Aussies Could Be Travelling Quarantine-Free to Singapore and Fiji Soon

Aussies Could Be Travelling Quarantine-Free to Singapore and Fiji Soon

Travel Weekly 9 April 2021 – Aussies may be allowed to travel quarantine-free to some Asian and Pacific countries as soon as august, following on from Tuesday’s announcement of the impending two-way travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand.

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that “multiple senior government sources” confirmed Singapore will be the next priority for quarantine-free travel, as well as other Asian countries will low rates of COVID-19 from around August.

The sources also told SMH that the government is also looking to establish agreements with Pacific nations, with Fiji as a priority.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that “Singapore and Japan and South Korea and countries like this” would be next in line for Aussies to travel to after New Zealand, but added that the government is not yet in a position to move forward with this plan “at this point”.

But, SMH’s sources said Australia’s vaccination rate may be a hindrance to Singapore travel, with the country’s government indicating it will require “vaccination certificates” to allow quarantine-free travel.

“However, vaccinations are only one aspect of pandemic control. Social distancing, contact tracing, quarantine and testing are also very important aspects which countries and regions have used to control the spread of [the] COVID-19 virus even as vaccines become available,” Singapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Monday.

READ MORE

Fiji’s Blue Lane Initiative

Fiji’s Blue Lane Initiative

Cruising World 6 April 2021 – Fiji set a glowing example for other Pacific countries this past sailing season by successfully opening its borders to cruisers. The country consequently welcomed over 90 foreign boats, over 300 crew and an estimated $10 million to its shores.

The Blue Lane initiative, launched in June, set strict guidelines for pleasure craft to follow in order to enter Fiji. This protocol involved sailors having to activate their AIS for their entire trip so that the Fijian navy could confirm uninterrupted sailing, along with quarantining crew on board their vessels for a total of 14 days, including passage time. Additionally, all crew had to take a COVID-19 test and obtain a negative result within 72 hours of leaving their original country and again two days before their 14-day quarantine was up.

While Port Denarau is currently the only port of clearance in Fiji, once finished with their quarantine, boats are free to cruise the different island groups as usual.

READ MORE

COVAX reaches over 100 economies, 42 days after first international delivery

COVAX reaches over 100 economies, 42 days after first international delivery

WHO 9 April 2021 – More than one hundred economies have received life-saving COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX, the global mechanism for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. The milestone comes 42 days after the first COVAX doses were shipped and delivered internationally, to Ghana on 24 February 2021.

COVAX has now delivered more than 38 million doses across six continents, supplied by three manufacturers, AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and the Serum Institute of India (SII). Of the over 100 economies reached, 61 are among the 92 lower-income economies receiving vaccines funded through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

Despite reduced supply availability in March and April – the result of vaccine manufacturers scaling and optimizing their production processes in the early phase of the rollout, as well as increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in India – COVAX expects to deliver doses to all participating economies that have requested vaccines in the first half of the year.

“In under four months since the very first mass vaccination outside a clinical setting anywhere in the world, it is tremendously gratifying that the roll-out of COVAX doses has already reached one hundred countries,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “COVAX may be on track to deliver to all participating economies in the first half of the year yet we still face a daunting challenge as we seek to end the acute stage of the pandemic: we will only be safe when everybody is safe and our efforts to rapidly accelerate the volume of doses depend on the continued support of governments and vaccine manufacturers. As we continue with the largest and most rapid global vaccine rollout in history, this is no time for complacency.”

READ MORE

ECHR rules obligatory vaccination may be necessary

ECHR rules obligatory vaccination may be necessary

Deutsche Welle 9 April 2021 – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg ruled on Thursday that compulsory vaccinations would not contravene human rights law — and may be necessary for democratic societies.

The ruling came following the evaluation of a complaint brought to the court by Czech families regarding compulsory jabs for children.

“The measures could be regarded as being ‘necessary in a democratic society,'” the court judgment read.

Although the ruling did not deal directly with COVID-19 vaccines, experts believe it could have implications for the vaccination drive against the virus, especially for those who have so far stated a refusal to accept the jab.

This judgment “reinforces the possibility of a compulsory vaccination under conditions of the current COVID-19 epidemic,” Nicolas Hervieu, a legal expert specializing in the ECHR, told AFP news agency.

READ MORE

Tourism Talanoa: An example of public/private sectors working together

Tourism Talanoa: An example of public/private sectors working together

FHTA, 8 April 2021 – This past Easter weekend was a great indication of how lucrative, in various patches, our Domestic Tourism market can be.

While it might not be at the previous levels of international visitor numbers, it was still a godsend for our members who welcomed these local guests with more staff on duty to ensure a great time was had by all.

Properties were buzzing with the influx of local visitors who sought to spend the anticipated four-day weekend away from their familiar surroundings.

