Tourism Talanoa: Not Out of the Woods Yet

Tourism Talanoa: Not Out of the Woods Yet

FHTA, 3 June 2021 – As the skies rain down due to a deep low-pressure system over the Fiji group, the weather appears to mirror our collective gloom as we head into our seventh week of restricted movement and containment within specific areas.

Our active COVID case numbers continue to increase; an alarming confirmation that the virus is moving through far too many communities around the country, far too quickly.

Which unfortunately means we are still not heeding the medical advice to stay at home to avoid crowds, sanitise or wash hands often, mask up correctly and stop sharing everything as is our island inclination as caring Fijians.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that all viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, change over time. Most changes have little to no impact on the virus’ properties. However, some changes affect the virus’s propensity to spread more easily, impact humans more severely, or affect the performance of vaccines, therapeutic medicines, diagnostic tools, or other public health and social measures.

Due to the many variants of COVID-19 in the world right now, a new naming system has been put into place by WHO to correctly distinguish individual variants.

The variant currently in Fiji has been identified as the India variant of COVID-19 and is now officially referred to as COVID-19 Delta.

We certainly did not need a mercenary sounding name to make a havoc-causing virus that has held a bewildered population hostage for nigh on 2 months now, any more sinister.

This particular variant of COVID-19 that is running amok in our communities is highly transmissible and has increased in virulence. But the untold woe it has also caused the economy is just beginning to dawn on commercial and business interests that have not been impacted up to now.

Closed businesses must now apply to reopen after they have had to adapt to the current national regulations governing their operations and this is inconvenient and burdensome for many.

If you are a small operator, you must find a way to separate workers when they take meal breaks, constantly wipe down surfaces, provide accessible handwash stations with soap, make sanitisers available, take temperature tests at the business entrances and check that CareFiji Apps are on and operational with the use of mandatory smartphones.

This is neither simple to do, nor economical for a small garage with only 3 people working in it, or a small bakery with 5 workers and cramped space to sell baked goods from, or as a food restaurant responding to the demand for cheaper food options.

The bakers need curfew passes now to get to work by 4 am so that our fresh bread is ready when we wake up each morning.

Proprietors must now go online to apply for passes and organise transport for their staff to get to and from work. Large factories must rearrange workspaces, review delivery timetables, manage larger groups of workers to enable safer working environments and keep an eye on hygiene and correct mask-wearing to avoid planned on the spot fines.

Everyone applying to reopen their business must upload a copy of their COVID safe SOP’s. This key part of the requirement is not understood by many as being a critical part for the relevant ministries to be sufficiently confident that you have a guideline document in place, and more importantly, know how to go about keeping your staff and customers safe.

Unfortunately, there is insufficient help for small businesses to put this together along with training to ensure everyone does know what to do.

New protocols on reopening businesses have been rolled out but there is still widespread confusion on who needs to get approvals to reopen, and in the absence of known categories for trade, the majority of SME’s do not understand whether they are included in essential service listings, supplier listings or as support services.

For example, people must bury their deceased loved ones, so they must access mortuary services, who in turn need coffins made for them by suppliers, and for which carpenters need access to timber. However, the carpenters supplying coffins are unaware they are providing a support service for an essential service provider and timber suppliers are closed.

In the same manner that petrol stations were unaware they could be considered as support services for emergency service providers to refuel crucial transport lines.

Now might be the time for commerce and trade and all manner of businesses to gain a better understanding to being better prepared for business resilience for longer-term disasters, be aware of where they fit into supply chains and adopt plans to enable online connections and access clear communications.

For tourism businesses, navigating the wide range of business needs for SME’s, accommodation, activity and transport providers as well as suppliers to these and other forms of business within the tourism domain; requires understanding these separate but clear categorisations.

This allowed the Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) to wade through the many requirements and clarify what needed to be done by who and how. Further bolstered by the already-in-place COVID safe operating procedures being practised that have been tested at various degrees of severity over the last 12 months.

But amidst the uncertainty of how we now operate under the new conditions and using the new normal ways to do business in such a way that we maintain some semblance of ensuring the economy continues to move in the right direction; we need to evaluate what speed with which we wish to move.

And more fundamentally, WHEN we decide we should be moving as a nation.

Moving back to work, to school and back home. To our families we miss and those communities we left and our island homes far away.

All still free of any COVID infections.

The pain tourism has experienced with the industry brought to its knees a year ago is as raw as ever, with severely diminished revenue streams and operational costs in play.

But no one doubts the risks COVID infections running through our communities would inflict, the disastrous impact on our population and how extremely difficult it would be to come back from that dark place that nations far more advanced than ours have found themselves in.

We do not believe we are quite out of the woods yet. And the rising infection rates certainly do not provide any confidence that giving in to economic pressure now is going to help the large community.

Lockdowns and containment areas are uncomfortable, puts pressure on already limited resources and pushes our informal sectors into desperate situations with access to food and medicine.

These are the areas we must focus on first.

Kudos to the Australian Government and other donor agencies for the generous support going directly to these needy communities through the CSO’s doing their very best with what they have, to reach those who need help the most.

Thanks also to those providing generously of their own time and funding to do what they can, including the provision of mental health support.

We also welcome the recent announcement by the Reserve Bank of Fiji approving another reduction in the interest rate charged on financial institutions that borrow under its Import Substitution and Export Finance Facility (ISEFF), Disaster Rehabilitation and Containment Facility (DRCF) and the Housing Facility (HF).

Financial institutions (commercial banks, license credit institutions and others) can pass on the reduction in interest rates to eligible businesses and households that have been struggling to manage during this crisis. The usual rate of 5percent will now be 3.99 per cent per annum effective from the start of this month.

Vaccination programs have been ratcheted up around the country and appear to be progressing well with more people recognising that being vaccinated can add a critical additional layer of protection. For them, their families and anyone they interact with.

With sufficient vaccinations, we could effectively reduce transmission, reduce the virus’s current strength and allow us to really open up safely.

