Overwhelming response to online Local Tourism Demand Survey

Overwhelming response to online Local Tourism Demand Survey

FHTA 19 Jan 2021 – Local tourism operators now have access to credible and timely information to help better package their products for the domestic tourism market in the new year, thanks to the overwhelming response and insights gathered through Fiji’s first Local Tourism Demand Survey.

Over 10,000 people participated in the online local tourism survey last month, which was organised by the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) and Australia’s Market Development Facility (MDF), in partnership with Tourism Fiji and the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport.

“We are grateful to everyone who took the time to participate in our short, but critical survey. For the first time, we now have access to significant data and analysis on the local tourism market in Fiji, said FHTA Chief Executive Officer, Fantasha Lockington.

“The survey results will support tourism operators in the country to refine their pricing and marketing strategies going forward to better understand and grow their local tourism numbers, especially now while borders are still closed and the ability to take an international holiday has been curtailed” she adds.

The online survey gathered important information on different market segments, accommodation budgets, the typical length of stay, preferred local destinations and preferred activities by local tourists.

“In the coming weeks, face-to-face interviews will be carried out to deepen the analysis and a final report will be compiled and made available to our tourism operators and the general public.”

“Webinars will also be taking place to discuss the survey findings and assist with developing strategies for increasing tourism business post-COVID-19,” said Ms Lockington.

Meanwhile, the 10 winners, randomly drawn from the list of over ten thousand participants in the local tourism survey, also received their prizes this week.

The competition served as an incentive to encourage participation in the online local tourism survey.

Each winner received a one-night stay in a beachfront bure at the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort.

COVID-19 Vaccines To Be Available For Fijians By April

COVID-19 Vaccines To Be Available For Fijians By April

Fiji Sun 18 January 2021 – Fijians could have access to COVID-19 vaccines by April, says Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services Dr James Fong.

And it would not cost anything because distribution would be free, with costs to be borne by the Gov­ernment and overseas donors.

Dr Fong said the ministry would gain access to vaccines through the World Health Organisation initia­tive COVAX facility, which Fiji is a signatory to.

“We could have Fiji’s vaccines ready before April, but we must never forget that the supply chain and freight movement around the world is not good at the moment,” Dr Fong said.

“It would be available, but there would be no planes to pick it up. And we must look for a plane to de­liver it for us.”

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Fiji Link Introduces Mobile Boarding Pass, Self-Scanning Options at Major Domestic Airports

Fiji Link Introduces Mobile Boarding Pass, Self-Scanning Options at Major Domestic Airports

Fiji Airways 15 January 2021 – Fiji Link, Fiji Airways’ wholly-owned subsidiary, has introduced mobile (digital) boarding pass options for customers checking in online for domestic flights from Nadi, Suva and Labasa. Customers flying domestically from the three airports are able to use mobile boarding passes generated on their device after they check-in online, without the need for a printed boarding pass. Fiji Link is also inviting customers to self-scan their paper or mobile boarding pass at the Boarding Gates, to further reduce contact and the risk of cross-contamination between different groups of people.

Mr Andre Viljoen, Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO said: “Mobile Boarding Passes are common in many of our international airports, owing to their success to the convenience they offer to passengers and airlines alike. We are pleased to roll this out as an option for our domestic Fiji Link customers. Customers checking in online can generate their own boarding passes on their devices and would no longer need to front up at the check-in counter unless they have checked luggage. This has a number of benefits, including saving time at airport queues but more importantly, reducing contact with staff and other groups of passengers. Self-scanning of boarding passes at the Boarding Gate further complement these efforts, as it means staff would avoid handling multiple boarding passes of different customers. These measures are a big part of our Travel Ready programme and another example of our continued commitment to customer and staff wellbeing.”

Mr Viljoen added: “Customers also have the option of printing their boarding passes at home and bringing it along for use on Fiji Link flights from Nadi, Suva or Labasa. Home-printed boarding passes can also be used to self-scan at the Boarding Gates at these airports, thereby also preventing the need for someone else to handle it for them. Fiji Link has successfully trialled all three initiatives with domestic customers over the past month. Of course, our staff are available at airport counters to assist customers who prefer checking in for their flights using the conventional way.”

Mobile boarding passes can be generated on both Android and Apple IOS devices after completion of online check-in by Fiji Link customers, either directly on their internet browser, as a PDF sent to their email, or as a screenshot. Online check-in for Fiji Link flights via the Fiji Airways website opens 24 hours prior to scheduled departure and closes two hours prior. Scanners at the Boarding Gates of Nadi, Suva and Labasa airports have been set-up for customers to self-scan their mobile, airport-issued or home-printed boarding passes, with Fiji Link staff on hand for customers requiring assistance. All customers, regardless of how they have checked-in for their flights, will still get temperature-screened and will have to show the careFIJI app on their devices prior to boarding Fiji Link aircraft.

Tourism Talanoa: Strengthening the Tourism Industry

Tourism Talanoa: Strengthening the Tourism Industry

FHTA, 14 January 2021 – With all the lessons we’ve learned over the past 10 or so months, are we, as an industry, prepared for what the year 2021 has in store for us?

Being a small island developing state, Fiji was lucky to be able to identify and isolate the COVID-19 risk once it arrived on our shores.

Following that, we have been successful at containing confirmed cases at our border quarantine facilities.

But just because the virus isn’t present in our communities at the moment, does not mean that we can risk complacency.
And thus, we plan and strategise. We anticipate and research. We modify and we communicate.

All of this to build up a stringent business framework that is more resilient in light of recent global events.

The tourism industry has been meeting and actively discussing the ins and outs of these trying times and how best to move forward as a collective, for the betterment of the industry.

When the Care Fiji Commitment was rolled out, many tourism operators jumped at the chance to adapt to the new normal and adjust their standard operating procedures to the minimum required standard from Government, to stand a chance to welcome visitors back to their properties.