Many hotel staff were on deck to tend to guests’ needs and this was the being experienced in Denarau, the greater Nadi area, the Mamanuca’s, the North and all along from the Coral Coast to the Sun Coast.

Domestic tourism and the added benefits from those in-country through the VIP and Blue Lanes, comforted workers who were happier to be working longer hours and being engaged in a range of activities across Fiji’s tourism’s holiday choices.

The response, therefore, has been wonderful particularly with families taking advantage of the specials that were promoted.

We also noted that many families who would normally have taken the time to join their overseas families used the opportunity to take a local holiday instead. This internal spending will circulate in the economy and bring smiles to suppliers and other tourism stakeholders who have all been ravaged by the year-long stagnation of international tourism.

Domestic tourism, as well as other initiatives like the VIP and Blue Lanes, is contributing to more employment and assisting operators to add to dwindling cash reserves that, in turn, pay bills and banks.

There is no doubt it is making a difference, but these holidays are intermittent and we still need to focus much stronger efforts to register and get vaccinated.

This is how everyone can help get Fiji’s borders to reopen safely.

The COVID virus is not going away, so our only hope is to add that extra layer of security by getting vaccinated against it. In our last Tourism Talanoa article, we stressed the importance of all (or most) of the nation being inoculated against COVID-19.

This week and into the following week, tourism staff are getting registered with the assistance of their employers and in consultation with the Ministry of Health and the RFMF COVID Response Unit, are preparing to get vaccinated.

Around 3,000 more tourism workers will be vaccinated to add to those in the airports, airlines and quarantine facilities that had already been first in line for the vaccines.

Tourism operators are working closely with the medical teams to complete registrations, facilitate venues, support transport requirements and ensure that their workers are provided with that added layer of safety.

This cannot be emphasized enough.

Frontliners in the industry are in direct contact with both international visitors and repatriated Fijians arriving in the country.

New COVID-safe guidelines have been implemented for their safety and this is coupled with strict arrival protocols in full personal protective equipment (PPE), depending on where in the tourism chain they are working.

When the industry opens up to wider groups of international guests, via specifically indicated safe travel zones initially and then eventually through fully opened borders, we do not expect our tourism operators or their suppliers to be using PPE’s because this will not be practical in the long term.

Along with Tourism Fiji, tourism stakeholders have supported the Ministry of Health’s communication efforts and provided updates and information on the vaccines that have included FAQs. We believe we can do more to support the wider roll-out of the vaccines to the general public by sharing our experiences on social media as well as our international communication platforms.

We are working on sharing vernacular translations of the FAQ’s widely and keeping the medical teams updated on our progress to ensure we can further support an efficient roll-out. But we’re not stopping there, because there is far too much still at stake.

As news breaks of a Trans-Tasman Bubble taking shape, Fiji too should be able to confirm the success of its COVID-contained status and vaccination uptake and be included in the bubble eventually.

Australia and New Zealand are not just key markets for Fiji’s international visitors. They are also where many of our families and friends live; many of whom we have been unable to visit or see physically. Those are also the countries we do more commercial business with and business travel has been replaced by Zoom calls for too long.

There is no denying that our economy is heavily dependent on tourism. So much so that tourism contributed 46% to Fiji’s annual GDP in 2019 and numbers 100,000+ in direct and indirect employment.

The Reserve Bank of Fiji estimates that tourism contributed around $1billion in government tax revenue and $2billion in foreign exchange earnings.

So, until our economy can diversify its reliance on a particular industry, we need international visitors back on our shores. As quickly and as safely as we can.

Ensuring we vaccinate the majority of our population will mitigate the risk of infections once borders are reopened.
But we need to do so with a clear, safe pathway to that reopening.

We hope that by working with the agencies tasked with Fiji’s health, security and safety, that we are not only doing as much as we can proactively to get the borders reopened quickly but that we are showing how the private sector can effectively work with the public sector to coordinate and address an urgent commitment to keeping Fiji safe.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 8 April 2021)

Record Tourism in Hawaii is the new unexpected normal: Don’t tell anyone!

Record Tourism in Hawaii is the new unexpected normal: Don’t tell anyone!

eTurboNews 5 April 2021 – Tourism in Waikiki is booming again. The Easter Holidays this year saw Waikiki packed with visitors.

With record domestic tourist arrivals, hotels and airlines are keeping this success for the Hawaii Visitors Industry a State secret.

The balance of COVID-19 infections and vaccine is in place. The key is to keep it in place to make Hawaii the first place in the world to have everything “back to normal.”

With close to 20,000 daily arrivals from the US Mainland a day, pre-clearance of for many airlines in place, so passengers can get to the beach the minute they arrive, Hawaii is showing the world how tourism can be back to normal in the Aloha State – even without international visitors.

