FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Planning Tourism’s Next Step Carefully

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Planning Tourism’s Next Step Carefully

FHTA, 27 October 2022 – Today sees the return of our HOTEC Tradeshow and the first-ever instalment of the Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) Tourism Talanoa Symposium, which aims to consolidate our knowledge and expertise to discuss where “Where to next for Fijian tourism?”

The timing is right.

There are so many areas in this industry that we have seen so many 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 must. But we are learning as we go.

Far more often, it is in direct response to the changing demands of visitors that have added to the impact of the pandemic crisis that appears to have remained at more “tolerable” endemic levels, despite reducing from the critical levels that so damaged this industry here in Fiji, in our Pacific Islands and around the world.

The crisis has been recognised an opportunity to rethink how tourism interacts with our societies, other economic sectors and our natural resources and ecosystems; to measure and manage it better; to ensure a fair distribution of its benefits and to advance the transition towards a carbon neutral and resilient tourism economy.

As an industry, we have fully experienced the way the almost tectonic shifting of the pandemic freight train moved at several speeds and know that we no longer have the luxury of leisurely contemplation of any complicated situations; what with the hopes of a nation far too reliant on tourism 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, the many public sector regulatory agencies we work closely with, and the private sector and development partners that support investment, training, and resourcing.

The 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.

And we want to ensure we talk at length about how in Fiji at least, where we are already interacting with our communities, this can move to be far more inclusive and take our environmental processes to the next level.

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.

Essentially encouraging dialogue around the ease of doing business and associated costs.

As an Association, we have long advocated for extensive awareness to pave the way for wider compliance. At the same time, we work hard on pressing home the need to make compliance requirements pragmatic, with simplified processes that do not sacrifice productivity and eat up operational costs unnecessarily.

Session Two sees a much-looked-forward-to presentation and discussion on Online Tools for Research and Marketing come to the fore.

This is where technology and marketing experts discuss the use of current and emerging tools to leverage trends to maximise returns because businesses have to consider innovative options to understand and capture their target markets while always thinking 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, something currently at the top of every industry’s list of challenges.

The nationwide shortage of manpower has not only adversely affected hundreds of our tourism operators; we know it has also impacted the efficiencies in countless other industries, including the quietly suffering public sector. And while we recognise the opportunities for employment overseas, we do not believe there has been effective discussion at any level about what we can collectively do about addressing those gaps. And to do so with a great deal more urgency than we can see right now.

Expert panellists will explore the current skilled-labour shortages and discuss key recruitment, retention and upskilling considerations 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.
If you are already in business and considering expansion, are a potential investor or simply want your existing business operation to improve current accessibility to energy, water or recycling; this session will be right up your alley.

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, discussing how the measured industry recovery and response may be structured in order to ensure continued 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, Tourism Fiji and SME voices, 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.

It has certainly been the long road out of Eden, as the Eagles have crooned with dulcet tones and classic guitars, and having (almost) gotten through a year mixed with the excitement of reopening, the fear that no one would come, and the dizzy exhilaration of dealing with the far higher numbers of visitors than even our most positive expectations eventually resulted in; we are making time to recap our struggles and successes and discuss how we continue this current high into the next year and the next.

What did we learn? What must we toss out? How do we continue the success trend while managing the inevitable challenges we know await the industry?

This is a small example of what delegates of the Symposium will experience and contribute to, 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 come and be part of the solution.

On the HOTEC Tradeshow side, we will have all the tourism suppliers together in one room for the tourism industry to see their latest range of products and services and to negotiate new contracts and networks.

Local and international exhibitors have participated in this event in the past and the interest level has increased exponentially on the back of supply chain challenges, and increasing visitor numbers with more discerning demands and expectations.

There are competitions, training opportunities, and information and awareness dialogue opportunities with industry stakeholders, government and the private sector being incorporated into, or simultaneously in this two-day program.

Check this link to see a list of the exhibitors – https://fhta.com.fj/hotec-2022/visitor-info/exhibitor-profile/

Entry is free so come down and see for yourself!

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 27 October 2022)