We can open up safely soon enough. Let’s not rush this and regret it more painfully.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 3 June 2021)

Reserve Bank of Fiji Reduces Interest Rate on Special Lending Facilities

Reserve Bank of Fiji Reduces Interest Rate on Special Lending Facilities

RBF 1 June 2021 – The Reserve Bank of Fiji Board, at its meeting on 27 May 2021, approved a reduction in the interest rate that the RBF charges financial institutions that borrow under its Import Substitution and Export Finance Facility (ISEFF), Disaster Rehabilitation and Containment Facility (DRCF) and the Housing Facility (HF).

Effective from 01 June 2021, commercial banks, licensed credit institutions, Fiji Development Bank and Housing Authority can access funding from the Reserve Bank at a lower rate of 0.25 per cent per annum, compared to 1.00 per cent previously. In line with the reduction in the interest rate that RBF charges, the maximum interest rate that lending institutions can charge for on-lending these funds to eligible businesses and households will be lowered from 5.00 per cent to 3.99 per cent per annum. The above change applies to new loans and existing rolled over loans, effective from 01 June 2021.

The Governor and Chairman of the Board, Mr Ariff Ali stated that the reduction of interest rates on the Bank’s special lending facilities will reduce the borrowing costs of all businesses and households who have accessed the facility. This should provide some measure of relief in helping reduce the negative impact of the second wave of COVID-19 on their activities. Mr Ali added that the change is also consistent with the broad reduction of interest rates in the market over the year and that the Reserve Bank will continue to engage with the lending institutions in broadening the accessibility of the facilities.

The scheme has a combined funding allocation of $550 million, comprising $300 million under ISEFF, $150 million under DRCF and $100 million under HF. To date, a total of $339.0 million in loans has been disbursed under these facilities. The lower rate implemented under the facilities will be reviewed after two years.

More information on the facilities may be obtained from the Domestic Markets Unit (email: domesticmarkets@rbf.gov.fj or contact: 3223291) at the Reserve Bank of Fiji.

Important Reminders for FHTA Members (Updated 29.05.21)


REMINDERS

NEW PROTOCOLS FOR BUSINESS OPERATIONS
Members are advised that there are new protocols in place for Business Operations. Currently, this only extends to essential services and essential support businesses.
Please sight the Non-Negotiable Protocols and ensure this is strictly adhered to as failure to comply will result in the closing of your business for the duration of the period of restricted movement.
For tourism operators, you are required to be Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) approved to be operational. If your property hasn’t completed the CFC Programme, send a request mail to Tourism Fiji on cfc@tourismfiji.com.fj and they will furnish you with the necessary documents to be completed.
For any further queries and/or clarification on Essential Business Operations and Movement, you may call 163.

EXTENSION OF VALIDITY FOR LTA PERMITS AND LICENSES
The government has gazetted the Land Transport (COVID-19 Response) Regulations 2021 which seeks to extend the validity of any permit, license, certificate or registration that expires or is due for renewal on or after 14 May 2021 but before 14 August 2021.

EXTENSION FOR LODGMENT OF TAX RETURNS
FRCS wish to advise all taxpayers and tax agents, who are affected by the COVID-19 movement restrictions, lockdown and containment zones that the timeline for lodgment of tax returns that are due for lodgment during the months of April to December 31st 2021 is further extended to be filed by 31st December 2021. Accordingly, all late lodgment penalties will be waived. Please note the waiver for this penalty can be applied for through the Taxpayer Online Services. Should you require any assistance on this, please email tpos@frcs.org.fj.


FHTA REMUNERATION SURVEY
To FHTA members who may have been contacted 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 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.



LTA eSERVICES DURING PERIOD OF RESTRICTED MOVEMENT
The Land Transport Authority responded to FHTA’s request for customer updates during this time and they advised that while their branches are open, they are discouraging personal visits except in cases of real urgency.

You must register with their eServices or via the LTA app, which will allow for reminders for the expiry of licenses or roadworthiness. This should give you adequate time to ensure compliance with LTA’s mandated regulations.


LIMITED MSAF SERVICES DURING PERIOD OF RESTRICTED MOVEMENT
The Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji will be providing limited services for the whole of Fiji, for the duration of restricted movement. They have released a list of contact people for specific concerns or you can email info@msaf.com.fj for general enquiries.

FHTA wishes to remind members of the current restrictions on maritime passenger and cargo movement as indicated in MSAF’s Marine Notice 22/2021.
You can subscribe to the MSAF website to get contactless automatic updates into your email.


MSAF STCW REGULATED FEES LIST
The Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji has included the regulated fees list for their Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping


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:
1 – All issues/queries/complaints related to the TPOS can now be emailed directly to the following email address: tpos@frcs.org.fj
2 – 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
3 – 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
4 – 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)


REMINDER ON TLTB RENT ASSESSMENT UPDATE FOR TOURISM LEASES

Further to FHTA’s ongoing 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:

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.

1 – Interest on rent from 1 January 2020 – 31 December 2022 will be waived until further notice.
2 – Tenants who are able to pay the applicable rents based on gross receipts must continue to do so
3 – Tenants unable to pay gross receipts in 2021 will pay 80% of the minimum rent in 2021 and 50% in 2022.
4 – All tenants will be required to sign a formal undertaking with TLTB, including agreements for payment schedules where selected.
5 – Applicable penalties for development lease breaches will be waived
6 – 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.


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


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



This list is collated and published by FHTA PRO

Tourism Talanoa: Difficult but Doable

Tourism Talanoa: Difficult but Doable

FHTA, 27 May 2021 – As the figures of our active COVID-19 cases reach three digits for the first time in Fiji, we are reminded once again of the importance of following the standing health regulations and protocols.

Fiji is teetering on a knife edge of a full-blown explosion of positive COVID cases that reinforces how critical Government’s vaccination programs are now even more than ever.

As we endure another week of restricted movement in our various containment areas, the tourism sector continues to work behind the scenes on the survival, revival and revitalisation of the industry given its well recognised importance to the economy, underpinned in no small part by how quickly more Fijians would get their jobs back once fully operational.

Our tourism fraternity has been engaged in supporting the various agencies with their logistical needs and we re-emphasise our appreciation to our members for doing so.

The national economy has been struggling under the immense pressure of not having tourism’s earning power and the industry’s thousands of supply lines and unemployed staff are bearing this same pain.

While individual business revenues directly and indirectly involved in the sector have sharply declined, fixed costs remain while critical cash flows rapidly deplete.