This included more open dialogue with their staff as to the change in hygiene and sanitization of rooms and public access areas. This also contains the implementation of new policies to govern the property at all times and if necessary, should there be an active case of COVID-19 in their midst.

These changes have been successfully tested out on the domestic tourism market who flocked to hotels and resorts during the Love Our Locals campaign instigated by Tourism Fiji.

While hiccups remain, we hope that these are ironed out before the borders are opened and visitors eventually touch back down in Fiji.

Properties will need to plan how they will respond to the prospect of absent employees who may refuse to work in light of the threat of COVID-19. Lack of manpower may adversely affect tourism operators, in particular the larger properties who need many hands to help move their operations along positively.

Supply chains will have to be bolstered in preparation of the border openings. As of late, many suppliers of goods and services have seen a slight improvement in the demand from hotels but it is currently not at the level of pre-COVID-19 times.
There were usually contracts between suppliers and hotels but given the state of the market at the moment, alternatives arrangements might need to be made in ensuring that goods and services are readily available. Dealings with a single supplier may not work as well as before, given the local market.

Modifications to service delivery are not only expected, it will be mandatory. When visitors finally set foot in the country, they will be required to follow the Vacation In Paradise (VIP) lanes which will ensure that contact between tourists and locals is greatly minimised.

This will be the norm until COVID-19 and its variants are eradicated and even then, the VIP lanes may stay for a while as there will always be a risk of infection and transmission.

Tax breaks and payment holidays were quickly implemented at the start of the pandemic but businesses may need more assistance for as long as the status quo remains. Fixed payments like rent and loan repayments haven’t magically disappeared and these will need to be addressed once things change for the better.

In the meantime, Government is sincerely urged to consider more advantageous measures and stimuli to ensure businesses do not wind up in light of the global shutdown.

Tourism will definitely assist in moving the country beyond the pandemic and this is done by bringing people together and promoting unity and trust.

We will stand together to ensure that our communities and our country recovers well from the current situation.

UNWTO estimates that by 2050, 68% of the world population will live in urban areas, while 80% of those currently living in ‘extreme poverty’ live outside of towns and cities.

But with Fiji’s communal living framework, we can work together to ensure that estimation does not happen here.
Tourism is a lifeline, offering workers a chance to earn a living where they live, or get a skill and use it to travel further for a richer experience.

We deserve to be on top of travelers wish lists and it’s up to us to prove to them that they were right to choose us when the time is right.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 14 January 2021)

Five reasons why Fiji is the perfect place for Aussies to visit once international travel resumes

Five reasons why Fiji is the perfect place for Aussies to visit once international travel resumes

With plenty of progress being made on a covid-19 vaccine and travel ‘bubble’ discussions becoming more and more promising, there’s a feeling among tourism industry circles that quarantine-free international travel is not far away from becoming a reality for Australians.

But while your clients are no doubt itching for an overseas holiday, their decision on where to go will be more carefully considered than ever before. They’ll want to feel safe and confident from beginning to end of the trip, and they’ll probably want to stick fairly close to home just in case borders begin closing again.

At the same time, your clients will want to quickly regain those feelings of excitement, relaxation and pure happiness commonly associated with taking a holiday abroad.

Fiji was a hugely popular destination for Aussie travellers prior to the pandemic, and it has been patiently preparing for their inevitable return when the time is right.

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Good To Epic: Fiji, January 10th

Good To Epic: Fiji, January 10th

Surfline 11 January 2021 – New year, same ocean. Well, sort of. While North Pacific action has taken swift control of our personal and professional lives these first couple weeks of 2021 with nonstop surf from Hawaii to California — effectively making our usual, no-brainer Good to Epic selections a real brain-scrambler — top spots in the other Pacific (the South Pacific) produced a few moments of bliss for a much more captive audience over the past couple days. And since Fiji’s flight restrictions mean that tourism is still basically nonexistent, locals have been enjoying surf like this at their leisure — while the rest of us can only dream.

“Although fewer and farther between, the pulses that have come through these past couple months have been on par with what we usually see during the high season or ‘prime’ season,” explains Surfline’s Jonathan Warren. “And so far, this low season is performing above average. A deepening low swinging under Australia from the Indian Ocean was reminiscent of a typical storm system during the Southern Hemisphere winter, however, it’s the middle of summer here. This is precisely why we call it the ‘low season’ and not the ‘offseason.’  Because there’s still a chance for some good swell.”

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Which destinations need tourism most to survive after COVID-19?

Which destinations need tourism most to survive after COVID-19?

Euronews 14 January 2021 – Tourism in Fiji makes up 13 per cent of GDP. Generally, heading north will get you off the beaten path, where you can discover hidden gems and see the true Fiji.

On the island of Vorovoro in the province of Macuata in the Vanua Levu Group of northern Fiji, lies a sustainable tourism village where you can experience the Fijian way of life.

Between 2006-2011, Tribewanted leased the island and partnered with Chief Tui Mali and his tribe to establish tours. Guests can learn to weave palm roofs, spearfish, ‘meke’ (dance) and learn some of the languages.

The sustainable village has traditional Fijian ‘bure’ houses, compost toilets, gardens and kitchens for the fully eco-travel experience.

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Tourism Talanoa: Our 2021 Wishlist

Tourism Talanoa: Our 2021 Wishlist

FHTA, 7 January 2021 – What a year 2020 was! It pushed the entire world to its economic limits and had entire industries scrambling to survive, adapt or change gears.

For the new year, as we are often reminded, it is time to let go of what has been and gone and be grateful for what remains. Or, if it is easier, to simply toss everything about 2020 into the garbage pile of bad news that 2020 was nearly all about. And with it our collective addiction to the bad news we were constantly reading, or “doomscrolling”.

It has been said that good writing helps us gain perspective and we certainly hope that our Tourism Talanoas in 2020 gave readers a better perspective of what tourism in Fiji is about, our challenges, weaknesses, achievements and aspirations.
For 2021, we look at some positive outcomes we look forward to, are being planned or are of interest to the tourism industry, along with trends we believe will have some impact on our industry and therefore our economy.