It appears hotels and airlines want this popularity not to be known and “rather not comment”, due to corporate policies.

It also appears even more domestic visitors are flooding the beaches compared to normal times.

Of course who is missing are the Canadians, the Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, Australian, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Europeans. There are hardly any foreigners, but hotels and restaurants are busy, shops can hardly handle the new domestic tourism demand.

If the United States would open the borders, combining the increased domestic potential with new flights, new domestic markets, Hawaii Tourism would be back to normal or more in no time. Is this good news, or scary news?

What about social distancing? Forget social distancing at the beaches. No one is asking, no one is enforcing. Inside hotels, restaurants, shopping centres, there is a strict mask policy. Some stores including Apple Computer still have strict policies in place to only allow customers in with appointments.

READ MORE

GPH Records Largest Day Guests Yet

Grand Pacific Hotel

Fiji Sun 5 April 2021 – Grand Pacific Hotel is planning more family days, following the success of its activity-filled Easter weekend.

The hotel, one of Suva’s oldest, marked its largest volume of day guest at the weekend, since COVID-19.

“Certainly busier than last year,” said area general manager Lachlan Walker, yesterday.

Upcoming activities will include pizza making classes, and a traditional scone baking class for children, he said.

“The children make the scones which the family can sit down to high tea to enjoy along with other treats,” he said.

“Stay tuned on our Facebook page for details.”

READ MORE

Tourism first! Island of Phuket in mass vaccination drive ahead of the rest of Thailand

Tourism first! Island of Phuket in mass vaccination drive ahead of the rest of Thailand

PHUKET, Thailand (Reuters) – In Thailand, it’s the all-important tourism sector that has jumped to the head of the COVID-19 vaccination line, with the country’s most popular resort island embarking on a mass inoculation programme two months ahead of the rest of the country.

The island of Phuket aims to deliver shots to at least 460,000 people – most of its population – as it gears up for July 1, when vaccinated overseas visitors will no longer be required to quarantine.

Phuket also has its own international airport and tourists would be able to roam the island freely without posing any coronavirus risk to the rest of Thailand’s population.

“If we can build immunity for 70-80% of the population on the island, we can receive foreign tourists who have been vaccinated without the need for quarantine,” Phuket’s Vice Governor Piyapong Choowong told Reuters.

While medical workers, members of the cabinet and the elderly were the first to be vaccinated, Thailand’s decision to prioritise Phuket over other parts of the country underscores the central role of tourism in the economy.

Spending by foreign tourists accounted for 11-12% of GDP pre-pandemic and the sector has been devastated by the virus with 1.45 million jobs lost since last year.

Just 6.7 million foreign tourists visited Thailand in 2020, spending some $11 billion. That compares with nearly 40 million in 2019 when they spent $61 billion.

READ MORE

Rent This Private Island In Fiji For The World’s Most Exclusive Vacation

Rent This Private Island In Fiji For The World’s Most Exclusive Vacation

If you’ve often fantasized about fleeing to an idyllic private island since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic—and who hasn’t?—Fiji’s award-winning Kokomo Private Island is offering the ultimate staycation in paradise for those with the means.

The lavish, 140-acre retreat, owned by prolific Australian property developer Lang Walker (who spent a reported $100 million building it), has unveiled a buyout package that invites small groups to make the uber-luxe tropical nirvana their own private playground—for a cool $36,000 per night plus tax, with a 12-night minimum stay.

Located in Fiji’s south and cradled by the Great Astrolabe Reef—the fourth-largest barrier reef on Earth—Kokomo is renowned for its world-class diving and crystalline seas. A maximum of 12 guests can spread out across four spacious residences (ranging from 4-6 bedrooms) and nine beachfront villas, lending luxurious new meaning to “social distancing” in the process.

To get there, opt for a private jet to Fiji’s Nadi International Airport, or book the entire business class cabin on Fiji Airways’ weekly cargo flight from Los Angeles International Airport. (Kokomo can facilitate introductions to the airline and private jet companies that work with the resort.)

READ MORE

Fiji Airways Announces Return to Service for Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft Following Regulatory Approval

Fiji Airways Announces Return to Service for Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft Following Regulatory Approval

Fiji Airways 1 April 2021: Fiji Airways, Fiji’s National Airline, today confirmed the acceptance of return-to-service requirements of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft by its regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji (CAAF). CAAF’s acceptance and approval follows that of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) of Australia and the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAANZ), two of Fiji Airways’ key destinations.

Mr Andre Viljoen, Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO said: “We have followed and worked closely with CAAF, CASA, CAANZ and the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) over the past two years in relation to the safe return of the MAX aircraft. The past eight months have been spent planning for the aircraft’s eventual re-certification and reviewing all return-to-service requirements from our regulators. I am proud of our prior investment in mandatory training for our pilots in a Full Flight Simulator for the 737 MAX, over and above the minimum requirements when we initially introduced the aircraft into our fleet.”

