Fiji Dive Emergency Notes

Please be advised that the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) has made the latest Fiji Dive Emergency Notes available for your reference here.

FHTA recommends that spare copies are printed and placed in plastic clear view sleeves and posted on staff notice boards, dive shop, front office and receptionist offices for ease of reference in an emergency.

Kindly note that personnel and phone numbers change at any time, FHTA will try to ensure that the most up to date information is available at all times. However, it is your responsibility to check with the relevant emergency departments should this change.

Tourism Talanoa: Economic Preparations and Changes

Fantasha Lockington

FHTA, 6 August 2020 – While countries continue to reopen their communities at their own pace, online studies indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only forced business to reconsider their processes, products and services but has also forced consumers to rethink the way they spend their time and money.

It still shows a strong willingness for future travel (both domestic and international), and that they are invariably interested in safer dining choices, alternative options and now want to be able to select from a range of socially distanced leisure activities for them and their families.

As tourism in Fiji navigates unknown waters, there has been some relief for the hospitality sector. Not unlike a cool towel on a fevered brow; it is welcome relief even though the fever rages unabated.

No-one is under any illusion that an end is in sight yet as the tourism sector is still on its knees with thousands of its workers unemployed.

For the many tourism operators who played a part in bringing in 46 per cent of Fiji’s Gross Domestic Product earnings last year, the question for them is not when they’ll see the end of this pandemic but rather how they can survive through it. Because we must get through it as best we can.

Estimates from the early days of the pandemic put a return to any plateauing of the virus cases to the last quarter this year. As we move closer to the fourth quarter, we do not appear to be seeing the expected plateauing, so the worst-case scenario expectation of first quarter 2021 looks more than likely. But we have been proved wrong before by this pandemic with flareups, second waves and world populations not heeding medical advice or agreeing with Government imposed shutdowns.

In looking for innovative ways to keep our economy going, it is not just businesses that are rethinking strategies. The gradual lifting of restrictions in some countries, together with the creation of travel corridors, the resumption of some international flights and enhanced safety and hygiene protocols, are among the measures being introduced by governments as they look to restart travel and tourism.

While governments around the world now doing things differently, our own recently released Fijian Budget was a huge confidence booster to the tourism sector that is being seen as the required revolutionary thinking that post-COVID economic recovery needs.

The usual economic responses are not going to work this time around as the largest world economies are discovering right now. Too much has changed and far too much is at stake. And while there are higher risks, the outcomes if progressed correctly and safely, will be worth it.

While governments in other tourism-reliant countries are bailing their economies out with direct capital injections, we do not have those same luxuries in Pacific Island economies. Our responses must be cognizant of the length of time for recovery, the effects on our population and the growing unemployed within it, and the long-term consequences of a stagnant economy. All the while ensuring throughout it all, that we have ensured the protection of that population as our highest priority. Anything short of that risks lives and long-term economic devastation that would be difficult to come out of.

Researchers and academics continue to dissect and predict the fallout of the downturn in economic activity around the world in the face of the virus. But we are reminded that they did not see this coming, so we may just hedge our bets on their future predictions.

While some effects are staring us in the face, one unvisited repercussion of the tanking of global tourism is that the increasing statistics of layoffs and redundancies and wage reductions will play a major part in dissuading young people in choosing a career in the tourism sector.

Any industry must have access to the brightest minds to flourish and given our limited resources, tourism cannot afford to lose these bright minds before they’ve even set foot in a hospitality school or university.

On the other side of the scale, a positive outcome of the pandemic will be that more businesses and stakeholders will be reassessing their business models and taking the time to pivot their objectives and expected outcomes. Or at the very least, to understand the need for flexibility and preparedness.

Being able to shift their business to other industries will bode well for them, as it will ensure that the business will be able to withstand most threats, within reason. A pivot is intended to help businesses survive factors that make the original business model unsustainable. The adage of not keeping all your eggs in one basket has never been more apt now.

Our Blue Lane initiative has gotten off to a good start as, very slowly, yachts and pleasure craft find their way to Denarau Marina to take advantage of the great hospitality and service available, following the necessary quarantine requirements. We hope they move into other areas of Fiji to spread the love afterwards.

In the meantime, and as disheartening as it is to see it happen, we understand the need for our neighbours Australia going into a full-scale lockdown as Victoria declares a state of disaster for a minimum six weeks and NSW is closing their air borders for the time being. We felt the collective sadness in the industry as this means that Australia is still some time away from safely opening their airports and Australians flying internationally.

