FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Uniting for Fiji’s Future: Independence and Tourism

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Uniting for Fiji’s Future: Independence and Tourism

Fiji Hotel abd Tourism Association, 12 October 2023 – Our beautiful nation celebrated 53 years of independence earlier this week and what an incredible journey it has been and continues to be for Viti, the land and its people.

Vinaka vakalevu Viti! Mo kalougata tiko ga e na veigauna kece sa tu!

Resilience is woven into the fabric of our land and our people so let’s take a moment to acknowledge all those who have influenced our nation’s trajectory, whether for good, ill, or somewhere in between.

Each has played a role in strengthening our enduring resilience, fueling our determination to persevere, overcome, and thrive.

Our resurgent tourism industry has experienced remarkable growth over the years and has emerged as an undeniable economic powerhouse for Fiji, even in the face of pandemic-related challenges.

In 2019, tourism accounted for over 40 percent of Fiji’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP), underscoring the pivotal role it plays in our nation’s economy.

This reliance on tourism can be attributed in part to our idyllic location and the naturally friendly disposition of our people.

While this has brought prosperity, it has also raised concerns about its impact on our environment.

Nevertheless, it remains a vital source of revenue, employment, and the growth of ancillary industries and supply chains.

Fiji continues to solidify its position as a preferred holiday destination in the Pacific, with the Fijian brand extending itself into domestic and export markets.

Many products initially driven by tourism demand have evolved into proud examples of “Fijian Made,” finding their way onto the world stage.

From beauty products, soaps, oils, and jewelry to souvenirs and clothing, various supply lines have flourished, creating a ripple effect that reaches even the grassroots level.

This expansion is further fueled by the growing interest in eco-tourism and the emphasis on preserving natural environments through tourism experiences.

Notably, the tourism industry is Fiji’s largest employer, providing jobs for over 150,000 individuals directly or indirectly, with a higher representation of women and young people compared to other sectors.

In recent times, we’ve observed a trend of workers seeking opportunities abroad, impacting various industries in Fiji.

These workers often fill gaps left by those who choose not to return to full-time work overseas and the reduced numbers of international students, backpackers, and other temporary workers during the pandemic.

Therefore, proactive planning to ensure a steady supply of critical workers is imperative as we look ahead to the next decade and beyond.

The increasing demand for a wide range of supplies, including fresh produce, seafood, dairy products, and meat, is placing considerable strain on delivery and service quality.

This challenge also affects the timely completion of infrastructure projects and meeting the high expectations of discerning visitors and local shoppers.

To address these challenges and stimulate economic recovery, the government has undertaken substantial borrowing, injecting millions of dollars into the economy. These efforts have played a crucial role in restoring a sense of normalcy to daily life.

However, the nation now faces the daunting task of managing its substantial debt burden. To navigate this financial challenge, experts and knowledgeable individuals are collaboratively working to identify effective strategies for debt repayment. It is a collective effort where expertise and insights are pooled to find viable solutions that allow our nation to gradually reduce the mountain of debt that looms before us.

The successful reduction of our $10 billion debt will hinge on a range of factors, including the country’s economic growth, revenue streams, and the costs associated with borrowing. It is a complex challenge that requires careful consideration and strategic planning.

Our national marketing body Tourism Fiji has been hard at work tapping into old and new markets with promises of paradise; whilst skillfully navigating the change in demand for nature based experiences that support how we reposition Fiji as a truly sustainable brand.

Their recently launched campaign of ‘Where Happiness Comes Naturally’ pays homage to Fiji’s local people, stunning natural environments, rich culture, and the authentic experiences on offer, encouraging travellers to discover a side of Fiji that while always being around, has now been brought to the fore.

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) is committed to championing sustainable tourism practices within Fiji, and we firmly believe that virtually all tourism operators should embrace this commitment. This dedication is more critical now than ever before, as we recognize these practices as the most effective path forward.

Sustainable tourism practices are not only appealing to socially conscious visitors but also have the power to attract a larger volume of tourists. Travelers are increasingly aware of the impact of their actions on the environment and society, and they actively seek out businesses that align with their values.

To advance this cause, our association collaborates closely with its members to design and implement programs that promote environmental and social responsibility within the tourism industry. These initiatives encompass various aspects, including waste reduction, resource conservation, and community engagement, among others.

Collaborating closely with our FHTA members allows us to craft strategies that not only prioritize sustainability but are also pragmatic and exceptionally effective. Together, we can ensure that Fiji’s tourism industry thrives while steadfastly upholding the values and responsibilities vital for the well-being of future generations.

The International Visitor Survey of 2022 reveals that visitors contributed over 2 billion dollars to Fiji’s economy, with an impressive 93 percent expressing high satisfaction with their experience on our shores. However, there is cause for concern, as only 22 percent of respondents indicated awareness of sustainable campaigns or practices within our tourism offerings. Furthermore, a mere 10 percent of our guests actively engaged in sustainability actions during their visit.

We must embark on a transformative path that ensures Fiji’s tourism industry not only aligns with the National Sustainable Tourism Framework but fully embodies sustainability in every aspect of its properties and offerings.

The report also sheds light on the most enticing experiences for visitors, highlighting their keen interest in local traditions, cultural entertainment, village visits, spa experiences, and immersive aquatic activities.

Fiji might be facing a substantial challenge in addressing its debt burden, but a multifaceted approach, including the promotion of exports, some innovative economic diversification to increase production, construction, agriculture and manufacturing, holds the potential to effectively manage and reduce this financial obligation.

For Fiji to secure its long-term prosperity, the government, private sector, and stakeholders must unite and actively seek and implement sustainable solutions. This calls for expeditious action that prioritizes sustainability and, most importantly, emphasizes the importance of collaboration and unity.

Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 12 October 2023)