“Everyone at Fiji Airways, including our pilots and technical crew have complete confidence in the safety of the MAX, given the intense scrutiny, thousands of test flights and necessary upgrades made to the aircraft over numerous months. Safety and care for our customers and staff remain our highest and unrelenting priority.”

Mr Viljoen confirmed that the Full Flight Simulator at the Fiji Airways Aviation Academy was already being used to bring its pilots and technical crew up to speed with all the new and additional requirements following the re-certification of the MAX aircraft.

He added: “We will continue to work with our regulators to bring the MAX aircraft into service, albeit for the limited number of freight and repatriation flights we currently operate.”

Fiji Airways will also make relevant information for customers about its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on its website in due course.

Globally, 18 airlines have already returned the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to service. These include LOT Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Alaska Airlines, United Airlines, Air Canada, WestJet, American Airlines and GOL. Between the lifting of the MAX suspensions in various countries and March 23, 2021, the MAX fleet globally has operated 14,214 revenue flights over 31,179 flight hours.

Tourism Fiji Hosts Successful Regional Roadshow

Tourism Fiji Hosts Successful Regional Roadshow

Nadi 31 March 2021 – Close to 250 tourism operators and industry partners attended the first week of Tourism Fiji’s Regional Roadshow which was held from 19 – 30 March in Suva, Pacific Harbour, and Nadi. Tourism Fiji also headed North to run similar events in Savusavu and Taveuni this week.

The roadshows provided updates and information to tourism stakeholders and partners. Topics included our Domestic Tourism Promotion Plans, Regional Tourism Events, Local Events Fund (LEF) opportunities, vaccine rollout updates and the Fijian Hosts Program.

Tourism Fiji Acting Chief Executive Officer Robert Thompson said, “It’s essential that we provide our industry with the support and information they need during this time. Our team will also conduct a webinar next month for the benefit of those who could not attend our roadshows to ensure our wider industry is informed.”

Roadshow participants were also given an update on the Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) Program and how successful it has been since its launch in October 2020. Tourism Fiji Chief Operations Officer James Pridgeon encouraged industry partners who have not registered their business for the CFC to do so.

Mr Pridgeon adds, “208 businesses have registered for the programme to date, with 106 having submitted action plans and been approved for the Care Fiji Commitment. While we are pleased with this result, we want to ensure coverage across the whole tourism sector, and we will give businesses all the support they need to complete their commitment. Right now, we can’t predict when borders will open, but we can prepare ourselves and our businesses to safely welcome visitors to Fiji and the CFC programme aims to do just that.”

Tourism Fiji will share questions and feedback from these roadshows to the Ministry of Health & Medical Services, Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism & Transport as well as the Tourism Recovery Team and COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Taskforce for their action and response.

Run, Walk, Wheel Together in memory of late Marriott President Arne M. Sorenson

Run, Walk, Wheel Together in memory of late Marriott President Arne M. Sorenson

Nadi 29 March 2021 – Associates from Marriott International Hotels & Resorts in Fiji joined the global campaign in memory of its late CEO and president Arne M. Sorenson by coming together as a global community to celebrate his life by doing something he loved.

Sorenson, who was an avid fan of running, passed away in February, aged 62, after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Associates at the Sheraton & Westin Hotels & Resorts started by gathering at the Coco Palms Lounge at 6.30 am last Wednesday for registrations before commencing the walk, run or wheeling around Denarau Island while collecting litter along the way and thinking or talking about their favourite Arne memory.

Arne Sorenson was always on the move. One of his favourite ways to discover a new place was to go for a run, often joined by local associates, to explore and connect with others. The two-hour event combined covered over 120KM.

Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay held a similar event last Sunday starting at the resort to remember the late Sorenson was renowned for his leadership on difficult national and global issues and steered Marriott to make significant progress on diversity, equity and inclusion, environmental sustainability, and human trafficking awareness.

Becoming only the third CEO in Marriott’s history in 2012, and the first without the Marriott surname, Sorenson led the company to strong growth including the $13-billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

A fitting send-off

A fitting send-off

FIJI TIMES 26 March 2021 – Kinijoji Sarai has spent a good 34 years of service in the Fijian tourism industry and his recent accomplishment at the ANZ Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards is an added bonus to his retirement package.

The Fiji Pride Champion award could not come at a better time for the former Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort guest activities manager who took early retirement after COVID-19 hit the country last year.

“What a good send-off, a blessing in disguise of course for me after all the years I have spent at Outrigger and other properties along the Coral Coast,” Mr Sarai, 56, said.

“I am indeed honoured and blessed that my service to people from around the globe who preferred Fiji as their perfect holiday destination has been recognised.