Across the ditch in Aotearoa, they are preparing for their general election in just over a month and we wait patiently for this to be completed understanding the need to focus on this first. However, it appears they may be on their way to opening up their borders as Auckland Airport recently released a statement indicating their preparedness to segment travellers into different categories of travellers who pass through their international terminal.

This will enable New Zealand to open their own ‘safe bubble’ air corridor between New Zealand and the Cook Islands, and hopefully other Pacific Islands like Fiji and Niue.

But, for now, all we can do is wait watchfully and keep on planning together with Government and other tourism stakeholders. And to continue preparing to open up again safely.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 6 August 2020

Tahiti cruise passenger confirmed Covid-19 positive

Tahiti cruise passenger confirmed Covid-19 positive

Fiji Times / RNZ – 5 August 2020 – A cruise ship passenger in French Polynesia has tested positive for Covid-19, forcing all travellers onboard MS Paul Gauguin to isolate in their cabins.

The French High Commission confirmed the positive result today after the individual yesterday self-tested for the coronavirus while the ship was on its way to Rangiroa.

The ship to Papeete overnight and the person and a family member sharing the cabin were removed to isolation.

Read MORE

VitiKart launched by Vodafone Fiji

VitiKart launched by Vodafone Fiji

Fiji Times 6 August 2020 – Fiji’s first fully fletched online market place VitiKart was launched by Vodafone Fiji at their headquarters in Tamavua today.

Acting Chief Executive Ronald Prasad said VitiKart was a smartphone application for both iOS and Android devices.

“The VitiKart draw parallels with eBay, AliExpresss and Amazon albeit on a small scale with independent merchants using a common digital platform to offer products directly to consumers,” he said.

Read MORE

Tourism Fiji Share Positivity and Entrepreneurism Through Happy Hour TV

Tourism Fiji Share Positivity and Entrepreneurism Through Happy Hour TV

Tourism Fiji 31 July 2020 – Tourism Fiji is pleased to share the second episode of Happy Hour TV, a YouTube series that showcased a range of positive news stories emerging from Fiji during this COVID-19 pandemic.

In episode two our charismatic local host Masada Vuikadavu is joined by a new co-host in Komal Singh and the famous, fun-loving weatherman Eroni Bole as they share feel-good stories from across Fiji with locals and international viewers alike. Filmed and produced locally, Tourism Fiji is proud and happy to continue to share the stories of our people.

Tourism Fiji Director of Marketing Emma Campbell said, “We’ve been blown away with the stories that people have been sharing with us. These stories truly demonstrate the power of kindness, togetherness and the sheer resilience and determination of the Fijian people. We simply cannot wait to share these amazing stories with Fiji and the rest of the world through the Happy Hour TV platform.  I’m very proud of my team for creating a video that is sure to make people smile.”

This second episode of ‘Happy Hour TV,’ hosts report on the incredibly successful Votcity Market in Nadi that has enabled hundreds of people, who have been made unemployed due to COVID-19, a chance to make a living selling food, crafts and other items. The episode also shares the inspiration behind ‘Vasaqa Productions’ – the latest foodie joint located at the Namaka market. The episode ends on a sweet note with an interview about doughnuts that is bound to leave you salivating and craving a bite from ‘Rise, Fry, Glaze’ and are sold at KANU restaurant in Nadi.

Fiji is slowly welcoming visitors back with the message, ‘Our Bula Spirit Awaits You’ and we will be sure to continue to share hope and happiness through this series so stay tuned in! To subscribe to ‘Happy Hour TV,’ follow the link here

Tourism Talanoa: Adjusting our Target Markets

Tourism Talanoa: Adjusting our Target Markets

FHTA, 30 July 2020 – The world has changed forever because of the current health pandemic sweeping the globe and tourism is no different. Currently at rock bottom, surely there is no way other but up from here?

The tourism industry understands it is an unrealistic expectation that business will be fully restored once the borders reopen. For now, no-one is going anywhere. New Zealand is gearing up for an election and Australia is struggling with containment. And the US is, well, far away.

This new reality is slowly dawning on everyone else awaiting the industry’s return as Fiji’s highest-earning sector and largest employer, especially as things get desperate for the workers still patiently awaiting the call back to work.

In the meantime though, there is much planning taking place in the background. Every business operator, committee and council have dug their heels in and begun planning or changing how they are doing business in the short term and for the long term when things will start to pick up.