The Pacific Trade Invest issued its Pacific Business Monitor for this month making for more sobering reading. And while there are some bright spots, is still concerning nonetheless.

The report indicates the more prevalent business outlook that there will not be a return to pre-COVID revenue anytime soon until 2022 or later. Additionally, it notes that the extent and severity of COVID-19 on Pacific businesses has remained stable (as opposed to worsening), with 84 percent reporting a negative impact.

FHTA has shared through this forum, that we need to adapt our business practices to minimize potential exposure to infection for the medium to long term future, while ensuring that these practices impact our eventual recovery.

Travel and tourism organisations around the world collectively support the thinking that this will be the key to getting the industry out of the current crisis, with the global vaccination drive being the key to supporting this.

There is also no doubt that continued testing still plays an important role, as will building the confidence with future travellers into and out of Fiji that once we have reached the optimum vaccination levels that risks are reduced, will consequently be a natural segue way into improved confidence for borders reopening between regions.

There is more research suggesting that travel and tourism will bounce back quickly just as soon as the restrictive barriers that have enveloped the industry for more than a year start to be removed.

At the same time, we note the Cook Islands travel industry has not yet seen the immediate effect of borders reopening except for the VFR market (visiting friends & relatives) movement.

Australia has indicated that they are not willing to open their borders until mid-2022 due largely to the unfortunate stalling of their vaccination programs. While concerning for Fiji and the region, a positive might be that we will probably be on the receiving end of their now excess numbers of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines that are not so popular with their citizens.

For now, our focus is supporting Fiji get its vaccination numbers to herd immunity and whatever magic number is rated sufficient for our population to be considered immune enough for the disease, and a key component for the closed border situations to be reviewed.

No doubt, with the introduction of new traffic light systems, travel corridors and bubbles that will henceforth define what our future mobility will look like, the focus on vaccination programs remains key for most countries.

Most, if not all, of our tourism SME’s will need assistance to get back on their feet when the time is right and the PTI report supports our own views that there will be need for critical financial support, access to new markets, business diversifications and improved online-commerce capabilities.

We know that all segments of tourism are reviewing their business strategies.

Airlines are relooking at routes that have historically been built on solid data from travel demand, travel demographics and flight connections. Even then much of what happened immediately was never really a reliable sign of what would happen in the future, and now after the worst health crisis in modern times, much of this information is considered even more irrelevant.

Demand is now being influenced demographically and global tourism is experiencing never before seen changes from traditional source markets.

Fiji will be no different and if we are too rigid in our thinking about where we expect changes might come from, we may lose some opportunities to capture new markets that may not have a choice of how far they can travel from their homes.

Or consider safety in their travel plans as a major reason for confirming a future booking.

Like it or not, we must learn to live with COVID and the threat it holds on us for the foreseeable future.

We have now received a little over 200,000 vaccines from COVAX and donor countries and we expect to receive more in the coming months. Fiji’s vaccination target is around 600,000 people which amounts to 1.2 million vaccines for two doses per person without any wastage.

Whatever the magic number, it is indeed a huge expectation, but assuredly not impossible to achieve with recognised support from Australia and more promised from New Zealand to look forward to.

It cannot be emphasized enough that the medical staff need more active support and less keyboard warrior criticism. It is a tough job to convince a population of just under 1 million that the procedures developed are the best for the majority.

And without any precedents to base decisions on, it might be valid to keep in mind that the world’s most developed countries made some of the biggest mistakes in their own applications to addressing this virus.

Caring about not letting more people die, stopping the spread and vaccinating should be the number one priority strategy line for every country, business, and household.

All other decisions, action plans and activities simply flow on from these.

Difficult. But doable.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 27 May 2021)

Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa Wins 2021 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Award

Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa Wins 2021 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Award

Nadi 24 May 2021 – Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa, located on Denarau Island, today announced it has been recognised as a 2021 Travellers’ Choice award winner for most loved hotels around the globe. This achievement celebrates businesses that consistently deliver fantastic experiences and Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa has stood out by continuously delighting travellers over the past 12 months, earning great traveller reviews on Tripadvisor.

“It is an honour to accept this award on behalf of the team at Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa,” said David Wells, area general manager, Fiji, Hilton. “Each day, we look forward to providing outstanding customer service and creating a memorable experience for our guests. I’m tremendously proud of my team and their hard work.”

“Congratulations to all the winners of the 2021 Travellers’ Choice Awards,” said Kanika Soni, chief commercial officer, Tripadvisor. “I know the past year has been extremely challenging for tourism businesses. What has impressed me is how businesses adapted to these challenges, implementing new cleanliness measures, adding social distancing guidelines, and utilising technology to prioritise guest safety. The Travellers’ Choice awards highlight the places that are consistently excellent – delivering quality experiences time and time again even while navigating changing customer expectations and new ways of working. Based on a full year of reviews from customers, this award speaks to the great service and experience you provided guests in the midst of a pandemic.”

Important Reminders for FHTA Members (Updated 21.05.21)


REMINDERS

TOURISM VACCINATION PROGRAMME
FHTA is working with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MoHMS) to confirm a schedule of visits to the different regions as soon as the next batch of vaccines is ready to be rolled out.

As done previously, FHTA requests members to provide us with your overall number of staff who are yet to be vaccinated. This information will be used to assist the MoHMS in its targeted vaccination rollout campaign for the tourism industry. Please submit your requested staff numbers via email to info@fhta.com.fj by Friday, 29 May 2021.

Your earliest response would be appreciated. If submitting info for more than one property, break down staff numbers by property.


FHTA MEMBER MARINE SURVEY
FHTA is requesting members who are ship owners; vessel operators; have staff who are shipmasters or vessel crew; as well as those who use vessels for passenger travel, cargo transportation or watersport activities; to complete the following survey to assist FHTA in determining license and crew qualification requirements to enable us to assess our members’ needs for full compliance in preparation for when borders reopen. We are working with MSAF and training providers with scheduling marine surveys and required training to support full compliance.

Please complete the survey and send it to info@fhta.com.fj by 30th May 2021.


FHTA REMUNERATION SURVEY
To FHTA members who may have been contacted 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 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.