Those travel bubbles are still of keen interest to Fiji and its Pacific Island neighbours. Suffice to say that the complicated requirements from bubble sharers are still being discussed with each layer of precautionary measure and procedure far from being confirmed as sufficient to keep the virus out and keep our communities safe.

That might mean we have to review our mid-year hopes of borders reopening, but the recent announcement by the United Nations resident coordinator that they would be assisting with bringing the COVID-19 vaccine to Pacific Island countries is certainly more positive news that depending on how soon the vaccination process can be implemented, would provide a higher degree of confidence for all concerned.

With Qantas announcing in November last year that they would require future international travellers to prove they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 before flying, the initial furore this created has given way to a general acceptance that this may be a safer option for aviation and travel generally. We may yet see countries put this forward as a requirement once their own populations have been vaccinated.

The impact of COVID-19 has highlighted the fragility of the tourism sector. Grounded flights, empty hotels and tourism jobs must now make way for innovative ideas on what else we can do to help ourselves until it is safer to travel again.

Over the festive season, with months of learning each other’s needs taking place between a potentially lucrative domestic market that could not leave the country and tourism operators with empty rooms who were only used to catering for international markets, a wonderful time was apparently had by all.

The tourism industry was built based on market demands of international visitors and whilst there have always been “local rates”, these have only been offered based on reduced demand from overseas visitors. Getting to understand what locals wanted on a holiday took a little time because while cheaper rates are part of the demand, so too were package deals, extra beds, meal deals, good value buffets and late check-outs.

Equally important was understanding when demand would rise, how last minute the bookings could be and the importance of reduced drink pricing or happy hour times.

For local visitors, there was an appreciation for confirmed booking timelines, the efforts that go into ensuring reefs, beaches, gardens and landscapes stayed in their pristine conditions, what the international airport looked like without power, visitors and workers and how eerie it could be to see 9 large aircraft sitting silently on the tarmac. It has also been powerfully educational for many to learn what a difference more bookings can mean to the number of staff that get their jobs back.

For the rest of the world, travel trends are also expected to change. Post-pandemic, many travellers want to travel more responsibly and with purpose, engaging with and learning from other cultures and making a positive contribution to the local communities they visit. This personal aspect of travel and the chance to change individual lives will be sought after more than ever by many travellers who have become more conscious of the world around them.

Travellers are also expected to be younger and take shorter holidays more often or choose to work while they are travelling, so wi-fi and good quality connectivity will be an expectation.

For Fiji, there are huge opportunities for small businesses to offer more nature-based, cultural experiences that benefit communities or showcase agri-tourism projects.

For example, we have organically grown cocoa and coffee that is taken all the way through its various processes to be served as exotic flavoured, export quality chocolates, as well as superior coffee served in small, tucked away little cafes. But this information is not widely known, even to locals, or on most tourism information. Yet this is the very type of information being looked for by the more discerning traveller looking for the type of experiential travel that will allow them to see and do more while leaving a smaller carbon footprint in the country.

With the expectation that the current trend of reduced employment is likely to continue into 2022 even after borders reopen, budding entrepreneurs should be looking for opportunities in supply chains. The more self-sufficient we are as a country, the less we need to rely on expensive imports with the consequent benefit of reducing the cost of goods and services. A further economic benefit would be food security if this included improved agricultural outputs.

If we are to be more successful in whatever industry we are part of, then we need to be more resourceful, adapt from the hard-learned lessons from 2020 and be prepared to change from our usual business practices.
Because the world has changed.

Over the last ten months, tourism businesses have continued to re-evaluate their services and products, made changes to comply with the reduced capacity, social distancing and ‘no dancing’ regulations, while operating any events within the guidelines set by Government, as challenging as they often were to incorporate. For that, we are appreciative of their compliance with national regulations.

It will continue to take a collective effort from all sectors to get Fiji back to its perennial position, at least in the Pacific, and we have shown we can work together to get there.

The famous scientist Charles Darwin noted that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

Happy New Year and we wish you all a more successful 2021!

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 7 January 2021)

Mana Island Gives Back to Staff

Mana Island Gives Back to Staff

Mana Island Resort 22 December 2020 – As we approach the end of the year 2020, we look back at our year and we can all agree that it has been a rough year for all staff & company due to this global pandemic-COVID 19.

Despite Mana Island Resort & Spa’s closure since March 2020 and the financial constraints, the company has to endure until
we re-open to the world. The Managing Director- Mr Kaoru Gocho together with the company owner and board of directors have agreed to gift all staff a shopping voucher of one hundred dollars ($ 100.00) to assist families during this festive season.

The company would like to express its greatest appreciation to all the staff & management for continued loyalty and contribution throughout the year and we have confidence that the borders will open again soon and we can all meet again at our magical island.

Furthermore, we would like to applaud all the staff that attended our post-Covid 19 returnee event at Lautoka on the 4th of November 2020 despite our current situation. It was indeed a successful one and we are happy to announce that we will be having our second event on Friday, 12th of February 2021.

From the Owner Managing Director and board of directors- we wish very merry Christmas and hope that the year 2021 brings lots of prosperity and joy for all

Relief provided to Yasawa and Mamanuca Island villages

Relief provided to Yasawa and Mamanuca Island villages

South Seas Cruises 24 December 2020 – In the lead-up to Christmas, South Sea Cruises including its subsidiary brands of Blue Lagoon Cruises, Awesome Adventures, and Vinaka Fiji wanted to share some joy and good tidings. The villages and communities of the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands largely rely on income from the international visitors who travel to the region aboard their various services.

With no international visitors since March, these villages and communities like a lot of Fiji have incurred a challenging year. In order to help these villages and communities, South Sea Cruises partnered with other leading industry operators in the Mamanuca and Yasawa Island’s in setting up and driving donations from former guests and customers to best assist.