Planning for when the borders open, planning for when the first commercial flight lands, planning for when the first tourist steps on Fiji soil and planning for insulating them in the VIP lanes.

Our regular and loyal visitors from recent years may not feel like making the trek to our sun-kissed beaches just yet as the impacts of the virus in their countries leave still fresh economical and psychological scars.

International workshops and conferences will not take place for a while as the varied digital meeting platforms provide rapidly improving, cost-effective alternatives and corporate businesses implement travel cutbacks to reduce costs.

But people still need jobs and some resorts and tourism activity providers around Fiji have embraced the “Love Our Locals” campaign. While local rates have always been available pre-COVID on request, the reduced rates now being offered include a variety of weekend specials that were especially exciting while schools were still closed and remain so even afterwards.

Additionally now, for between $40-$50, day rates are also available for locals to take advantage of the use of the resorts facilities like swimming pools and water slides, kid-friendly beach activities, entertainment, as well as special meal and drink rates to use the day rate credits towards.

Marketing in a post COVID world requires reviewing what you can offer now that will at the very least, allow you to bring back more staff and reduce your operational costs somewhat. Changing target markets, being more innovative, when the going gets tough and all the rest of it. Most people are trying to do something.

This may also mean that only some services are available, that only part of your resort opens, that you can rotate more staff and put in practice some of the new COVID safe changes.

For the smaller resorts in the Mamanuca’s, along the Yasawa chain of islands, up north in Savusavu and Taveuni, down south in Beqa, Vatulele and Kadavu or east in Ovalau, Wakaya and Vanuabalavu; all still quietly await news on bubbles and borders. Without the critical scheduled ferry services and flights connecting them and no international customers, almost all of the resorts based in these areas have had to remain closed. Yet many of them continue to employ staff or look after them as best they can.

In the meantime, the first lot of yachts have sailed quietly into Denarau on the high tide with the fresh cool winds that are typical for what would have been the peak of Fiji’s high tourism season. Yacht agents, engineering shops and general port services are in use as more people clock on for available work. The sound of music and laughter from the only restaurant open for dinner on the port echoes happy locals appreciating the very slow move back to more buoyant times while debating the effects of the reduced import duty on wines and beers.

If we want to push Fiji to the top of travellers’ wish lists, we will need to market Fiji more aggressively and perhaps even package it to a new traveller base that have no issues about jumping on a plane straight after borders open and going somewhere they may not have considered previously.

Younger, independent travellers are expected to be booked first, if not already, and scanning smartphones for eco-trekking and other adventurous nature-based activities.

If the families, young couples and returning visitors do not book immediately because they’re still not sure it is safe to travel, we will have to provide more than the offer of cheap holiday packaging to convince people to book.

It would mean embracing our tropical wet weather instead of continuously pushing our sunny days, marketing to a more adventurous traveller who may want a shorter stay but will come back a few times to follow up on the village the project they were part of or to continue volunteering at a school in a rural area or remote island. More interest in the environment, in culture and communities, in the diversity of our people and the variety of our food.

But, over this marketing challenge for who would come when the borders open and by when and at what price point, hangs the cold fear of a COVID contagion creeping in undetected.

How would this all play out if we could only open to some travellers from a particular country because of their COVID contained status, but demanded they only stay where we allowed them to and ensured (somehow) they did not interact with local communities and local businesses to ensure undetected infections did not have a chance to be exposed in our local communities.

Who would book this holiday with limitations? But how else can we ensure we kept our people safe from exposure?

If we allowed travellers from two COVID contained countries to holiday here, how do we select which resorts accommodate which country’s citizens and ensure there is no cross-contamination with each other or the local communities. And this might include restricting access to shopping, sightseeing and activities.

The opportunity to reset Fiji’s travel scene is now and many travellers would be rethinking their normal travel plans. But we must grapple with safety first and foremost before tackling mass unemployment and economic strife.

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” But Mark Twain never experienced COVID-19. So, for now, we continue to be as prepared as we can be from a safety perspective. We appear to have ample time to be well prepared.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 30 July 2020

FHTA joins Fiji Meteorological Service Stakeholder Consultations

FHTA joins Fiji Meteorological Service Stakeholder Consultations

FHTA 29 July 2020 – The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) was recently invited to be a part of the Fiji Metrological Service’s (FMS) Stakeholder Consultations.

The consultation workshop was held on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 of July at the Pearl Resort in Pacific Harbour to strengthen and improve their current relationships with its stakeholders.