FLIGHT CANCELLATIONS FOR FIJI AIRWAYS / FIJI LINK
In light of the continued movement restrictions in Fiji, Fiji Airways and Fiji Link have extended flight cancellations as follows:

All domestic Fiji Link passenger flights have been cancelled until 30 May 2021 (inclusive).
All international Fiji Airways passenger repatriation flights into and out of Fiji have been cancelled until 30 May 2021 (inclusive).
Dedicated freighter services will continue to ensure vital export and import supply chains for Fiji remain intact.

The Fiji Airways website has been updated with this information accordingly, along with options available to customers. Impacted customers are also being notified of the changes through the contact details in their booking.


LTA eSERVICES DURING PERIOD OF RESTRICTED MOVEMENT
The Land Transport Authority responded to FHTA’s request for customer updates during this time and they advised that while their branches are open, they are discouraging personal visits except in cases of real urgency.

You must register with their eServices or via the LTA app, which will allow for reminders for the expiry of licenses or roadworthiness. This should give you adequate time to ensure compliance with LTA’s mandated regulations.


LIMITED MSAF SERVICES DURING PERIOD OF RESTRICTED MOVEMENT
The Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji will be providing limited services for the whole of Fiji, for the duration of restricted movement. They have released a list of contact people for specific concerns or you can email info@msaf.com.fj for general enquiries.

FHTA wishes to remind members of the current restrictions on maritime passenger and cargo movement as indicated in MSAF’s Marine Notice 22/2021.
You can subscribe to the MSAF website to get contactless automatic updates into your email.


MSAF STCW REGULATED FEES LIST
The Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji has included the regulated fees list for their Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping


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:
1 – All issues/queries/complaints related to the TPOS can now be emailed directly to the following email address: tpos@frcs.org.fj
2 – 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
3 – 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
4 – 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)


REMINDER ON TLTB RENT ASSESSMENT UPDATE FOR TOURISM LEASES

Further to FHTA’s ongoing 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:

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.

1 – Interest on rent from 1 January 2020 – 31 December 2022 will be waived until further notice.
2 – Tenants who are able to pay the applicable rents based on gross receipts must continue to do so
3 – Tenants unable to pay gross receipts in 2021 will pay 80% of the minimum rent in 2021 and 50% in 2022.
4 – All tenants will be required to sign a formal undertaking with TLTB, including agreements for payment schedules where selected.
5 – Applicable penalties for development lease breaches will be waived
6 – 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.


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


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


FNPF EXTENDS CONTRIBUTION PAYMENTS TO 31 MAY
FNPF has extended the deadline for contribution payments to 31 May 2021, in response to the continuous lockdown restrictions.

The Fund understands that many businesses were shut down to comply with the lockdown and this has affected their cash flow and ability to submit contribution payments for their staff.

Effective from Wednesday 19 May, the Fund’s opening hours will be from 8:30 am to 3.30 pm Monday to Thursday and 8:30 am to 3 pm on Friday.


This list is collated and published by FHTA PRO

Marriott Fiji launches Women in Leadership career pathway

Marriott Fiji launches Women in Leadership career pathway

Hotel Management (Asia Pacific) 20 May 2021 – Female leaders showing ambition to develop their careers in hospitality and the accommodation sector now have a more defined pathway to executive and management positions as part of a new program put in place by Marriott International.

The program is comprised largely of a networking and mentoring structure with learning and development initiatives to help entrepreneurial and aspirational young Fijian women to boost their career opportunities.

Currently, 30% of women working in Marriott’s Fijian hotels are in management roles, while 41% of all hotel industry employees are women.

Marriott International Market Director Sales and Marketing, Fiji and Samoa, Regina Wilson, said she was excited at the opportunities on offer for aspiring female leaders in the country.

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Tourism Talanoa: Preparing to Live With COVID

Tourism Talanoa: Preparing to Live With COVID

FHTA, 20 May 2021 – Zimbabwean author Matshona Dhliwayo said that “When all seems to be against you, remember, a ship sometimes has to sail against the current, not with it.”

Life, as we know it, is getting tougher as we navigate this pandemic with wariness and often increasing pessimism that things are indeed going to get worse before they get better. And one might be forgiven for thinking that we had already hit rock bottom by late last year and that surely, the only place left to go was up.

Alas, there was a basement level we forgot existed.

The well-documented effects of the border closures and subsequent flatlining of Fiji’s tourism industry have been heard about often enough.

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA), through this weekly column, has endeavoured to provide background and insight into the industry’s workings, the multiplier effect it has throughout the economy, the impact of COVID more recently and how the industry was forced to respond, as well as the enormous repercussions of industry standing still for so long.

But in the background, far from that stillness, there are always discussions, planning and meetings still going on, to work on ways to support stem the outbreak worsening, prepare for the second vaccine jabs and review safe reopening preparations, amongst other challenges.

The capital city meanwhile, is in a state of collective shock with the lockdowns forcing family groups to stay within their bubbles, deal with the frequent rain, grumpy children in cramped yards and mountains of damp clothes, while their pantries had no doubt run out of food before the second day of lockdown had started.

In a population of 902,000, one out of three Fijians lives between Lami and Nausori with the bulk of low-cost housing and informal settlements located within this division.

No one understands why the few vehicles on the road are speeding or using sirens that scream incessantly and probably unnecessarily throughout the night. But it reminds everyone in the neighbourhoods they travel through even more poignantly, that everyone is locked in because this is supposed to help stop that sneaky virus.

How prepared will Fiji be for an inevitable reopening? Initially reopening sections in our cities, then regions and eventually our borders will have to be ready.

We can better understand now, the impact of not taking the virus as seriously as it should have been. It is now wreaking even more economic damage with other industries being forced to close. It is making more poor people go hungry and those on the margins of poverty slip further into it.

If you were able to plan your entire week’s meals during this week’s lockdowns and enjoyed those meals with a beer or a wine, consider yourself blessed and very lucky.

Those tourism workers that lost their jobs over the last twelve months have certainly not had this privilege. Their food handouts ceased many months ago unless they are still part of a resort or business community that still gets consistent support.

So, no resting for the businesses in the industry that will be at the forefront of any safe reopening strategies.
If the new thinking is to be believed and accepted more widely, Fiji needs to learn to live with COVID.

