FHTA Tourism Talanoa: The Consultative Process to Progress

Media Workshop 2020

FHTA, 1 September 2022 – .Everyone’s favourite wrestler turned actor Dwayne Johnson once said “Success doesn’t happen overnight. Every day you get a little better than the day before and it all adds up.”

While this resonates for The Rock, it also resonates for us here on this little rock called Fiji.

For Fiji’s tourism industry, this has always been how we have approached business.

Building on existing frameworks to add more supportive strategies and plans is one key part of it; but our resilience experience (probably not unlike The Rock’s formidable strength training program), has taught us that consulting widely with industry members, government bodies and ministries we interact closely with, and being cognizant of the economic, environmental and climatic impacts on the industry is absolutely critical to ensuring those strategies are effective, pragmatic and flexible.

To be progressively better than we were yesterday and to ensure we are future-proof and sustainable in the long term; we must be able to keep improving in the future because this will also support us to stay competitive and relevant.

A National Sustainability Tourism Framework (NSTF) consultation is currently taking place through the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport (MCTTT), to “articulate the tourism sector’s strategic direction and provide a blueprint for an inclusive, resilient, sustainable and transformative Fijian tourism industry”.

With a series of Private-Public Dialogues that have just started, and that are supported by the International Finance Corporation (IFC); these consultations that will be carried out over the next few months need the input of people involved in the industry to provide meaningful, relevant and insightful engagement.

The first of these has covered travel insights and changing trends, how current travel inflows are stacking against historical data, and exciting news on strong forward bookings and expectations over the near and long term.

It has also covered current and future challenges and our expectations for how these will either further develop or are expected to evolve given the current geopolitical and economic conditions.

There has also been interesting dialogue commenced on recommendations to address changing climate impacts, discussions on increasing energy and food costs both here and in our visitor markets and how these might more effectively be addressed or mitigated.

The upcoming joint Fiji/Australia Business Forum (and the joint Fiji/New Zealand Business Forum held a few months ago) is a similar consultation process for businesses looking to understand how bilateral trade has rebounded, where it will go, the future of business investments, the changing work environment and better understand global, regional and the local risk environment.

Having Zoomed our way through 2 years of polite and often subdued (and heavily time monitored) online discussions, the demand for in-person conferences to connect, network and get some healthier debates going has become a global phenomenon.

Across the globe, country, industry and business strategies are being re-evaluated for more fit-for-purpose approaches that are being re-analysed through the spectrum of wider consultations, myriad meetings and events that collate these discussions.

They are also using the near-term experiences of the last few years and the changing dynamics of post-pandemic demand, because, as we all know, so much has changed.

Even the earth’s axis of rotation has changed, attributed to climate change contributing to this shifting. So even the earth as we know has shifted.

Timely, therefore, as we move from resilience into the last quarter of the year that was all about the hardest fight for recovery ever; we are all taking the time to re-evaluate our preparations for 2023 and beyond.

Another reason why the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) is introducing its inaugural FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium event.

Scheduled for 27th and 28th October 2022 at the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort on Denarau in Fiji, the Symposium will be centred around its theme “Working towards a Sustainable, Marketable, Agile, Resilient and Travel-ready (SMART) Industry. “

There is so much demand from business travellers and suppliers, especially for the chance to network, that FHTA decided that late October 2022 was the perfect time to launch the Symposium, which will take place concurrently with FHTA’s usually annual tradeshow-HOTEC.

At the tradeshow, the emphasis is on reviewing and reimagining tourism’s needs. From fresh food, and produce to dry goods, cleaner energy opportunities and newer recycling methods, as well as introducing cost and energy-saving information.

We also wanted to be able to bring all the hoteliers into the same room as other stakeholders like Government, statutory bodies and the private sector, to provide a consultation and learning platform around regenerative travel and what the future is looking like.

How can we as an industry be cleaner energy users while reducing costs?

How can we use more local produce without compromising standards?

How can we deliver more value so that our visitors choose Fiji as a preferred destination because our industry ticks all the boxes on sustainability, lower carbon footprints and stakeholder inclusivity?

How can we continue to ensure that our industry, having moved past survival and revival, goes on into thrive mode?

The Symposium will also provide discussion opportunities on the Ease of Doing Business, long-term infrastructural needs, and exciting payment gateway news.

We want to be able to generate more discussion on addressing increasing skilled labour gaps and share input on how we hope to continue to keep those staffing pipelines consistently flowing.

Similarly, the Symposium would also discuss various issues including tourism-related expectations and responsibilities of properties and businesses, new or amended policies and programmes announced by the budget for the current fiscal year, our collective revival action plans, as well as the tourism infrastructure partnership programme.

A wide range of panellists will share challenges and opportunities, provide insight on research and development initiatives, as well as update us on the latest digital and marketing tools that can ensure Fijian tourism remains relevant and competitive through their products, service delivery and people skills.

We too have understood the need to have wider consultations, and to capitalise early on providing the right platforms to reach our widespread and extremely diverse industry stakeholders and key supply chains; having seen the many changes in travel post-reopening for food, service and product expectations, as well as the pre-requisite safety elements that must now be built into all aspects of travel.

If you are interested in sharing your views on the National Sustainability Tourism Framework that will be the guideline tourism development plan or wish to join us for the FHTA Tourism Talanoa Symposium or the HOTEC Tradeshow 2022, email info@fhta.com.fj for more information.

There are numerous opportunities to be part of the discussions and consultations on where tourism is going or should go, and how you can contribute more positively to our long-term sustainability and viability.

Every day, we will get a little better at how we do this and before you know it, success will be determined by just how sustainable we make this industry and our effective preparations for climate and other environmental, social and global impacts that are usually out of the direct control of Fiji and her citizens.

But it’s our rock, and therefore ours to protect.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 1 September 2022)