“This award is for every individual who shaped me to be the person I am today. I thank the managers who believed in me and the hundreds of visitors I have served and ensured their stay at the Coral Coast was a memorable one.”

When the pandemic hit the country last year, Mr Sarai was one of the few experienced Outrigger staff who gave up his job to allow younger employees to keep their jobs so they could still provide for their families.

The Tagaqe, Nadroga native said his work in the tourism industry mostly revolved around ensuring healthy relationships were maintained between the resorts and the vanua.

READ MORE

Japan to join EU and China in issuing digital vaccine passport

Japan to join EU and China in issuing digital vaccine passport

NIKKEI 28 March 2021 – Japan will issue digital health certificates to citizens who have been inoculated against coronavirus, joining China, the European Union and other countries that have embraced vaccine passports aimed at opening up overseas travel, Nikkei has learned.

The certificate can be managed on a mobile app and will be in line with international standards, allowing the carrier to present the proof of vaccination when boarding a plane or checking in to a hotel.

International travel has been decimated by the pandemic, with air traffic down two-thirds last year and the tourism industry fairing even worse, and some see vaccine passports as a panacea to bring the industry back, although questions of fairness dog their use.

The government is considering adding the certificate to an app that is set to be introduced next month that holds a digital certificate for a negative test result. The information will also be linked with a new system that tracks the progress of the government’s vaccination program.

In addition to Japanese citizens who travel abroad, the app is also aimed at foreigners who are staying in Japan and returning to their home countries.

The government is cautious about using vaccine passports for domestic travel. Norihisa Tamura, Japan’s health minister, said the documents can lead to discrimination and prejudice — a view also held by some legislators in the Diet. The government does not plan to use the vaccine passports for the “Go To Travel” campaign to stimulate tourism demand, even if the program is resumed.

READ MORE

Tourism Fiji kicks off Virtual Roadshow

Tourism Fiji kicks off Virtual Roadshow

Tourism Fiji is kicking off its virtual roadshow this week, giving Aussie and Kiwi agents the opportunity to update their knowledge on the destination.

Running from today until 15 July, the roadshow will connect agents with wholesalers and product teams, focusing on a different region each fortnight.

There will be a variety of suppliers from all over Fiji, and the format will include short virtual updates with exclusive insider tips as well as how Fiji is getting ready for borders re-opening.

The event will run fortnightly, with updates available online for seven full days, for agents to log in at a time most convenient to them.

READ MORE

Escape to Royal Davui in Fiji for an ultimate private island experience

Escape to Royal Davui in Fiji for an ultimate private island experience

Amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, travellers have been stuck at home due to travel restrictions. With the regulations in place, all the sectors of business have also been affected, especially tourism. The tourism industry, which once accounted for over a third of the Fijian GDP, has been one of the most affected sectors by the pandemic. Fijian economy has registered the sharpest economic decline of 19 per cent in 2020, equivalent to a loss of more than $2billion. With the tourism industry gradually reopening worldwide, Fiji has made an unusual appeal to billionaires looking for a retreat during the pandemic.

Royal Davui Island Resort has announced an exclusive private island seven days isolation retreat to start tourism, which offers an ultimate island getaway ideal for those seeking romance, rest, and total relaxation. The property has received special permission from the Fijian Government to offer an ‘isolation vacation’ like no other.

This high-end eco-resort is dedicated to emphasizing and preserving the stunning simplicity and beauty of its natural habitat – nestled in jungle foliage, atop a living barrier reef, coral gardens, sapphire blue seas, white-sand beaches, and towering palms. Surrounded by tropical gardens, the resort comprises a selection of luxurious pool villas carefully dotted around the island, each boasting breathtaking views of the South Pacific’s glistening waters.

READ MORE

Tourism Talanoa: Tourism – One Year On

Tourism Talanoa: Tourism – One Year On

FHTA, 25 March 2021 – Twelve months can seem like a lifetime or it can fly by in an instant.

For Fiji’s tourism sector, it has certainly been the former. And we are not out of the woods yet.

This week marked a full year since the COVID pandemic forced the world into a lockdown and Fiji herself closed her borders.

Initially, there was great fear – of the unknown and the effects on people’s health and businesses, worsened weekly by the hibernating of many tourism businesses and the consequent shedding of jobs. This was replaced by months of uncertainty that continued as reports of illness and death escalated around the world.

An initial estimate of border closures being in place in Fiji for a month was revised to three months. The unpredictability of the new disease no-one had heard of before increased the already strange atmosphere that was permeating the larger global economies, while our small island states watched from afar, hoping they knew what they were doing.

After all, these were more progressive economies with vast budgets at their disposal with far larger populations who had access to the most advanced technologies and cutting edge scientific and medical knowledge. But we appeared to be collectively finding out more and more about the COVID-19 virus together, and it soon became evident that even the most advanced countries were not prepared and would make the most extraordinary mistakes in misjudging its threat and the consequent impact it would have on global economies and the freedom of movement and travel we all took for granted.