The donations received by South Sea Cruises and our subsidiary brands have been substantial and allowed the company to provide some much-needed assistance in the form of over $20K worth of essential food and hygiene items. Earlier this week those donations allocated to the Yasawa region were delivered by staff and management of South Sea Cruises aboard their vessel, the Yasawa Flyer II. These donations will benefit more than 4,000 people across the region just in time for Christmas.

South Sea Cruises CEO Brad Rutherford said he was “humbled by their reception within the villages and communities of the Yasawa Islands earlier this week” He went onto state that “the Yasawa Islands are extremely important for our business and we’ve long supported the beautiful people of the region not only through the operation of our various tourism products but also through our not-for-profit organisation; Vinaka Fiji which sole aim is to improve the provision of basic needs and amenities within various Yasawa villages and communities as well as enhance and protect the natural environment through introducing and promoting sustainable practices.” South Sea Cruises would also like to acknowledge those companies who also donated additional items including Coca-Cola, Asaleo Care, P. Meghji, Yees Supermarket and Frezco Beverages. Also to Pacific Energy who sponsored 2000 litres of diesel fuel.

South Sea Cruises is operating a series of ‘love our local’ cruises to the region aboard Blue Lagoon Cruises over Christmas and into the New Year. These are the first tourism specific services returning to the Yasawa Islands since Fiji closed its borders in March. The local villages and communities are excited to be welcoming Blue Lagoon Cruises back and are looking forward to tourism services recommencing on a regular basis once Fiji’s borders reopen and it’s deemed safe to do so.

Fiji Airways brings in 17 tonnes of relief supplies donated by New Zealand

Fiji Airways brings in 17 tonnes of relief supplies donated by New Zealand

Fiji Airways 22 Dec 2020 – Fiji Airways, Fiji’s National Airline, has flown in almost 17 tonnes of relief supplies and equipment from Auckland sent by the New Zealand Government to the Fiji National Disaster Management Office (NDMO). Overnight, a Fiji Airways Airbus A330 freighter service brought in numerous pallets of supplies sent by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, facilitated by the New Zealand High Commission, Fiji’s Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Items flown over include mother and infant kits, generators, chainsaws, family hygiene kits, agriculture tool and shelter kits, collapsible water containers and other supplies.

Mr. Andre Viljoen, Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO said: “We stand ready to assist Fiji and its partners in recovery and relief efforts after the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Yasa. We were only too happy to bring in the 17 tonnes of relief supplies free of charge when approached by the New Zealand High Commission and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Our assistance efforts after TC Yasa began last Friday when we flew a special Fiji Link flight to Labasa as soon as the airport was ready, carrying essential medical supplies and personnel from various Government Ministries. This included six doctors and medical specialists from the Ministry of Health.”

Fiji Airways requests all international organisations and individuals wishing to send relief supplies to coordinate their efforts through the Fiji NDMO.

New Zealand announces trans-Tasman travel bubble update with Australia

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Credit: BIANCA DE MARCHI/AAPIMAGE

7News 14 December 2020 – Australian travellers to New Zealand will finally be able to hop over the Tasman without having to go into two weeks of quarantine.

New Zealand’s cabinet agreed to establish a Trans-Tasman bubble with Australia by the end of March 2021, provided case numbers remain low in Australia.

Jacinda Ardern said the NZ government would name a precise date “in the New Year once remaining details are locked down”.

The decision will also need to be approved by the Australian government.

Ardern said logistics still needed to be worked out and an official border opening date would be announced once details were finalised.

“I think for now New Zealanders, by and large, appreciate the approach of the government to ensure that we are not taking on unnecessary risk as we going into summer,” she said.

Some of the arrangements yet to be detailed include the segregation of trans-Tasman passengers in airports to prevent cross-contamination with other international travellers and plans to deal with a COVID outbreak in either country.

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Tourism Talanoa: Still in the Fight

Tourism Talanoa: Still in the Fight

FHTA, 10 December 2020 – The self-professed “baddest” man on the planet, Mike Tyson is quoted as saying, “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”

And this year has indeed been an uppercut of massive proportions globally, with tourism hitting the floor hard with a roundhouse punch called COVID.

2020 has had its fair share of lifetime firsts but has also showcased our immense resilience and concern for each other. In Fiji, around the Pacific and indeed the world.

From the depths of despair, the industry has picked itself up and constantly reassessed the situation as weeks turned into months and the months have inched slowly to the end of a year most people are keen to put behind them.

At a 2017 United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) conference, the issue of global threats to tourism had been broached and discussed at length.

The participants of the conference were urged to take seriously the threat of pandemics and epidemics based on the declaration of pandemics in 2010 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as part of discussions on global security issues and a possible Future Global Shock.

It had been observed then that the number of new diseases per decade have increased nearly fourfold over the past 60 years, and since 1980, the number of outbreaks per year has also more than tripled.

Based on these facts, OECD argued that there would be a need for higher political and budgetary prioritization of pandemics to promote human security in the same way other national security risks were usually prioritized.

A 2008 World Bank report found that a prolonged pandemic could trigger a major global recession with economic losses resulting not necessarily from sickness or death but from efforts to avoid infection including reducing air travel, avoiding travel to contagious destinations, and reducing consumption of services such as restaurant dining, tourism, mass transport, and nonessential retail shopping.

Fast-forward to 2020 and we feel like we saw that movie but felt like that might happen to someone else.
The world collectively grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic which is the worst catastrophic event that global tourism has experienced since the Great Depression of 1929.

Due to the combined effects of the pandemic and travel restrictions, 174 million jobs in tourism and travel are at risk while the total economic impact is expected to exceed over 1 trillion dollars.

Despite the daunting challenges, tourism continues to be one of the most resilient segments of the global economy.
While the impact of the pandemic will carry into 2021, most global destinations have been finding ways to adapt and have developed recovery plans to manage the reopening of their tourism industries.

The pace of recovery, however, continues to vary from country to country, based on resources, location, rates of infection, medical standards and most tellingly, cultures.

Fortunately, most of the world is now in a position to identify some of the success factors for reasonably-paced recovery of tourism sectors based on the experiences of specific countries. We are learning from one another’s remarkable achievements as well as our woeful mistakes.