The COVID experts, growing by the thousands daily, advise that the first step is rapidly detecting people with infection, outbreaks and sites of increased transmission. We can check that off because this is what the controls in place now and lockdowns are all about.

The next 2 steps include isolating and managing infected people as well as investigating outbreaks. We can check these off as well because our nightly updates from the good doctors confirm this.

The ensuing measures of decreasing community transmission and strengthening control measures are probably the more difficult aspects to impose on our society.

Contact tracing, trusting people to self-isolate and insisting on mask-wearing, social distancing and enhanced hygiene can be difficult when people still believe they could not possibly get a virus they cannot see, do not understand and seriously doubt exists. Hygiene needs to be made more difficult no doubt when many parts of Suva still suffer intermittent water supplies.

We know the next three steps are in place which includes ensuring testing is strategic, protecting the health and social care systems and continuing mitigations of general risks. We certainly hope they are successfully done.

Involve the business and private sectors notes the next step and to a certain extent, we can certainly say we have seen this as well. Our COVID Safe Guidelines, the Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) that all tourism businesses must comply with and our internal action plans have all been done in close collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

But a comprehensive response is not the only preparation that is required of countries around the world. And Fiji will be no different if we plan to re-engage with the world at some stage, as we must.

Learning to live with COVID means that we get used to snap-lockdowns, wearing masks in public and travelling with a keener eye on hygiene as part of our safety checks.

Even other risk mitigation strategies like PCR testing and voluntary or mandatory quarantine will not be sufficient because there is no optimum way to prevent COVID from being imported into a country, no matter how vigorously our testing protocols are applied at borders.

With sufficient numbers of people around the world vaccinated, we may reduce the virus to other flu-like occurrences it is hoped.

In being anticipatory to the fluid demands of business operations in this COVID environment, we are getting ready for our second jabs and working collectively on how long it might take to get an entire industry ready for reopening.

We are working to get everyone in the industry vaccinated, as lofty as that may sound. After all, if you could add another protective layer that could avoid you getting hurt, why wouldn’t you?

Resorts and hotels have already been working on their compliance requirements to have domestic and international guests accommodated safely.

And we have commenced gauging the needs of our marine operators to determine what it would require to get everyone operational and safety compliant.

Every vessel that expects to be operating safely on or in the water is being asked to check their equipment replacement or repair needs, safety certificates and crew training needs, so that we can support their efforts towards compliance and border reopening preparations.

Learning to live and do business with COVID might be strange but we may not have a choice in the matter. Better to stop fighting it, adapt quickly and learn to live with it.

This is our strategy for getting ready. Every industry needs to be working on theirs.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 20 May 2021)

“The Best of the Best” – Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island awarded TripAdvisor 2021 Travelers’ Choice Award

“The Best of the Best” – Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island awarded TripAdvisor 2021 Travelers’ Choice Award

Nadi 19 May 2021 – Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island, Fiji is delighted to announce the resort was awarded TripAdvisor’s 2021 Travelers’ Choice Award. The Travelers’ Choice Awards represent “the best of the best” in travel and hospitality, based on the ratings and reviews of TripAdvisor’s global community of travellers. This means that they represent the genuine views and experiences of hotel guests, rather than the decision of a committee of judges.

“We are thrilled to see our guests recognizing the efforts by our associates who commit to creating unique moments and come into work each day to provide the best experience possible for our guests,” commented Joakim Zetterberg, Hotel Manager – Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island. “While the past year has definitely been challenging, we are preparing the property for a grand re-opening when the time is right to travel again, implementing some great programs such as the Sheraton Side by Side”

The winners of the TripAdvisor 2021 Travelers’ Choice Awards represent the top 10 per cent of all hotels and resorts worldwide. Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island would like to congratulate all successful properties and thank the guests for their wonderful feedback.

To see all Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best Hotel winners for 2021, across all categories, visit tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice-Hotels.

For more information about any of Marriott International’s award-winning hotels in Fiji, please visit www.marriott.com

Warwick Fiji and The Naviti Resort Wins 2021 Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for top 10% on Tripadvisor

Warwick Fiji and The Naviti Resort Wins 2021 Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Award for top 10% on Tripadvisor

Sigatoka 18 May 2021 – Warwick Fiji and The Naviti Resort today announced it has been recognized as a 2021 Travelers’ Choice award winner for the top 10% of listings on Tripadvisor. This achievement celebrates businesses that consistently deliver fantastic experiences to travellers around the globe, having earned great traveller reviews on Tripadvisor over the last 12 months. As challenging as the past year was, Warwick Fiji stood out by continuously delighting travellers.

“We are so proud to receive the 2021 Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Award given to hotels that consistently earn great reviews from travellers and are ranked within the top 10% of properties on Tripadvisor,” said Ali Zeitoun, Acting General Manager at Warwick Fiji.

“Congratulations to all the winners of the 2021 Travelers’ Choice Awards,” said Kanika Soni, Chief Commercial Officer at Tripadvisor. “I know the past year has been extremely challenging for tourism businesses. What has impressed me is how businesses adapted to these challenges, implementing new cleanliness measures, adding social distancing guidelines, and utilizing technology to prioritize guest safety. The Travelers’ Choice Awards highlight the places that are consistently excellent – delivering quality experiences time and time again even while navigating changing customer expectations and new ways of working. Based on a full year of reviews from customers, this award speaks to the great service and experience you provided guests in the midst of a pandemic.”

Visit Warwick Fiji or The Naviti Resort to see traveller/diner reviews and popular amenities.

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji wins 2021 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji wins 2021 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award

Radisson Blu Resort Fiji, Denarau Island has been recognized as a 2021 Travelers’ Choice award winner for the top 10% of hotels worldwide. This achievement celebrates businesses that consistently deliver fantastic experiences to travellers around the globe, having earned great traveller reviews on Tripadvisor over the last 12 months.

“In this particularly challenging year, the resort has stood out by providing great service and the new norm “travel safe” experiences to our guests; says General Manager Mr Charles Homsy. “Our shared belief at the Radisson Blu Resort Fiji is to create memorable moments with our Yes I Can! service philosophy, delivered with the unique Bula Spirit that Fijians are renowned for,” says Mr Homsy. “Receiving this recognition category is an incredible honour made possible during this difficult time by each valuable member of the hotel and is a reflection of the quality, service and hard work of the team here at Radisson Blu Resort Fiji.”