16 economic sectors were represented as many Ministries and Government bodies attended the consultations.

Weather impacts tourism and tourism businesses and having the foreknowledge of effective weather information prepares FHAT and the tourism sector to address and recover from situations better.

“Agencies collecting data are of keen interest to us. Data can save lives, reduce costs and improve productivity – our private sector members require that we continually foster these networks,” says Fantasha Lockington, Chief Executive Officer of FHTA.

“Data sharing needs more than just a gentlemen’s agreement, the need for a formal partnership to meet future sector needs is critical,” says Misaeli Funaki, Director of FMS.

FMS looks after the observation of regional weather, Fiji’s climate and hydrological patterns, and provide meteorological and hydrological services.

The workshop was funded by the Government of Russia through UNDP Pacific Office’s Disaster Resilience for the Pacific Small Island Developing States (RESPAC) Project.

Digital Tourism Webinar proves popular with Tourism Operators

Digital Tourism Webinar proves popular with Tourism Operators

FHTA 28 July 2020 – Pacific Trade Invest Australia (PTI), in partnership with the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA), conducted a successful webinar for tourism operators on 23 July 2020.

The webinar was PTI’s Digital Tourism Workshop for SME Operators in Fiji with a key objective to introduce the basic tools and skills needed for marketing online to improve visibility, grow their sales and increase profitability

PTI’s Digital Tourism Initiative provides support to help stakeholders get online or equip them with the right tools to build demand as markets open. They also look into encouraging micro and small tourism operators to explore PTI’s newly launched Digital Learning Hub where customers can learn more about websites, channel managers, booking engines, and other digital marketing tools.

FHTA CEO Fantasha Lockington says “Once the borders open up and the world starts travelling again, we want to see smaller businesses get direct bookings from potential customers and these trainings provide our members with a solid platform to work from.”

“These training opportunities allow them to be more familiar with getting their digital footprints out there, introduces them to payment gateways and conducting online sales more profitably,” she adds.

The FHTA strives to continually bring relevant training opportunities for its members and their employees with tourism’s current hiatus providing opportunities to prepare well for the eventual opening up of travel.

PTI Australia is an agency of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) funded by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

300-plus Hilton resort workers handed food packs

Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa

Fiji Times 30 July 2020 – More than 300 full-time staff of Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa were handed food packs and treated to lunch at their Denarau Island property today.

The initiative was made possible through generous donations made by Hilton villa owners.

Hilton area general manager Fiji David Wells said the owners wanted to ensure the team who had looked after them so well during their holidays over the years, were now themselves being supported during this very difficult economic downturn.

Read MORE

Successful Golf Tournament in Support of Marriott Resorts’ ‘Solia Lesu’

Successful Golf Tournament in Support of Marriott Resorts’ ‘Solia Lesu’

Denarau July 26, 2020 – The Marriott International Fiji Resorts held a successful fundraising golf tournament in support of “Solia Lesu” by Marriott foundation on the 25th July 2020.

The charity golfing event held at Denarau Golf and Racquet Club on Denarau Island received overwhelming support from the domestic market bringing together individuals, sponsors, businesses and sporting communities with 93 participants and a total of 23 teams who participated in the 18-hole game.

The tournament kicked started with light refreshments before tee off and concluded with a prize-giving, live auction and networking opportunity. The charity event managed to raise a total of FJD$10,860 from registrations and the live auction where all proceeds will go towards the Solia Lesu Foundation by Marriott to provide assistance to associates and the local community affected by COVID-19.

“We would like to thank the teams who registered for our event in support of the Solia Lesu foundation and our very generous sponsors who contributed to the success of the event. The money raised from this event will further support our continued efforts with the “Solia Lesu” program over the coming months,” says Neeraj Chadha, Multi-Property Vice President, Fiji & Samoa – Marriott International and General Manager – Sheraton & Westin Resorts, Fiji.

Some of the prizes for the tournament included accommodation at the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay and The Westin Denarau Island Resort and Spa and Dinner at Zing Restaurant. There were also giveaways for best-dressed teams and novelty prizes. Sponsorship support was received from business partners including Fiji Airways, Sheraton Grande Sydney Hyde Park, Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay, Tappoo Limited, and Coca Cola Amatil who provided some of the prizes and refreshments for the event.