The race to find a vaccine rose in urgency as global death tolls rose and the speed with which it needed to be tested, approved and then manufactured for dissemination will probably go down in history as the most extraordinary and astounding narrative this century.

At home, thousands of people were made redundant or put on leave without pay pending the ability of their employer to once again be able to provide the relevant work. To provide that work, employers needed to be able to access their usual revenue streams that were effectively stopped when the borders were closed. Subsequently, that lack of revenue injection through receipts, taxes, wages and thus spending into the economy took its toll and our GDP dipped to record lows.

Fixed expenses remained and borrowers were finding it difficult to make loan payments due to a drastic reduction in, or no more income.

A curfew was imposed at the end of March to keep the COVID transmissions down and this curfew has remained to this day with many forgetting the reasons for it. In contrast, countries without curfews that failed to restrict people moving about unnecessarily found out the hard way that infections multiplied, and deaths increased.

It is also worth noting that it has been 336 days since our last community transmitted case and the recognition for what this means and how this positive outcome was achieved is rarely recognised as an excellent example of our medical authorities understanding very quickly what needed to be done and ensuring it was actioned quickly.

In the throes of the community transmitted cases, the cities of Lautoka and then Suva were effectively put on lockdown and cut-off from the rest of the country. This was a strange new concept to our younger generation and was also an extremely scary time for the older members of society.

The government was in the process of working out their new National Budget during the beginning of the border closures and the pandemic forced an adjustment of figures and the welcome introduction of some stop-gap solutions.

Workers were able to access their superannuation funds as income relief and while not considered very much, it was welcomed then and is still being appreciated now in the absence of more globally practised wage support schemes.

The tourism industry also welcomed some timely relief in terms of tax breaks that had been part of previous years lobbying efforts, as well as the much-awaited reduction in duty for many items that would assist in reducing various costs in food and beverage areas.

As a key tourism body, the Association has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that our members understood the constantly changing environment while working with all the relevant Government bodies to clarify, update or request support to enable tourism businesses to survive until the reopening of borders became tenable.

Many Fijians stuck outside our bubble after the border closure who were desperate to return home were finally allowed to do so after the implementation of new procedures allowed repatriation flights to commence that required a mandatory stay in quarantine facilities for a fortnight on arrival.

Employers raised their labour issues brought about by the pandemic with the amendment included in the Employment Relations Act recognizing it as an ‘Act of God’ providing some respite.

As face-to-face meetings decreased and events involving people gathering in numbers disappeared, there was a tremendous spike in digital meeting platforms. So much so that CEOs to first graders turned to on-line options like Zoom to stay connected, continue training or education and “Zoom” graduated to its current verb-status, replacing “hop on a video call.”

A year later, we are still grappling with ensuring our SME’s can continue to survive because a business must first survive to be in any position to be able to welcome international visitors back when borders do open. Those same businesses, as well as every other operator who is directly involved in tourism or involved as part of the industry’s large supply chain network, must also be prepared with its refreshed and updated product or service ready to go.

Our economy might be struggling, and we acknowledge there is increased unemployment and an extremely difficult time for most businesses and nearly every industry. But there are positives we must also acknowledge, appreciate, and not take for granted in contrast to other countries around the world.

We can still enjoy moving around freely without having to wear masks and in relatively socially distanced and acceptable crowd sizes. We can have a meal in a restaurant, play in a park or be a spectator at a game of rugby, soccer or cricket. Even movie theatres are open and events of various sizes are taking place.

These are all possible because we have been fully supportive of the efforts in place to practice enhanced hygiene protocols, acceptive of the border control health checks as the “new normal” and understand the importance of why these are in place. These are all practices to keep our businesses, our communities, and our country safe.

The Blue Lanes where yachts can arrive in Fiji and the Vacation in Paradise (VIP) Lanes, where international visitors can come in and use their isolated quarantine stay as part of their holiday, have been quietly successful tourism programs that have been in place for some time now.

Again, their success is a combination of how professionally managed the border security is between the border personnel and medical staff, as well as the tourism operator’s compliance with the very stringent requirements in place.

The arrival of the vaccines and their subsequent roll-out adds a further, important safety layer. While we wait for the most at-risk population to get vaccinated and the roll-out to eventually reach critical mass, we will continue doing whatever is necessary to prepare ourselves for when planes fly again, and the first international visitors touch down at Nadi Airport as part of our eventual recovery.

It has been a long twelve months. Often challenging, sometimes scary when first navigating areas differently from the rest of the world, but always positively.