“Congratulations to all the winners of the 2021 Travelers’ Choice Awards,” said Kanika Soni, Chief Commercial Officer at Tripadvisor. “I know the past year has been extremely challenging for tourism businesses. What has impressed me is how businesses adapted to these challenges, implementing new cleanliness measures, adding social distancing guidelines, and utilizing technology to prioritize guest safety. The Travelers’ Choice Awards highlight the places that are consistently excellent – delivering quality experiences time and time again even while navigating changing customer expectations and new ways of working. Based on a full year of reviews from customers, this award speaks to the great service and experience you provided guests in the midst of a pandemic.”

A Travelers’ Choice award is a powerful benchmark in the industry being the world’s largest travel site where winners are determined based on the millions of credible reviews and honest opinions collected in a single year from TripAdvisor travellers worldwide.

Surrounded by tropical beach, gardens and tranquil architecture, the resort takes great pride in being the first resort on Denarau and Fiji to successfully validated as an SGS Pledge Covid-19 protocols compliant hotel.

Fiji Resorts make it to Tripadvisor Travelers Choice Awards winners

Fiji Resorts make it to Tripadvisor Travelers Choice Awards winners

Tripadvisor, the world’s largest travel platform, as part of its ongoing efforts to support the recovery of the tourism and hospitality industry, has announced the winners of its annual Travelers’ Choice Awards. This coveted award program celebrates travelers’ favorite hotels, restaurants and airlines around the world, honouring 4,817 unique businesses this year.

Winners are calculated based on the quality and quantity of the millions of reviews, opinions and ratings collected on Tripadvisor in 2020, during the pandemic. With over 8.7 million businesses listed on Tripadvisor, these awards are a true testament to the outstanding service and quality that winners consistently provide to their guests.

Fiji is represented in the award winners list with Tokoriki Island Resort scooping the number 1 position in the Top 25 Hotels — South Pacific and number 25 position in the Top 25 Hotels — World. Castaway Island Resort took out the number 2 position and Club Wyndham Denarau Island took out number 24 position in the Top 25 Hotels – South Pacific.

Travel brands face changed expectations and engagement: travel recovery trend report

Travel brands face changed expectations and engagement: travel recovery trend report

eHotelier 14 May 2021 – Expedia Group Media Solutions, the global digital advertising organization of Expedia Group, has released its first-ever quarterly trend report. The Q1 2021 Travel Recovery Trend Report features data from custom research and Expedia Group first-party data combined with actionable insights to help ensure travel brands are best prepared to reconnect and reengage with travellers as spring and summer travel ramps up.

“Traveler behaviors and preferences have evolved significantly over the past year, meaning travel brands can no longer rely on historical marketing strategies to inform their recovery plans,” said Wendy Olson Killion, Senior Vice President, Media Solutions. “We know people are eager to start travelling again, but how they engage with travel brands, and what they expect, has changed. This report spotlights the latest data and trends to help travel brands develop strategies, messaging and content that aligns with what travellers want – and need – to book their next trip.”

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Charting the trends – global vaccine rollouts will spur the return of travel & health and hygiene expectations continue to evolve

Charting the trends – global vaccine rollouts will spur the return of travel & health and hygiene expectations continue to evolve

CTC 13 May 2021 – “Traveller behaviours and preferences have evolved significantly over the past year, meaning travel brands can no longer rely on historical marketing strategies to inform their recovery plans,” said Wendy Olson Killion, senior vice president, media solutions at Expedia Group in its inaugural quarterly trend report for travel recovery.

On the outside, the post-COVID world may not physically look any different from the one that entered the pandemic over a year ago, but the biggest health crisis of modern times has left an indelible mark on how we will look to book, travel and how and where we will do business.

“We know people are eager to start travelling again, but how they engage with travel brands, and what they expect, has changed,” highlights Ms Olson Killion. This new report spotlights some of the latest trends with data positively indicating traveller confidence is growing.

The ‘Q1 2021 Travel Recovery Trend Report‘ features data from custom research and Expedia Group first-party data combined and makes five key observations that global vaccine rollouts will spur the return of travel, global search windows stay short, domestic travel remains in favour, longer trip durations dominate and health and hygiene expectations continue to evolve, but are not such a priority.

The start of 2021 may not have marked a miracle, but it saw travel turn a corner with monthly search volumes showing strong growth throughout 1Q, according to Expedia data, with a clear correlation between the increase in searches and traveller demand and growing momentum for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and travel guidelines.

As one of the countries leading vaccine rollouts data on US search trends provides a good example of this. The report highlights that in week-over-week searches, the week of 15-Mar-2021 saw the largest spike in searches – an increase of +30% – following the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) release of guidelines for fully vaccinated individuals.

But uncertainty abounds and that means that the global search window remains short. Continuing a trend seen throughout much of last year, the majority of global 1Q 2021 searches fell within the 0 to 21 days search window, according to the report, as uncertainty around global travel saw travellers opt for more opportunistic, short-term trips, often close to home.

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Is it time to fly? Business travellers believe the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their effectiveness to do their jobs

Is it time to fly? Business travellers believe the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their effectiveness to do their jobs

CTC 12 May 2021 – Business travellers around the world believe the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel restrictions have negatively impacted their effectiveness to complete their jobs as well as the ability of their employers to develop business, serve clients and maintain business relationships, according to a survey from global property and casualty insurance company Chubb.

The ‘Time to fly: the impact of COVID-19 on the present and future of business travel’ survey found that job effectiveness has suffered from the pandemic and travel restrictions suggesting a rapid return of business travel my be on the cards to support economic development. At the same time, the survey indicates that business travellers have personally missed travelling for work and leisure, and are eager to get back on the road.

The findings of the research, based on a Feb/Mar-2021 polling by Dynata of 2,100 business travellers, aged 20 and above across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America who are currently employed and regularly stay overnight on business trips in a typical year, highlight the importance of face-to-face business and provides evidence that technology substitution may be negligible.

