacific.

The collective will be working hard to deliver a series of virtual development training courses for tourism employees who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The expected outcome of this initiative is the upskilling of 3,000 unemployed hospitality workers across nine Pacific countries. These workers, many of whom have extensive work experience but limited or no formal training, will be better placed to return to their existing roles or to take up new roles in hospitality, consider working in other sectors, start their own small business or move onto further studies.

This training will help put the Pacific tourism industry in the best possible position for when international tourism resumes in what will be a highly competitive market. The $99 for 7 days in Bali scam that fooled many social media followers will be soon forgotten in the plethora of exciting holiday options that are being released slowly to a COVID weary world.

The project will initially focus on 40 unemployed staff before expanding to cover an additional 3000 workers in Fiji, as well as other Pacific island nations including Kiribati, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

The courses including all materials such as data packages, advocacy support, communication and monitoring reporting are made possible by UNDP through support from the Government of Japan.

This opportunity fit perfectly into addressing a specific need for tourism workers to continue to receive upskilling even during furloughed periods. Not everyone has a job now and may not have one even when things pick up, but if COVID has taught us anything, it is that we must be prepared to look for other opportunities.

We have a workforce desperately in need of our support and we can prepare now to come back stronger.

In the words of author and activist Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 9 July 2020 

Tourism Talanoa: Business Opportunities

Tourism Talanoa: Business Opportunities

FHTA, 2 July 2020 – As the second half of the year begins, the worldwide COVID-19 stats have soared past ten million cases and over 500,000 deaths and several of our regional neighbours are experiencing second waves (or extended first waves) of infections as a result.

Nevertheless, global demand for travel is high, especially for leisure purposes, as more and more restrictions are being relaxed in the aftermath of COVID-related border closures and people emerge from being closed, locked down and observing social distancing rules.

Airlines and hotels are already experiencing a steady interest in bookings as the global fear that gripped many starts to subside and people take their first tentative steps outside of their last few months of lockdown, and venture out with more confidence to travel, depending on their border situations and despite the scary coronavirus numbers.

One section of the travel sector that is not expected to resume immediately per experience, are business travellers. These include the attendees of workshops and conferences who form a sizable chunk of Fiji’s Meeting, Incentives, Conference and Exhibitions (MICE) market.

These business travellers usually spend more than the average visitor because their organisations take care of airfares, accommodation and meals so have more to spend locally, especially with family accompanying them, on activities, gifts, sightseeing and services.

Business travel is a year-round constant and is usually not subject to the rise and falls of regular leisure tourism although often more likely to take advantage of low season special rates. Supply chains including event organisers, entertainers, musicians, artisans, florists, audio-visual companies, food & beverage suppliers, transport providers and temporary hotel staff are just some of the support work that will be affected.

The outlook is that since the advent of multimedia tools like Zoom, Skype, Blue Jeans, Cisco Webex and Google Meet, many organisations will see little benefit in unnecessarily exposing their representatives to possible COVID-19 infection. Additionally, with the dire need to reduce costs, non-critical travel will be the first of many cost-cutting measures across businesses as the world’s economy heads into recession.

Even when the Trans-Tasman Bubble or our new Bula Bubble gets off the ground, business travellers will rethink their need to travel as much as they used to.

What used to be a few days on the ground surveying a site or face-to-face discussions with possible investment partners will, when borders open, undoubtedly now be conducted digitally if the travel is not considered essential.

So, as we tighten belts, purse strings and collective budgets, we do not doubt that the Fijian Government will also be looking at discussing similar issues during the announcement of the 2020/21 National Budget scheduled for 17 July.

Phase 2 of Fiji’s COVID-safe Economic Recovery Framework advises the intention to set up “blue lanes” which, while cruise liners are still banned from berthing in Fiji, will be open to yachts and pleasure craft.

These well-heeled mariners spell good business for Fiji as they will have begun their self-quarantine time sailing here, making them low risk, while their economic impact is generally high. A relief for them looking to escape their current moorings and a blessing for Fiji.

This will commence initially with Port Denarau Marina as the only permitted entry point and once the protocols are tested and refined, will be rolled out to other ports that can confirm they will also be able to meet the “blue lane” requirements.

Much of the revenue that was gained from international cruise liners is passed on to Fiji Ports and Government in berthage and other related fees. Some of this revenue source was pumped into the local economy through the pre-organised shop tours for cruisers and local SMEs saw some sales with cruise tourists spending a little at each local port.

However, the super-yacht industry has a larger spend per vessel and this is higher than the average yacht spend, for obvious reasons.

Fiji can expect more through-fare traffic from yachts and super-yachts as they commence their journeys to New Zealand in time for the America’s Cup, scheduled for March next year and the usual flurry of yachting races and activity that precedes the big race.

They will set off early from their home countries and sail down to the region to be close to the starting point of the race. However, since Auckland, also known as the City of Sails, is known to have higher berthing fees for yachts, these super-yachts and yachts will find it more cost-effective to get their provisioning, maintenance and rest here in Fiji,  while enjoying the calmer, cooler months before the cyclone season, before heading south for the America’s Cup race activities.

This was the case during 2019’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand as several superyachts called into Suva to restock and get some repairs done, before heading off to watch the rugby.

Fiji is fortunate to have many of the supporting enterprises needed by mariners that include engineers, chandlers, riggers, electricians, etc. All of whom also need jobs right now.

We receive around 700 yachts each year that stay for an average of 82 days and this pumps much-needed revenue directly into the local economy of around $60.6 million.

$21.6 million of this spend is fed back into local businesses and communities through yacht maintenance, resupplying, and hospitality, as well as cultural and tourism activities.

In a slow year like 2020 and to get the ball back rolling on all forms of tourism in Fiji, we need to be closely looking at alternative ways to get visitors back quickly but safely.

We have been invited to continue to come up with innovative ideas and pass them on to our community, national leaders, and tourism stakeholders, that will sustain us until more travel bubbles open, a vaccine is discovered or both. Our own Bula Bubble is a start in the right direction, a spark of hope for the thousands who are currently unemployed and, with the right momentum, will get us to Phase 3 earlier.

Fiji will need all the help she can get.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 2 July 2020