As difficult as it is has always been, ignoring the negativity and focusing on the ability to survive, then revive, so we can all eventually thrive, remains tourism’s focus.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 25 March 2021)

Warwick Hotels To Open New Hotels

Warwick Hotels To Open New Hotels

Fiji Sun 25 March 2021 – Warwick Hotels will build two new hotels, Senior Vice President Warwick Hotels and Resorts International and Executive Director – Pacific, Tammie Tam, has confirmed.

“We have the land available and ready, but we are yet to iron out the finer details,” she said.

She said would not comment on whether the expansion would be to the existing hotels.

Naviti Resort, Tokatoka Resort, Tambua Sands Beach Resort and Warwick Fiji are owned by the Warwick Hotels Group.

Of the four Naviti Resort and Tambua Sands Beach Resort closed, while Tokatoka Resort and Warwick Fiji were open.

“It has been a difficult year for the tourism industry, and we are not sure how long this will go on for,” Ms Tam said.

“There is some positivity with the COVID-19 vaccines being made available, and I am grateful to the Ministry of Health and the Government for their efforts.”

READ MORE

Savusavu Bay is now open as second Blue Lanes port

Savusavu Bay is now open as second Blue Lanes port

Fiji Sun 25 March 2021 – Following the approval of more than 100 yachts through Fiji’s Blue Lanes initiative, the Fijian Government’s COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Taskforce (CRMT) has approved Savusavu Bay – known as Fiji’s “hidden paradise” – as the nation’s second Blue Lanes Yacht Port.

The Blue Lanes initiative was pioneered through the Fijian COVID Safe Economic Recovery Framework to allow a safe restart for Fiji’s growing blue tourism industry.

Following consultations with the local community and the deployment of relevant officials to the Northern Division, Savusavu Port now joins Port Denarau as one of two designated port of entries for yachts arriving to Fiji.

Fiji has served as the Pacific’s hub for blue tourism throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as the Blue Lanes initiative has allowed for crew changes for Superyachts, quarantine–holiday for high-end yachties, bunkering and provisioning, and the accommodation of yachts serving humanitarian purposes during Fiji’s recent harrowing cyclone season.

READ MORE

Important Reminders for FHTA Members (Updated 09.04.21)


REMINDERS

2021-2022 NATIONAL BUDGET CONSULTATIONS
The Ministry of Economy has commenced preparations for the 2021-2022 National Budget and is calling all Fijians to provide their views and ideas for the upcoming Budget. The Ministry of Economy invites all Fijians, including civil society and non-governmental organisations, women, youth, senior citizens, Fijians living with disabilities, other grassroots organisations and representatives from the private sector to participate in this year’s consultation and voice their views and opinions on the 2021-2022 National Budget. Fijians can make written submissions which can be posted, hand-delivered or e-mailed by 14 May 2021 to the following addresses:

POSTAL DELIVERY
Budget Consultations 2021-2022
Ministry of Economy
P.O. Box 2212
Government Buildings
Suva

HAND DELIVERY
Budget Consultations 2021-2022
Ministry of Economy
Level 10, Ro Lalabalavu House
Victoria Parade
Suva

EMAIL
Subject: Budget Consultations 2021-2022
budgetconsultation@economy.gov.fj

EXTENSION OF TIME FOR DIGITAL REREGISTRATION ON COMPANIES AND BUSINESS NAMES
Please note that the final date for the digital reregistration of companies and business names has been extended to 31 July 2021. The Regulations for the extension of time were gazetted on 19 March 2021.
You are encouraged to reregister as soon as possible if you haven’t done so already.
– Companies (including foreign companies) and business names registered under the Companies Act 2015 on or after 14 June 2019 are not required to apply for registration.
– Only business names need to be renewed periodically, one year following reregistration. The period of renewal can be for one year, 3 years, 5 years, 7 years or 10 years.
– Online applications of all digital registrations (companies, foreign companies and business names) must be filed with the Registrar of Companies by 31 July 2021.
– Companies (including foreign companies) that fail to re-register by the due date will be deemed deregistered /struck off the register of foreign companies as the case may be. The assets and liabilities of the de-registered company will become the property of the Registrar of Companies.
– Business names that fail to be re-registered by the due date (or extended due date) will be deemed to be struck off. Business name owners who continue to use this name will be in breach of the business name use.
Lists of all companies, foreign companies and business name holders that have applied and are yet to apply for digital reregistration with the Registrar of Companies are available on the Ministry of Justice website – www.justice.gov.fj

STREAMLINING OF FRCS CUSTOMER SERVICES – TAXPAYER ONLINE SERVICES
The Fiji Revenue & Customs Services (FRCS) released a public notice advising the general public that in an effort to streamline their services and timely responses to online queries, they have introduced the following:
All issues/queries/complaints related to the TPOS can now be emailed directly to the following email address: tpos@frcs.org.fj
All issues/queries/complaints related to Pay As You Earn (PAYE) emailed to payefinal@frcs.org.fj will now be coordinated through tpos@frcs.org.fj
All taxpayers and tax agents are assured that all their issues/queries/complaints sent to this email address will be acknowledged as soon as it is received
Customers making general enquiries related to tax and customs matters can continue to send their queries to email address info@frcs.org.fj or call 324 3000 or 1326 (hotline)