Based on the responses, four in five (80%) business travellers globally believe they are missing something important when they cannot see body language or other visual clues that you can only get in an in-person meeting. In fact, nearly three out of four business travellers (74%) say they are less effective in their job due to the pandemic and severely limited travel opportunities. Areas that have been negatively impacted include client service and the ability to maintain relationships with clients and business partners.

With the proper precautions, respondents said they were twice as likely to feel more comfortable travelling for business than for leisure. One reason cited, according to the report, being that “business is important to their livelihood”.

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Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay Wins 2021 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award

Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay Wins 2021 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award

Nadi 13 May 2021 – Award-winning Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay’s is proud to share their latest achievement attaining the 2021 Travelers’ Choice Award on TripAdvisor.

This achievement honours consistent delivery of luxurious experiences with touches of warm Fijian hospitality to guests, having earned great traveller reviews on TripAdvisor over the last 12 months.

As challenging as the past year was, the resort stood out by continuously delighting local resident guests with exceptional staycation offers, delivering trendsetting fashion show events with partners, launching Momi Bay Sunset Series and offering a safe haven for rejuvenating holiday experiences together with delightful food and beverage offerings.

The team at the resort could not be more proud receiving this award and Mr Silvano Dressino, General Manager of Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay comments:

The past year was a challenge but we celebrate at heart with our further achievements sowed from our resilience and striving efforts of supporting partners and my team of associates who continuously delivered service from the heart to our local staycation guests throughout the year. We continue to pray as we hope for quicker recovery of this pandemic for when we can welcome guests to experience a getaway in Fiji’s paradise.

In line with Marriott’s Commitment to Cleanliness and the Care Fiji Commitment, the resort continues to practice and regulate advanced cleanliness and hygienic procedures in ensuring a safe and clean environment for future guests and travellers to the resort.

Tourism Talanoa: Getting Our People Back to Work

Tourism Talanoa: Getting Our People Back to Work

FHTA, 13 May 2021 – Besides the obvious loss of revenue to their bottom line, many would not be aware of the other missing factor that tourism operators consistently fret about losing during this pandemic and the subsequent border closures.

Their loyal and skilled staff. Many of them as familiar and close to them as family.

The famous tourism workers that beam with smiles that greet visitors on arrival, onboard transfer vessels and planes, or those with the soothing voices that monitor the reservations desks or even those with the experienced, calm dispositions overseeing large events or frenetic dinner services.

These include the hardworking ancillary staff that maintain the manicured lawns, golf courses and shrubbery, and the porters who gladly haul your luggage from one end of a property to the other while singing some glorious hymn, or these can be the polite wait-staff who process your meal orders and return with wonderful meals.

And let’s not forget those wonderful, maternal “Bubu’s” who collect the excited children and babies and take them off for hours of fun so that their parents can take a break.

These hospitality workers have been trained and moulded according to the standards of the various brands and when combined with their natural, genuine Fijian hospitality traits, is the reason that Fiji is Fiji, and why many tourism reliant countries consider this particular competitive edge a distinct and difficult factor to beat.

When the borders closed, tourism businesses had little choice but to close their doors, anchor their vessels, park their planes and store all the activity support gear when the stream of steady international visitors quickly dried up.

Consequently, that also meant furloughing the bulk of their staff on leave without pay, redundancy and termination. A small number would have been initially kept on for security and maintenance purposes.

Eventually, these numbers would be slowly added as the months progressed and weekends and public holidays allowed domestic tourism to provide an intermittent but welcome resumption.

This was then joined by destination marketing initiatives like the Blue Lane and Vacations in Paradise (VIP) travel options to gradually provide some respite to an industry that had almost shut down completely. Almost.

With the closures and the ensuing layoffs, staff returned to the nearby communities or villages, sought employment elsewhere or engaged in entrepreneurial enterprises.

While far more have remained unemployed, many long-term employees still within the communities or villages close to their previous workplaces are fortunate to be still getting support from their previous employers with food packs and monetary assistance, which is further boosted by the rotational work provided intermittently.

Often working only 2 days a week; it can be a tough choice for a skilled tradesperson to continue to work for his longtime employer or choose to take up an offer in a different industry that will move him away from his home but pay him a full week’s wage.

But then, this is a time for difficult choices, where years of training and loyalty may be traded for family support and pressure from financial institutions for repayments and hungry mouths to feed.

Human Resources Managers, often working reduced hours themselves are having to deal with accessing skilled staff at the drop of a hat, because that is almost literally how local bookings get done or making the many calls to staff to advise no work is available.

They must stay in contact despite either situation to ensure administrative requirements like redundancy packages and termination letters are processed correctly, extend furloughs, provide the required support for FNPF processing and be able to bring staff in for standard and COVID safe training.

The use of hotels for quarantine purposes for inbound repatriated Fijians has followed global practices for efficient management and the staffing requirements to support this has provided a much-needed boost for more tourism workers to get more hours in or get their jobs back.

As the nation currently ponders a total lockdown that will surely take place if we are to get the better of the current spreading of this virus, many tourism businesses must wearily go back to their Plan B’s or even Plan C’s, because domestic bookings are being cancelled and no new ones are being received.

Now central division accommodation providers are considering the merits and viability of being used as isolation facilities for potential primary and secondary contacts.

Along with the many conditions they must be compliant with, this will also provide an opportunity to bring back their workers. Not just staff within the accommodation facility, but also maintenance, laundry, housekeeping, food preparation, cleaning, serving, gardening and tradespeople like plumbers, electricians and carpenters.

Work rosters and staff adjustments continue to take place depending on where the focus of the lockdowns are and their consequential impact on businesses within the industry and those far larger number of businesses supporting the industry.

Many may not realise the comprehensive efforts required for island resorts that have staff located there for weeks and even months now after the movement restrictions were imposed. Staff who have been away from home and cannot return because they need their jobs and their homes are located within locked down zones.

Staff who cannot be replaced and are trained, experienced and relied on to ensure the resort is managed, any guests are safe, equipment is working and communication and transport are efficient.

And even while the lockdowns have thrown up their challenges to managing staff numbers relevant to working hours, accessing worksites and supply lines continuing; behind-the-scenes planning continues at the same unabated pace for borders reopening somewhere soon that keeps moving out of our collective grasp.