Critically, effective leadership in the industry has been central to making tactical adjustments to business operations in the short term to ensure adaptability during the crisis and survival beyond. As much as longer term sustainability is preferred, this has not always been achievable for everyone and we have noticed with heavy hearts the continued job losses and smaller businesses unable to stay afloat.

There has been therefore, a recognised need for consistent coordination and cooperation not just between the public and private sectors, but within each of these, to ensure that all affected stakeholders have access to timely and accurate information to allow for efficient and optimal decision-making.

Effective, consistent and factual communication has been key to ensuring information is shared widely, data provided where relevant, contacts maintained, and fear minimized.

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association has been actively engaged with as many stakeholders from the onset of what was quickly recognised would be an immediate economic downturn, by consistently pursuing updates or seeking to discuss challenges with any sector where better understanding of the overall situation could assist affected businesses to manage their current situation as best they could.

We have met and continue to meet with our Association members, with Government ministries and agencies, tourism partners, non-government organisations, civil society representatives and more, to develop measures, provide perspective, ask for support and look for ways to manage the crisis.

The approach has revolved around ensuring targeted communications, balancing information between warning and assurance, and ensuring cross-sectorial cooperation, while looking for opportunities to share widely.

FHTA has worked tirelessly this year to ensure that the tourism industry is sufficiently geared towards recovering from this setback. We have assisted in the development of the required infrastructure, supported the tireless efforts of the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Health and have also been pushing for the retraining of tourism staff in accordance to the Minimum Standards for COVID-Safe Guidelines.

It has been a critical focus to ensure the survival of tourism enterprises and the well-being of displaced workers in the sector. These two goals are crucial to recovery as they are the backbone of the sector.

We have been advocating for teamwork by all concerned parties to ensure that general safety of all Fijians and the recovery of Fiji’s economy is paramount.

A crisis of any sort must first be survived. Our exposure to natural disasters over the years has taught us to be prepared and be resilient. The success to overcome a crisis takes place with sufficient strength, support and belief that we can do so.
We may not be out of the woods yet and we may not have seen our darkest days in this pandemic yet. Like an exhausted boxer after many hard rounds, we must hang in there till we see this through.

There are 915,696 people counting on us as the industry that will revive the Fijian economy.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 10 December 2020)

Fiji welcomes Private Island Vacation

Fiji welcomes Private Island Vacation

CRMT 7 Dec 2020 – As part of Phase 2 of the Fijian COVID Safe Economic Recovery Framework (Framework), on behalf of the Fijian Government, the COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Taskforce (CRMT) is pleased to announce the “Luxury Vacation in Paradise” initiative in partnership with Fiji Airways and the Fijian tourism industry.

Globally, services-driven countries are progressively shifting their focus away from mass tourism to more niche, high-spending travellers – who are suggested to be the first to travel. Therefore, in an effort to build on the success of current initiatives, such as the “Blue Lane”, and based on strong interest from industry, the CRMT and Fiji Airways, in close consultation with border agencies, and industry, has embarked on the “Luxury Vacation in Paradise”.

The overarching approach of “Luxury Vacation in Paradise” is to allow tourists to safely enter and holiday in Fiji – with the quarantine period being part of the Fijian holiday experience. This is an extension of the provisions for “Vacation in Paradise (VIP) Lane” under the Framework.

The VIP Lane refers to an end-to-end safe travel pathway where safe travel begins from the point of origin, includes port of departure and mode of travel to the port of arrival and transfer to a designated private resort. Movement is organised and/or contained within the lane and the return journey to point of origin follows the same pathway. Throughout this pathway, there is minimal contact with the local Fijian population following clear guidelines for quarantine and testing for those, who will be coming in contact with them.

The success of the recent 2-hour Fiji Airways flight, onboard the Airbus A350, reaffirms the Fiji Airways Travel Ready program, and the state of readiness of Fiji’s national airline to welcome visitors back. The Travel Ready program, coupled with the Care Fiji Commitment program, will both add a layer of preparedness and confidence as the Luxury VIP initiative progresses.

Notwithstanding mandatory negative COVID-19 testing, travellers will need to undergo strict pre-departure and on-arrival health and hygiene protocols, including installing the careFIJI mobile application and keeping device Bluetooth turned on.

Under the Luxury VIP, approved private island resorts are geographically secluded from the mainland and the larger local population.

Notably, the CRMT, to date has approved 95 yachts under the Blue Lane, 61 applications under the Special Requests with Significant Economic Value, and 15 clubs to open as Taverns.

For more information on the Luxury VIP, contact the CRMT Secretariat on crmt@govnet.gov.fj

Please visit here for COVID-19 updates

Fijians encouraged to complete Local Tourism Survey

Fijians encouraged to complete Local Tourism Survey

A local tourism survey will be conducted over the next two weeks through Vodafone and Digicel as well as through social media and other electronic platforms.

Data gathered from the survey will be analysed and made available to local tourism operators to better package and price their products for the domestic tourism market.

The online survey, which will be carried out from 8 – 18 December, is organised by the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) and Australia’s Market Development Facility (MDF), in partnership with Tourism Fiji and the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport.

“This is really the first local tourism demand survey being carried out post COVID-19 and it is such an important exercise because it will allow our tourism operators to better understand the domestic tourist market and the different demands of the various segments. This will help our FHTA members to refine their marketing and pricing strategies for the local market accordingly,” said FHTA Chief Executive Officer, Fantasha Lockington.

“It takes less than two minutes to complete the online survey and I encourage all Fijians to participate because the findings of the survey will ultimately benefit you as a guest through better tailored local packages and offers, and the tourism operators and supply chains who rely on your business to stay open,” Ms. Lockington added.

As an incentive, everyone that completes the local tourism survey will go into a draw to win a one-night stay in a beachfront bure at the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort; there will be ten (10) winners selected whose names will be drawn on the 18th December, 2020.