MSAF NOTICE 16/2021 ON INCIDENT REPORTING
This Marine Notice draws the attention of vessel owners, operators, masters, crews, pilots and the public about the requirements for accident, incident or mishap reporting.
MSAF is introducing monthly reports that are published on their website to gain leading indicators of what is occurring in the industry in order to properly respond. We encourage everyone to report incidents.
MSAF has created incident severity categories for ease of reference. Click here https://www.msaf.com.fj/16-2021-incident-reporting/
For an update on the latest Marine Notices from MSAF, click here: https://www.msaf.com.fj/category/alerts-notices/marine-notices/

FHTA REMUNERATION SURVEY
To FHTA members who may have been contacted recently by KPMG with regard to participating in the FHTA Remuneration Survey, we wish to remind you that the data received through this survey will be used to provide a benchmark for the tourism industry to assist members in determining their own remuneration rates.
Contact info@fhta.com.fj if you have not received the survey information and wish to do so OR if you do not wish to participate in the survey or require some assistance in completing the survey.

REMINDER ON TLTB RENT ASSESSMENT UPDATE FOR TOURISM LEASES
Further to FHTA’s on-going discussions with the ITaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB) on the current economic situation for tourism businesses due to border closures, we provide the following outcomes kindly agreed to by TLTB:

  1. The rent reassessment of tourism leases due for 2021 and 2022 will be deferred. We understand 2020 reassessment have already been released and many of these have been agreed to and paid for. Members who are unable to pay must contact TLTB immediately to agree to and sign a formal arrangement.
  2. Interest on rent from 1 January 2020 – 31 December 2022 will be waived until further notice.
  3. Tenants who are able to pay the applicable rents based on gross receipts must continue to do so
  4. Tenants unable to pay gross receipts in 2021 will pay 80% of the minimum rent in 2021 and 50% in 2022.
  5. All tenants will be required to sign a formal undertaking with TLTB, including agreements for payment schedules where selected.
  6. Applicable penalties for development lease breaches will be waived
  7. There is no waiver on the benefits to landowners such as education and community developments and these must be paid per your agreements.

The above measures have been kindly agreed to by TLTB to assist tourism operators during these challenging times. Where full payments are possible, these should be made in good faith as the TLTB is a Trustee for the Landowners and has a duty to ensure that the Landowners receive their fair dues.

Please contact your TLTB Account Manager to formalise arrangements.

CARE FIJI COMMITMENT
Have you signed up for the Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) program and nominated your wellness ambassador yet? FHTA strongly advises that all members register for the CFC program in preparation for when borders reopen and we strongly recommend this be completed as soon as possible to avoid not being recognised as a COVID-safe tourism business in Fiji.
CLICK HERE to get more information or reach out by emailing cfc@tourismfiji.com.fj

HOTEL LICENSE RENEWAL
The HLB cannot waive the hotel license renewal fee as this would require a change to the Regulations that govern them with the amendment formally gazetted.
However, for properties that are currently closed and have been or will remain closed for a significant period of time, you may contact the HLB in writing informing them that you are currently closed and the date on which you ceased operations. The HLB, in turn, will effectively close your file and will not follow up on renewal.
Once you are ready to begin operations again, you may reapply for a hotel license and go through the process again where you will be required to obtain the 4 authorities reports. (Police, Fire, Health and District Officer/PA).
Please address all written correspondence to:
Mereoni Kalokalodrau (Ms.)
Secretary, Hotel Licensing Board 
P.O. Box 2213 Government Buildings, Suva
Government of Fiji
or via email to mereoni.kalokalodrau@ag.gov.fj

UPDATE YOUR BUSINESS INFORMATION TO TOURISM FIJI’S WEBSITE
In preparation for border restrictions lifting, FHTA encourages you to ensure that your business is listed on TF’s consumer website. The website will play a critical role in showcasing that Fiji is open for business when the time is right and they’d love for you to have an up-to-date presence when audiences begin researching their next holiday to Fiji.

Contact their Digital team via website@tourismfiji.com.fj for more information on how to get listed or to update your existing listing. You may forward them your current local specials too to ensure all published information regarding your business is current and relevant.

FIJI AIRWAYS REPATRIATION FLIGHTS: March – June 2021
Fiji Airways will operate repatriation flights in March, April, May and June 2021 allowing citizens as well as approved non-citizens to travel to their respective destinations.
For a full list of flight schedules, CLICK HERE.