The tracks have been laid as they were, for a return to our perennial position as the must-visit tourist destination in the Pacific. There is no deviating from this focus. Never has been.

There is a constant need to ensure staff stay on track with the ‘new-normal procedures and protocols that have been drawn up for the safety of the visitor, the staff and the country.

We still need a more defined timeline for when our borders will reopen and a formalised, widely communicated strategy for the key elements that have to be in place before this can take place.

Understanding exactly what must take place, be achieved, ticked off or sufficiently managed are critical elements for businesses, their staff and their suppliers to work towards as larger connected teams.

Even more critically, is ensuring the wider communities, industries and stakeholders are involved in understanding these conditions before we can say that everyone in Fiji is acutely aware of exactly what is at stake.

As we deal individually and within the context of our families or businesses with the increasingly changing situation between working from home, staying within known bubbles and maintaining lockdown protocols, spare a thought for many others in worse situations than your own.

Those unable to get to work and therefore cannot earn any money to provide for families and manage their debts. Many like medical staff, disciplined forces personnel, tourism and other industry staff who are at work but cannot leave to go home.

Because if they went home, they could not return.

For those small businesses that have been forced to close for months now because they have no international visitors and have had to send all their staff home.

Consider the numbers of even smaller businesses that are being added to this list because of closed supply chains, locations within critical locked down zones or by the nature of their trade are no longer able to entertain crowds or allow crowding.

And think about our fresh produce suppliers, farmers and market vendors with dwindling resources and limited to no customers.

An extremely bad situation – our border closures that brought an industry to a halt, has been worsened to nightmare proportions to lockdowns and the entire country coming to an eventual standstill.

Never have so many been relied on to collectively do what they must.

We have no other choice but to work together towards a safer Fiji because everyone is now affected somehow. Not just the tourism industry.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 13 May 2021)

Important Reminders for FHTA Members (Updated 08.05.21)


REMINDERS

CURFEW PASS PROTOCOL UPDATED
Members have faced problems with police while transporting staff during curfew hours. The Commissioner of Police has confirmed that while the process is mostly the same, per Government announcement on 30.03.20, the authorization letter must be processed weekly.

Tourism operators are to email their approved staff list to westpol.com@gmail.com and CC to lalashnil@gmail.com for approval. This list will be stamped, scanned and sent back to the hotels for their drivers to carry in their vehicles at all times. In the event that Police stop your work vehicles, the authorization letter should then be presented.

If you face any issues, please contact Police Inspector Ashnil Lal directly on 9905292


LTA eSERVICES DURING PERIOD OF RESTRICTED MOVEMENT
The Land Transport Authority responded to FHTA’s request for customer updates during this time and they advised that while their branches are open, they are discouraging personal visits except in cases of real urgency.

You must register with their eServices or via the LTA app, which will allow for reminders for the expiry of licenses or roadworthiness. This should give you adequate time to ensure compliance with LTA’s mandated regulations.


LIMITED MSAF SERVICES DURING PERIOD OF RESTRICTED MOVEMENT
The Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji will be providing limited services for the whole of Fiji, for the duration of restricted movement. They have released a list of contact people for specific concerns or you can email info@msaf.com.fj for general enquiries.

FHTA wishes to remind members of the current restrictions on maritime passenger and cargo movement as indicated in MSAF’s Marine Notice 22/2021.
You can subscribe to the MSAF website to get contactless automatic updates into your email.


MSAF STCW REGULATED FEES LIST
The Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji has included the regulated fees list for their Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping


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:
1 – All issues/queries/complaints related to the TPOS can now be emailed directly to the following email address: tpos@frcs.org.fj
2 – 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
3 – 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
4 – 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)


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 ongoing 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:

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.

1 – Interest on rent from 1 January 2020 – 31 December 2022 will be waived until further notice.
2 – Tenants who are able to pay the applicable rents based on gross receipts must continue to do so
3 – Tenants unable to pay gross receipts in 2021 will pay 80% of the minimum rent in 2021 and 50% in 2022.
4 – All tenants will be required to sign a formal undertaking with TLTB, including agreements for payment schedules where selected.
5 – Applicable penalties for development lease breaches will be waived
6 – 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.


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


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


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


This list is collated and published by FHTA PRO

Tips for zoom-fatigued hoteliers

Tips for zoom-fatigued hoteliers

eHotelier 6 May 2021 – If you aren’t suffering from ‘Zoom fatigue’ by now then consider yourself lucky. The increased cognitive strain of looking at people while also trying to figure out what each is saying can be exhausting. This is doubly true for hoteliers who work in an industry notorious for its meetings upon meetings.

The sorry news is that Zoom, Google Meets and Microsoft Teams are here to stay. Yes, we crave to meet in person, but the efficiencies of videoconferencing (that is, cost savings) make them too good to disregard. Acknowledging this, it’s time to reflect on how we can improve our communication skills via this medium so that team members remain as productive as possible.

As we are in the hotel industry, we should aim to inject a sense of traditional hospitality into videoconferencing. This will work to boost spirits while also reinforcing a proper sense of attentiveness necessary for when your teams will interact with guests onsite.

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Australia Getting Urgently Needed COVID-19 Supplies to Fiji

Australia Getting Urgently Needed COVID-19 Supplies to Fiji

Mirage News 7 May 2021 – The Morrison Government has helped arrange the delivery of urgently needed stocks of medical-grade ethanol to Fiji. The ethanol is used in COVID-19 testing kits.

Working with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) and the Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, the Australian family-owned Manildra Group has responded to an urgent request by Fijian Centre for Disease Control for ethanol.

The shipment touched down in Nadi on 22 April, with Australian officials on the ground working with Fiji Customs to ensure a smooth import process.

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan congratulated Manildra Group for its quick response and said the humanitarian value of the exercise far outweighed the cost of the goods and airfreight.

“The efforts of the Morrison Government and Manildra Group to support our Pacific neighbours demonstrates the strength of the relationships between Australian exporters and international partners, especially in the agri-business space,” Mr Tehan said.

“Our Government is committed to assisting Australian exporters to diversify and expand their export markets and we are also dedicated to assisting our closest neighbours as they respond to this pandemic.”

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