FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Be Champions of Safety

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Be Champions of Safety

Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association, 9 November 2023 – The global landscape in the battle against COVID-19 is a complex one.

As of November 6, 2023, the World Health Organization has reported nearly 7 million COVID-19-related deaths worldwide.

This staggering figure is a stark reminder of the virus’s relentless grip on the planet.

The pandemic had tested the resolve of nations, communities, and individuals as they grappled with the ever-evolving dynamics of the virus.

Across borders, governments and healthcare systems worked collectively hard to implement and adapt to various strategies and measures, each to minimize the virus’s impact.

Lockdowns, social distancing, and vaccination campaigns have played a crucial role in managing the spread of the virus.

It’s a story that everyone is sadly well aware of, having cost global economies dearly, including taking entire Governments, politicians, populations and individuals to the brink.

Nobody wants to relive those agonizing days of lost freedoms, uncertainties and failed attempts to stop the spreading threat that cost people their jobs and impacted their psychological horror of an invisible enemy.

So, we know all too well how and what we’ve been dragged through to get where we are today. A lot of sacrifices, isolation, mask-wearing and constant hand washing.

Our national reported 885 COVID-19-related fatalities emphasize the gravity of the situation.

It serves as a poignant reminder that COVID-19 was always going to remain a threat at some level for the foreseeable future, despite the World Health Organisation declaring in May this year that COVID-19 was no longer a public health emergency, and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief along with the rest of the world.

But while this announcement meant that the disease was no longer a global threat, we were reminded of the very real possibility that with new variants emerging and combining with the older variants, new subvariants could form and that we should be prepared for this.

And now, it appears we might be seeing the effects of an Omicron variant that is currently unsettling residents in Victoria, Australia due to its spread and lethality amongst older residents.

In what appears for all intents and purposes to be the beginnings of the cusp of an eighth COVID-19 wave, Victoria has noted there has been a 23.6 percent spike in cases across the country.

Our vuvale partner has long been a primary source market for Fiji’s thriving tourism industry, with this steadfast relationship a cornerstone of Fiji’s tourism success, along with development partnership opportunities that support Fiji’s efforts in many areas.

The proximity, shared time zone and direct flight connections, make us an easily accessible and attractive destination for Australian travellers, so we thought we might flag to the general public, our tourism partners and stakeholders, that it is time to dust off those old but tried and true protocols for enhanced hygiene practices, and be prepared for any potential disruptions, including those related to public health.

Falling gradually back into the prescribed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) becomes essential to keep those around you safe.

These SOPs were the bedrock of safety for both visitors and communities in and around tourism operations and meant that coexistence was possible with a reasonable degree of confidence.

Measures such as vaccination, mask-wearing, sanitation, and social distancing are not merely guidelines but essential tools to contain the virus’s spread; as are the other obvious ones to be alert for spikes in flu-like symptoms.

The resilience of Fiji’s economy and the well-being of its people are intrinsically linked to the stringent implementation of these safety measures.

We have also advised our members to consider reactivating their Wellness Ambassadors in the many properties across the country to begin re-implementing COVID-safe guidelines in and around the premises.

Wellness Ambassadors undertook extensive training programs, created COVID-19 safe action plans for their businesses and trained their colleagues on how to uphold best practice COVID-19 safety protocols.

The responsibilities of Wellness Ambassadors extend far beyond a warm greeting and a friendly smile.

Wellness Ambassadors serve as the first line of defence, ensuring that COVID-19 guidelines are upheld at all times, from the bustling tourist hotspots up to the more remote corners of Fiji.

We are also recommending that every business with employees takes more responsibility for enhanced hygiene practices by providing sanitisers for their staff and customers, soap dispensers in washrooms, wiping high-touch surfaces down with disinfectants regularly and encouraging the use of masks for anyone still coughing post a bout of flu-like illnesses.

You can all help to keep your staff, your customers and suppliers and eventually your families and communities safer through being more alert and adopting these basic safety practices.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 9 November 2023)