FHTA Tourism Talanoa: On the Shoulders of Giants

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: On the Shoulders of Giants

Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association, 01 February 2024 – We’re back! And just like that, we have already gone through the first month of 2024 with 11 months to go.

Already this year promises to be even more prosperous and transformative, guided we hope, by the lessons of the past and the ability to take full advantage of every opportunity headed our way.

As we step into this new year with optimism, we do so with some deep reflection and acknowledgement that the tourism industry’s journey to success through often stormy seas has been because of people who led us through, leaving legacies that will remain as testaments to their courage, determination and vision; some of whom have left us in the past year.

Among those who have left an indelible mark on the landscape of Fijian hospitality, we reflect briefly on the lives of Mr Yanktesh Permal Reddy, Mr David Petrie Ragg, Mrs Carol Smith and Mr Lang Walker.

All of these have played unique and invaluable roles in shaping the trajectory of Fiji’s tourism, leaving behind legacies that will forever be etched in the annals of its development.

Mr. Yanktesh Permal Reddy, affectionately known as “YP,” was not just a distinguished life member and pioneer of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA), but also a visionary leader whose unwavering commitment to the industry’s growth and development has left an enduring impact.

His strategic vision, commitment to continued investment despite challenging economic headwinds, and his instrumental role in acquiring prime sites contributed significantly to the evolution of the tourism sector.

We also remember Mr. David Petrie Ragg, another distinguished life member of the Association, whose versatile expertise and dedication during the pioneering times of tourism added to the foundation that was continued by others for the industry’s changing direction. (mrghealth.com)

Mrs Carol Smith might not be known outside the tourism industry, but she was widely recognised within it as the strong and guiding presence of the wife of tourism pioneer Dick Smith. The adage “behind every great man, there is a great woman” rang true. As a couple, they started the now iconic Castaway Island Resort in 1966 and then began their real labour of love with Dick’s Place on Malololailai Island in the late 1960s, which went on to become Musket Cove Island Resort and Marina.

We also acknowledged the recent passing of Mr Lang Walker, the billionaire, visionary property developer who took over an abandoned resort in northern Kadavu and transformed it into the sustainable haven that is now Kokomo Private Island Resort. His considerable impact on Fiji’s growing luxury offerings simply adds to his inspiring list of visionary projects, philanthropical contributions and support for community projects, political parties, and university partnerships in Australia

We pay tribute to these remarkable individuals and their profound impact on Fiji’s tourism sector through their significant contributions, which have become an integral part of the Fijian hospitality narrative.

These pioneers have left indelible marks on the sector, shaping its trajectory, fostering growth, passing on their experience and knowledge, and establishing a foundation upon which future endeavours are being built and continued.

They all shared another connection – the pursuit and practice of the conservation of our natural resources as a key part of developing their businesses. It is this connection that we can all relate to and use to move in the right direction that will ensure these legacies continue to have a meaningful influence on the industry and on the economy that tourism already has such a forceful impact on.

So as we start another year, ready to face whatever the universe tosses our way, we’re taking our commitment to sustainability to the next level, because the call for sustainability is not merely a rhetorical gesture but a tangible commitment that demands a holistic approach, acknowledging and addressing both the environmental and cultural dimensions of tourism.

We aim to play a pivotal role in spearheading this transformative journey because as the industry torchbearer, FHTA must go beyond superficial commitments and actively promote sustainable practices throughout the industry and even beyond it into our supply chains and communities.

It is therefore timely that the recent finalization of the National Sustainable Tourism Framework (NSTF) through the Ministry of Tourism and Aviation, marks a crucial milestone in this noble endeavour, representing more than just a document. We hope it serves as the guiding blueprint for all tourism activities in Fiji for the foreseeable future, as well as setting an example to other industries and eventually being recognised at a national level for Fiji to aspire to.

The NSTF is a collective determination of tourism stakeholders including FHTA, to establish a tourism sector that is not only economically viable but also environmentally sustainable and culturally resilient.

It recognises the urgent need for a comprehensive and integrated approach while addressing the intricate balance that is required to propel Fiji’s tourism into a more sustainable trajectory.

This commitment extends to fostering a sense of shared responsibility among tourism operators, local communities, and visitors alike so that together we can create a tourism landscape where every participant is actively involved in preserving and enhancing Fiji’s unique cultural and environmental assets.

Within the framework’s ambit, various initiatives are expected to be set in motion, such as sustainable resource management practices and implementing strategies that minimize the environmental impact of tourism activities, including waste reduction, energy efficiency, and responsible water usage.

We absolutely must protect our pristine landscapes and ensure their longevity for future generations. If this means we eventually determine that we only want future resort developments to be 200 rooms or less, or that we have no tourism development in areas marked for conservation purposes only, or that we demand an adherence to very specific sustainability regulations: then why not?

This is our chance to ensure that we don’t go the way of more developed countries in trying to reverse things once widespread destructive practices have degraded the environment so much that the damage is irreparable.

Community-based tourism projects represent another vital aspect of the NSTF that we are extremely supportive of. By actively involving our local communities in tourism initiatives, economic benefits can be shared more widely and equitably.

We know how this not only helps in poverty alleviation but also strengthens the social fabric, fostering a sense of pride and ownership in our communities. In this area, a wide range of opportunities exist with the added advantage that this engagement can promote and preserve our traditional cultures and practices, enriching the overall tourism experience with authenticity and respect.

What would provide the much-needed awareness and then commitment to this sustainability framework would be its inculcation through educational programs. By instilling a sense of pride and responsibility for Fiji’s unique cultural and environmental assets, these programs would raise awareness among all stakeholders.

That means every Fijian understands its importance and every visitor respects and supports our need to preserve our home for future generations.

That might seem like a big ask, but we can now stand on the shoulders of those giants that came before us, allowing us to see further into the future we want for Fiji.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 01 February 2024)