To take part in the survey, go to https://fijilocaltourismsurvey.typeform.com/to/rP6PrMUE or click here.

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay

Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay

Nadi 6 December 2020 – Christmas is a time to celebrate, to give and to share. Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay celebrates this year‘s festive season with a theme of A Fijian Christmas centred around sustainability and undertakes a special project to give back to the schools around them.

The resort kick-started their festive season calendar by hosting it’s annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on Saturday 05th December with Chief Guest for the event, Na Tui Nalolo – Ratu Kini Vosailagi, Lomawai Village Choir who entertained guests with beautiful Christmas carols, student and teachers from the three primary schools that took part in their Christmas Tree Ornament Competition and other in-house guests.

In true spirit to serve the communities Marriott Hotels and Resorts operate in, this year, the resort invited year one students of primary schools from their surrounding villages to design and craft ornaments using sustainable materials that can be put up on their Christmas Tree. In return, the resort provides school shoe vouchers to year one students of the participating schools.

This year’s project saw students participate from Savusavu Primary School, Namata Primary School and Ratu Nemani Primary School.

Resort General Manager, Silvano mentioned in his speech on the Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony: “This year is even more special as we celebrate a ‘FIJIAN CHRISTMAS AT MOMI BAY’, take on a sustainability approach with our lights around the resort and despite a year full of challenges we undertake a very special resort project, which is close to my wife Katrin, and my heart – Our Christmas Tree Ornament Competition.”

Additionally, decorative lights in and around the lobby area are solar powered while the Nativity scene setup in a traditional ‘Drua’ (double hull canoe) is powered by a rowing bike.

General Manager Silvano Dressino also adds: “the resort staff and management are proud they have remained opened since borders closed in April and have had guests stay at the resort every single day. My team and I would like to say a special Vinaka Vakalevu to all our guests who have supported us and domestic Tourism this year.”
Guests staying at the resort this December are welcome to contribute towards our sustainable efforts and use the rowing machine to power up the lights for the Manger.

The evening program also included Santa‘s arrival on a Jetski in the Lagoon, bearing sweat treats for the children and guests alike.

Award-winning Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay invites guests to stay this December and experience their themed Buffet Dinners on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Years Day – all served with a complimentary glass of bubbles or soft drink on arrival in our interactive open planned Goji Kitchen & Bar. Guests staying over the Public Holidays also get to enjoy our Lazy Long Breakfasts.

The resort has a New Years Eve party with live entertainment and a fireworks display at midnight.
On New Years Day, guests will get to enjoy a chill-out scene by the beach, enjoy drinks and cocktails from our floating bar in the lagoon while grooving to beats from DJ Christonite. In the evening, guests can enjoy a Chefs special Roast Buffet Dinner and later celebrate the start of a new year with a ‘First of 2021’ party at Lagoon Beach with DJ Christonite.

Tourism Talanoa: Sunny Days

Tourism Talanoa: Sunny Days

FHTA, 2 December 2020 – “If you want to see the sunshine”, the Frank Lane quote goes, “you have to weather the storm”. With that criteria unequivocally ticked off; that may explain why we are indeed blessed with many hours of glorious sunshine for so many days of the year.
That sunshine has been a natural blessing for Fiji and a magnetic drawcard to visitors from around the world in better times.
Our weather plays a vital role in the tourism industry and visitor hotspots have evolved by default of their beautiful locations around the country that exposes them to hours of liquid gold sunshine, along with the other attractive elements that use up the thousands of wonderful descriptions of Fiji seen and heard around the world.
But to all things light and bright there is always a dark and scary side and the weather certainly has its downsides.
The predominant South-East trade winds usually bring cold air and precipitation from the south, which precipitates before or around the mountain ranges in the centre of Viti Levu and therefore rarely reaches many of the sunnier tourism hotspots.
Weather experts tell us that Fiji’s climate varies considerably from year to year due to the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which is a natural climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean that affects weather around the world.
There are two extreme phases of the ENSO: El Niño and La Niña.
El Niño events tend to bring dry seasons that are drier and cooler than normal, while La Niña events usually bring wetter than normal conditions. Suva residents know only too well how weeks of rain without respite can make an entire city long for just a few hours of sunshine during these times.
Currently, for the whole Fiji group, the ENSO is in a moderate La-Niña state so we can expect more precipitation going into the festive period. While this information might appear irrelevant to many except for wedding planners and lovo makers, tourism operators usually take note of these factors when planning for special events during the holiday season, while mariners and ship’s captains know it is time to be even more alert than usual.
The La-Niña event is expected to continue through to the March-May 2021 season.
Last year, Fiji continued to record above-average annual temperatures (25.9°C), which is 0.6°C higher than the long-term average.
The periods of January to March and November to December were the warmest months in 2019, which is our region’s cyclone season. To add to that, this past decade (2010-2019) has been the warmest ever on record.
Warmer temperatures along with warmer oceans that have absorbed most of the excess heat from greenhouse gas emissions affect marine species and ecosystems. Rising temperatures also cause coral bleaching and the loss of breeding grounds for all manner of critical marine life.
Those are just about the worst conditions we could expect when considering the long term sustainability of our very diverse marine life and oceans. These in turn sustain many coastal communities and livelihoods, directly impact the fishing, marine, agriculture and tourism industries and affect the delicate balance between the many thriving ecosystems that interact throughout nature.
Much of this we may take for granted growing up and living in Fiji, but we must realise that our future generations may not experience any of this if we do not do more to protect and save it.
The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) has been working with the Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS) and receives their many weather updates and reports which are disseminated to the Association’s members.
These reports include the Ocean and Climate Outlooks, Coral Bleaching Watch, Seasonal Climate Outlook and Sea Surface Temperature and Levels.
At the recent, 2020 Fiji Climate Outlook Forum hosted by FMS through the Disaster Resilience for Pacific Small Island Developing States (RESPAC) program, indications were that climate change continues to adversely affect the planet and that these are extremely worrying times for those meteorological scientists in the country and we expect, around the region and indeed the world, who understand the signs and collectively worry on our behalf.
The major weather-related occurrences that usually cause widespread public strife and undue economic stress here are floods, droughts and cyclones. While we have a special place for pandemics that sneak up on us and hang around for far too long, there is no denying that the longer-term implications of our steadily deteriorating weather patterns and their increasing devastation cannot be ignored any longer and should really be everybody’s collective concern now.
So, what to do?
Basically, being aware, heeding the advice and doing what we can to reduce the activities that are responsible for aggravating or causing these adverse circumstances would help tremendously. Specifically changing our habits and behaviours as communities is becoming the most critical call to action.
For now, we are expecting more rain over the next few months, and for low lying areas in the country, the chances of river flooding is higher now during La Niña events.
We will be relying on FMS using its Flash Flood Guidance System for advice to better prepare ourselves for any emergencies.
On the opposite end of the spectrum and with our last drought recorded in 2010, there are also plans by the National Disaster Management Office for implementing a Drought Early Warning System for the country. This is good news for those of us who have experienced the effects of extended drier periods and have had to cart water out to island resorts and communities over great distances.
The tropical cyclone outlook forecast from FMS as we head into the cyclone season is that while the yearly average of tropical disturbances evolving into cyclones is reducing, the likelihood of increased severity is higher. Definitely not the news we want to hear when so many businesses are already closed or teetering on the brink of closure.
This month, we are expecting more rain over the country as the forecast is for above-normal precipitation that is likely to continue until February.
The increased sighting of black ants activity in buildings around the country certainly supports this scientific prediction.
So, while we prepare for a quieter than usual holiday season because many of our people are unemployed or on reduced wages, we can use the time to prepare better for bad weather hovering on the horizon. Especially now while the sun is still shining.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 3 December 2020)

