FHTA Tourism Talanoa: A Catalyst for Growth & Innovation

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: A Catalyst for Growth & Innovation

Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association, 22 February 2024 – The recent Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards (FETA) showcased the pinnacle of achievements within the hospitality sector, drawing attention to outstanding contributions or recognising exemplary products, services or dedication from industry stakeholders within this multi-sectored industry that has far-reaching ripple effects through its supply chain networks into thousands of other businesses, employment, and community impacts.

The evening we paid homage to recently lost industry icons, while also celebrating a historically successful year – a momentous year in fact for the industry, for the supplier networks and communities so closely connected to it, as well as for the Fijian economy generally.
There was much to celebrate, be grateful for, reflect on, take time out for and remind ourselves of why we still love doing what we do, come what may.
The first ten days of February witnessed a quieter tourism landscape in Fiji, marked by an average occupancy rate of 56% that is expected to increase by month’s end, hilst January saw an average occupancy of 71%, with a 4% increase on visitor arrivals compared to the same period last year.
The January to March period is traditionally a quieter period for tourism with the Chinese New Year travel preference helping to bump up the usual slump caused by the focus on children returning to school and the associated holiday and credit card splurge “hangover” kicking in about now.
Looking ahead to March, the forward booking data paints a slightly more optimistic outlook, with an expected average occupancy rate of 52% at this early stage.

This trajectory suggests a sustained interest from travellers, reaffirming Fiji’s enduring allure as a desirable vacation spot that can impact short-term booking patterns, especially with locals and international visitors taking advantage of the raft of lowseason specials that usually come out at this time.

A quick analysis of search patterns on the top countries expressing interest in both accommodation and flights to Fiji shows Australia leading the pack with 34% of inquiries, followed by New Zealand at 20.2%, and the United States at 13.7%.

Similarly, Australia dominates flight searches to Fiji, accounting for 50.1% of queries, with significant interest also observed from New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan.

These insights might underscore Fiji’s lasting appeal on the global stage, but they also closely follow industry marketing efforts undertaken both as individual businesses and as collective efforts through Fiji Airways and Tourism Fiji-supported marketing initiatives to drive interest and eventually transform these into solid bookings.

But while some things might remain in place like our peaks and troughs – albeit somewhat shorter for the troughs and longer for the peaks, we continue to appreciate the changes the industry keeps evolving through. Whether this is how the different segments address and overcome challenges, or where they are driven by innovation and collaboration to keep getting better and more efficient at what they do.

The FETA celebration gave us some wonderful insights into how these are evolving.

Driven by the fiercely competitive nature of aviation for example and our national airline’s ability to gain well-deserved recognition for rising above global giants in this area, or hotels, tours, cruise and dive operators delivering world-class products, services and entertainment.

It is clear the industry as a collective is refusing to rest on its laurels.

And therein lies FHTA’s opportunity to support these noble efforts. We do this by providing a platform to bring innovative ideas, products, services, and opportunities to anyone in or connected to tourism, via a trade show that takes place every 2 years.

To be a catalyst for growth and innovation, you must first understand the deeper issues that drive this very complicated industry.

We recognise and understand the industry’s diversity, its demands and challenges, its multi-faceted expectations and idiosyncrasies, and the often-complicated nature of its various limitations. The type of business influences these it is (accommodation, tours/transport, activities, cruise/ferry services, marine or dive) its size and branding, its location – mainland or maritime, off-grid or on, coastal or interior (different from rural or urban), accessibility to infrastructure, and whether it supplies its power, water, or waste management systems.

It is rarely acknowledged for example that almost all “on-grid” hotels and resorts with access to power, water, and waste management reticulation, have backups for all these services because of the frequency of breakdowns that include water tanks, generators and solar grid systems.

These all invariably impact each business’s accessibility to supplies, transportation logistics, staffing and invariably its cost structure. For example, the more self-sufficient a remote island resort is for power, water, food, transportation, and staff; the less likely it is impacted by supply disruptions to these elements than in comparison to a larger, on-grid resort on the mainland.

However, the island resort may be impacted more critically by climate change-related issues like tidal inundations, less rainfall, beach erosion, increasing wave heights and wind speeds, as well as marine biodiversity loss.

But both scenarios require that a combination of best practices awareness and implementation, technology-based solutions that drive efficiencies and skilled staff ensure that disruptions are unnoticed by in-house guests so that your brand and business keep improving.

A tradeshow like HOTEC focuses on providing the equilibrium between supply and
demand within the framework of the myriad elements at play.

We are constantly evaluating. How do we connect the industry to more suppliers so
they can provide their customers with more options that are not just on-trend and sexy
but are better for the environment and more efficient and cost-effective for your
business? How can we provide alternatives to the current way of doing things that connect your customers more effectively to the environment, and the communities around us or ensure their visit to Fiji makes such an indelible impact on them that they will continue to return to rejuvenate their minds, bodies and souls?

We’re looking for better solutions to our age-old issues of fresh produce supplies and using more homegrown produce so we can reduce our reliance on imports. We’re exploring cutting-edge technology options to improve speed and safety while considering how we reduce the time and cost taken to search for options overseas.

A well-planned tradeshow can catalyze growth, provide a platform where industry players converge to showcase or test new offerings, forge meaningful connections, and stay abreast of emerging trends.

And this year we want to take a step further into the Pacific, to ensure we can offer this opportunity to our regional hospitality family because we have no doubt their challenges and demand/supplier issues will mirror our own.

With the eagerly anticipated launch of HOTEC 2024 earlier this week, the stage is set for a monumental gathering of industry stakeholders, having launched the event and the signing of agreements with the first batch of sponsors like the New Zealand Trade & Enterprise, and event partners like Total Events Company, and media partners The Fiji Times. This will be followed by a signing session with our next batch of sponsors and partners next month.

HOTEC is scheduled for October 24-25, 2024, at the Denarau Island Convention Centre, hosted by the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort. There are ambitious plans to elevate the overall experience as a more immersive and engaging event by hosting hospitality training and competition preliminaries in six locations across Fiji in the lead-up to the event, to encourage regional representation and participation.

By hosting preliminaries in diverse locations such as Suva, Savusavu, Taveuni, Coral Coast, Mamanuca, Yasawa, and Nadi, HOTEC 2024 aims to engage with a wider audience and showcase the talent and diversity of Fiji’s tourism industry.

At each location, a series of simultaneous events are planned to provide attendees with a diverse range of opportunities for participation and learning and include competitions such as cocktail making, cooking, and barista competitions; all allowing participants to showcase their skills and creativity.

Additionally, masterclasses and workshops will be conducted to upskill our people in areas such as cocktail crafting, culinary arts, and sustainable tourism practices, in direct response to current concerns on the high turnover of, and onboarding of staff.

We’re working hard to deliver another insightful and engaging tradeshow and we hope we can convince as many people as possible to take part, learn something new, make new connections or simply come to soak up the atmosphere and experience the diversity and excitement that tourism invariably always delivers.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 22 February 2024)