FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Joining the Discussion

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Joining the Discussion

FHTA, 13 October 2022 – Last month’s World Tourism Day focused on its theme of “Tourism for inclusive growth” under the World Tourism Organisation.

As we seek to understand more and more about the fragility of the global market and how one incident can throw a large spanner into the works, we also approach the last few months of the year with both some trepidation and excitement.

It may appear that we have time yet to consider and plan for the new year but the end of this month leads us inexorably into the beginning of the traditional cyclonic season for the tropics.

As recently as the last week, we kept a watchful eye on the higher-than-normal tides, and strong winds, and heeded the warnings to be on the alert for destructive coastal inundations. We have had cyclones start as early as October before and we watched with knowing concern as Category 4 Hurricane Ian, battered Cuba and then Florida only a few weeks ago.

So just 3 months before the end of a whirlwind year of restarting tourism from a medically forced shutdown, we know that there is nothing quite like a natural disaster to suddenly wind up the last few months of the year with no time to review what we have learnt, decide where we want to go as an industry, and consider the possible solutions to challenges or improvements to business in our relentless quest for better productivity.

There are many lessons to be learnt from the past two years, not least among these is the fact that regardless of how prepared we are, we can still get tossed the odd curve ball to toss us down the most convoluted of rabbit holes.

Planning and strategizing. Anticipating and researching. Modifying and communicating. Yet, despite all this, we still got flipped flat on our faces.

We have lived and breathed resilience models and trialled or discarded the usually well-intentioned advice on how to prepare, survive, revive and thrive.

There are areas in the tourism sector in which we have noted various stages of changes in, and others that have been completely flipped from where they used to be. While other areas still manage to surprise us or turn out that despite best efforts, still need shoring up or improvements.

Some start out as glitches that we eventually count as learning moments and move on. We have to.

As an industry, the luxury of leisurely contemplation of any complicated situations is certainly not ours; what with the hopes of a nation resting on our collective shoulders for a full economic recovery.

We are therefore carving out some time to get together as an industry – with our critical network of suppliers, with the many public sector regulatory agencies we work closely with, and with the private sector and development partners that support investment, training and resourcing.

The inaugural 2022 FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium scheduled for 27-28 October at the Sheraton Fiji Resort in Denarau will provide the opportunity to share experiences, discuss challenges and recommended solutions; and give attendees the platform to learn of the changing dynamics of an industry that has had to constantly re-evaluate what it’s doing and how.

But now, even faster than we imagined we would have to.

We have six sessions lined up over two action-packed days that address all areas of the industry that affect its further development, where its limitations are, and where we perceive the opportunities might lie no matter how long it’s been sitting in that “too-hard basket” and how businesses might be able to improve their productivity, lower costs or make business operations simpler.

In Session One, we’ll look at Compliance and how the tourism industry can better work with regulatory bodies, licensing boards and ministries to provide an improved understanding of compliance requirements and any changes to policies or regulations.

As an Association, we have long advocated for extensive awareness to pave the way for wider compliance.

Session Two sees Online Tools for Research and Marketing come to the fore.

This is where technology and marketing experts will present and discuss the use of current and emerging tools to leverage trends to maximise returns because businesses have to always think of their bottom line regardless of the industry they’re in.

Our third session will shine a spotlight on Human Resources – Recruitment, Retention and Training.

The nationwide shortage of manpower has not only adversely affected hundreds of our tourism operators; we know it has also impacted the efficiencies in other industries as well as in the public sector. And while we recognise the opportunities for employment overseas, there has not been effective discussion at any level about what we can collectively do about addressing those gaps.

Expert panellists will explore the current skilled-labour shortages and discuss key considerations for recruitment, retention and upskilling to counteract outward labour mobility.

Session Four will focus on Aligning Industry Progression with Infrastructural Development for tourism.

Government statutory bodies like Fiji Roads Authority, Water Authority of Fiji and others, have confirmed their attendance to outline their short and medium-term development plans and discuss how these align with industry needs and possible expansionary plans.

For the penultimate symposium session, another expert panel will lead the discussion on Sustainable Economic Policies and Recovery.

Panellists from the financial sector will examine the economic outlook for Fiji and its current state as well as projections for the future.

They will also touch on how the measured industry recovery and response may be structured in order to ensure sustainability.
Finally, we will round off the FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium with an Industry Dialogue session to talk about The Way Forward.

This is where we unpack everything that has been discussed over the previous sessions and discuss with influential tourism stakeholders like Fiji Airways and Tourism Fiji what the way forward should and will look like, and discuss where there might be opportunities for more public-private partnerships in order to achieve our collective goals.

This is a small example of what delegates of the Symposium will experience, but we hope our key outcome will be that industry stakeholders use the chance to be heard, hear others and come away with a better understanding of where we should be going collectively.

When the tourism industry is busy and humming, so is the Fijian economy so do put your hand up and be a part of the solution.

We have proved that we deserve to be on top of travellers’ wish lists and we must continue to work together to ensure we’re living up to our potential as a destination.

Understanding the direction we should be heading in is part of a simpler journey because having recovered from a situation many considered impossible, one of our key learnings has been that you can never be prepared enough.

Join the discussion.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 13 October 2022)