Marriott International Fiji Hotels and Associates Awarded at the 2020 HM Awards

Marriott International Fiji Hotels and Associates Awarded at the 2020 HM Awards

Nadi 2 December 2020 – Marriott International Resorts in Fiji are proud winners of five prestigious awards at the 2020 HM Awards for Hotel and Accommodation Excellence held in Sydney on 27th November 2020. Five of these prominent awards were secured by three of the Marriott International properties in Fiji – Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay, Sheraton Fiji Resort and the Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa with a number of highly commended mentions.

The HM Awards for Hotel and Accommodation Excellence, are the leading industry awards in the region which recognizes and celebrates the best properties, departments, people, chains and brands in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Each year, more than 1,500 nominations are assessed to determine more than 41 category winners.

“We are extremely thrilled to be recognized and awarded for a number of outstanding accolades at the 2020 HM Awards. The recognition is a true reflection of the resilience of the people of Fiji, our associates, our leadership team and my colleagues in the industry who have all shown great generosity of spirit,” commented Multi property Vice President – Fiji and Samoa – Marriott International and General Manager – Sheraton and Westin Resorts, Fiji Neeraj Chadha. “These awards are an endorsement and celebration of the remarkable services provided by our associate’s every day, whether it be as a chef in the back of the house or at the front desk to make every guest experience more memorable.”

The “Solia Lesu” program by Marriott International was among the list of awards achieved by Marriott International Fiji for Service to the Community.  The recognition was a great accomplishment as the foundation was established during the pandemic to elevate the challenges faced by the Marriott associates.

There was an urgent need of support for our associates and wider community and am proud to be part of the leadership team who recognized and dug into their own pockets while they were themselves impacted to start immediate support with meals. This program has since gained momentum and we will continue to deliver support through rations, meals and educational program sponsorships,” says Neeraj Chadha

Our Winners:

  • SOUTH PACIFIC GENERAL MANAGER – Neeraj Chadha, Marriott International Fiji & Samoa
  • FIJIAN PROPERTY OF THE YEAR – Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay
  • SALES & MARKETING ASSOCIATE – Javed Shameem, Marriott International Fiji & Samoa
  • HOTEL ENGINEER – Paul Raju, The Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa, Fiji
  • SERVICE TO THE COMMUNITY – Marriott International Hotels in Fiji for Solia Lesu Program

Highly Commended:

  • Hotel Chef: Sefanaia Vakacokasai – The Westin Denarau Island Resort and Spa, Fiji

Our other finalists include:

  • HOTEL CHEF
    Christian Knecht, Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay, Fiji
    Sefanaia Vakacokasai, The Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa, Fiji
  • HUMAN RESOURCES ASSOCIATE
    Farrah Shazleen, Marriott International Fiji

  • FINANCE ASSOCIATE
    Atul Choudhary, Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay, Fiji
    Faizee Ali, Sheraton Fiji Resort, Fiji
  • REVENUE MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATE
    Juan Munoz Panos, Marriott International Fiji and Samoa
  • HOTEL ENGINEER
    Muni Pillay, Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay, Fiji
  • RISING STAR
    Fiona Sinclair, Sheraton Fiji Resort, Fiji

Nominations for individuals and businesses across the hospitality industry in Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific put forward their best and brightest stars for recognition at the 2020 HM Awards, presented by Sealy Posturepedic. Hundreds of nominees then contest over 41 categories in 2020, with individual gongs honouring the best performing Hotel Chef, Bartender, Restaurant, Concierge and many more.

The awards recognize the best in each market segment and will be awarded, as well as recognition for hotels displaying excellent Service to the Community, MICE capability, among others. Entries are submitted at www.hmawards.com.au. For more information click here

Tourism Talanoa: Going Digital or Face-To-Face?

Tourism Talanoa: Going Digital or Face-To-Face?

FHTA, 26 November 2020 – Fiji’s appeal to visitors has always been axiomatic.
With our white sandy beaches and pristine waters, it is not hard to imagine why many travellers choose Fiji as a holiday destination.
Our shores have always appealed to most subsections of travellers like families, adventurers, surfers, sailors as well as the corporate segment for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE).
While we hear so much more about the devastating effects of the pandemic on the airline and hospitality segments of the travel industry, not as much information has been shared on the events sector or MICE market although much discussion has been taking place behind the scenes.
Meeting and event planners around the globe have had to adapt rapidly to a world transformed overnight by border closures and the changing rules on crowds, gatherings and the general massing of people in one area for any reason that gives rise to fears of infection and “spreader” events.
Rallies, concerts, conferences, weddings, large funerals, celebrations, and special events around the world have either been cancelled, rescheduled or downsized to minuscule numbers to appease nervous medical authorities trying to reduce the risk of super spreader events. World recognised sporting events like the 2020 Olympics have been postponed. Headline events like the UN Climate Change Summit and Cop 26 have been rescheduled.
The planners for thousands, if not millions of events have been forced to re-evaluate priorities and their event’s importance and focus efforts on innovative alternatives to meet the needs of their businesses and their clients whilst trying to stay safe with social distancing and new health norms.
Here at home, we at Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association have had to cancel our 2020 Fiji Dive Expo as well as our 2020 tourism trade show HOTEC, while Tourism Fiji has very successfully relaunched their key destination marketing event – Fiji Tourism Exchange (FTE) in a landmark, virtual version of its usual 3-day hosted international exchange of tourism product and service update, trading and contract renewal.
Fiji had also had just begun to get its fair share of international conferences and events that brought much-needed revenue to tourism stakeholders, suppliers and tax coffers.
The 52nd ADB Annual Meeting in 2019 gathered 3,582 attendees from 76 countries with over 30 seminars, debates, and other associated events brought together stakeholders to discuss key development issues in Asia and the Pacific.
Fiji is the first and only Pacific Island country to host the ADB meeting and this showcased our ability to host high-level and high-volume events to the world.
But just as our stock in global events was on the rise, the pandemic hit and everything flatlined.
In this ever-changing landscape of global corporate events, the recent successes of virtual events like Tourism Fiji’s FTE are therefore really encouraging.
Many businesses have adopted new technology options that support virtual meetings. This has had to take place not just around the world but here in Fiji as well. We are, after all, part of the global market regardless of what business or industry we are in.
But as these event organisers already recognise, there is a firm belief in the industry that these virtual events will never truly replace live events. And that despite the naysayers who believe that even when the borders reopen, corporate travel will take a dive and we can expect far fewer bookings for meetings, events and conferences, something else is taking place in offices around the world that Fiji has not been immune to. Zoom fatigue!
Cue the business experts and psychologists and TED talks citing the inability to understand accents in the absence of visual clues, miscommunication and difficult topics. Not to mention technical issues, dropped connections and lost interest when people drift off to respond to emails, make coffee or take a call.
Virtual meetings make people feel like they have to make more emotional effort to appear interested, and in the absence of many non-verbal cues, the intense focus on words and sustained eye contact can also be exhausting.
Additionally, virtual platforms do not come close to live events when it comes to situations like sensitive negotiations or business deals, while in-person events allow unexpected opportunities to emerge as attendees interact at banquets, in exhibit halls, and at entertainment venues.
On top of this, in-person events deliver real value for attendees. So, perhaps the relatively new experts in this area, are not so clued in after all.
And with a bit of luck, plus our consistent advertising reminders, Fiji can eventually offer those Zoom fatigued corporate travellers the promise of some far more interactive meeting opportunities that will invigorate, innovate and renew their thinking in far more conducive surroundings.
The far-reaching economic benefit of events, which sources like Oxford Economics note contribute over $1 trillion globally in combined business sales and government taxes, in addition to supporting millions of jobs.
That is a figure that is a compelling figure, especially if even a minuscule percentage of that reaches our shores.
Finally, the growing emphasis on ‘empirical design’ in recent years is further proof that being there is often essential for a full appreciation of an event’s atmosphere and the collective synergy.
Yet, despite this undeniable demand, it is difficult to predict when exactly in-person events might return en-masse. But that does not stop us from working towards getting that segment back.
So much depends on the development of rigorous safety protocols, even if that means increased costs at a time when income models are already facing major challenges.
At home, our Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) has addressed and comprehensively listed the minimum Standard Operating Procedures when convening and running events for our member properties.
This, like all other aspects of the CFC, ensures the paramount safety of staff, attendees as well as the citizens of Fiji.
While the numerous industry virtual gatherings have filled the gap to some extent, event planners and large venue operators know that these alternatives cannot match the primacy and richness of face-to-face experiences.
Since it is difficult to gauge exactly when international live events will make a permanent comeback, industry executives are currently trying to ascertain the best mix of hybrid (in-person and virtual) events on a case by case basis.
At the same time, they are looking for ways to make in-person events safer and virtual events more effective.
Fiji has had many in-person events thus far and this is due to the COVID-contained status that the country enjoys now.
We know many events and properties continue to comply with the reduced capacity, social distancing and ‘no dancing’ regulations, and continue to operate their events within the guidelines set by Government, as difficult as they often appear to be.
It continues take a collective effort to get Fiji back to its perennial position at the top of the pile of top Pacific destinations and we need everybody’s help and compliance to get there.
If we aim for even a tiny percentage of that $1 trillion, that would be a whole heap of SME’s, supplier businesses, tourism stakeholders, employees and communities that could potentially benefit.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 26 November 2020)

Fiji’s EEZ to experience ‘massive coral bleaching’

Fiji’s EEZ to experience ‘massive coral bleaching’

Fiji Times 25 November 2020 – There will be massive coral bleaching in Fiji’s economic exclusive zone until February 2021, says the Fiji Meteorological Service.

“The 12 weeks coral bleaching outlook is at ‘alert level 1’ in a large area of Fiji waters, said Fiji Met in its outlook last week.

“The eight weeks outlook at ‘warning’ in Northern parts of Fiji’s EEZ and at ‘alert’ in rest of the Fiji waters.”

The four weeks coral bleaching outlook is at “alert” in the northern parts of Fiji’s EEZ with “no stress” in the rest of Fiji waters.

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