Among bidding at the live auction was two airline tickets to Sydney sponsored by Fiji Airways, three nights’ accommodation at Sheraton Grande Sydney Hyde Park, two nights’ accommodation in over-water bure at Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay and 1-year golf membership at Denarau Golf & Racquet Club. An unprompted prize was also donated during the auction in support of the cause, for two nights’ accommodation with all-inclusive meals at Mango Bay Resort.

The charity Golf Tournament was won by Team Marriott International Fiji, followed by Team KK’s Hardware while Coastal Sigatoka Motors took third place.

‘Solia Lesu’ which means to “Give Back” in iTaukei was formed by five Marriott International Fiji Resorts (The Westin Denarau Fiji Resort & Spa, Sheraton Fiji Resort, Sheraton Denarau Villas, Sheraton Tokoriki and Marriott Momi Bay Fiji) to provide assistance to associates and the local community affected by COVID-19.

Fiji opens up to boats in a bid to get some tourism rolling

Yacht Help Fiji

RNZ 26 July 2020 – Fiji’s so-called “Blue Lanes” are officially open and the government says it’s expecting the arrival of 100 boats to the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

With its ‘Bula Bubble’ proposal with New Zealand and Australia yet to get off the ground, Fiji’s Blue Lanes initiative begins what the government hopes will be the ailing tourism industry’s road to recovery.

The first vessel berthed at the Port Denarau Marina in Nadi last week with two New Zealanders onboard.

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Country still depends on the tourism industry

Country still depends on the tourism industry

FBC News 27 July 2020 – The government is working with Fiji Airways and is offering $60 million to stimulate demand and attract tourists back to the country.

Fiji Airways has been selected to set-up and lead the Bula Bubble Campaign, which will offer attractive Fiji holiday packages to Australian and New Zealand visitors.

Through the packages, the hotels must reduce their rates by at least 45 per cent and the airline will also reduce their rates.

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Fiji Link to require careFiji app registration or contact tracing details for passengers

Fiji Link to require careFiji app registration or contact tracing details for passengers

Fiji Airways 24 July 2020: Fiji Link, Fiji Airways’ domestic subsidiary will now require all passengers to show the careFiji app on their personal devices at check-in as part of their Travel Ready programme. The careFiji app registration is now required for domestic passengers to assist contact tracing efforts by the Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

Mr. Andre Viljoen, Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO said: “Similar to COVID-safety efforts by the Government and the private sector, Fiji Link will now require that customers show the careFiji app on their devices at check-in for all domestic flights. For a family or group travelling and checking in together, one device with the CareFiji app is adequate. Fiji Link staff will update a manual contact tracing form with details of customers without smartphones or unaccompanied minors.”

Mr. Viljoen added: “The careFiji app is very much a part of our ‘new normal’ in a COVID-world. Both Fiji Airways and Fiji Link will continue to play a leading role in its rollout, in close consultation with Fijian authorities and as part of our Travel Ready programme.”

Fiji Link has assured customers that use of any information on its manual contact tracing form will be governed by the Fiji Airways Group’s Privacy Policy.

To learn more about the airline’s Travel Ready programme please visit https://www.fijiairways.com/en-fj/flights-travel-ready.

Australia shows support

Australia shows support

Fiji Times 22 July 2020 – In light of economic challenges brought on by COVID-19, Australia has shown increased interest in supporting economic activities in Fiji’s business and agricultural sectors through the Fiji-Australia Vuvale Partnership.

Australian High Commissioner to Fiji, John Feakes said there had been preliminary discussions with business and manufacturing industries around diversification and potential partnerships.

“I think the manufacturing sector, in the wake of COVID-19, has seen people looking to diversify their supply chains and Fiji, with one of the only manufacturing sectors within the Pacific, is well placed there.

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Tourism Talanoa: Tourism’s Budget Support

Tourism Talanoa: Tourism’s Budget Support

FHTA, 23 July 2020 – As Government announced their Fijian National Budget for 2020 / 2021 last week, a
collective sigh of relief was heard around the tourism sector.

After months of brainstorming, Talanoa sessions and lobbying, Tourism support has come through with a review of some of the fundamental areas that contribute to industry costs.

The announcement of multi-pronged support for the tourism sector comes at a time when many operators were unsure of the direction of the entire industry.

Among the many incentives declared by Government, the major wins for the tourism industry are the rescinding of Service Turnover Tax (STT) of 6 per cent on all prescribed services and the reduction of the Environment & Climate Adaptation Levy (ECAL) from 10 per cent to 5 per cent.

The increase in the threshold for the application of ECAL from F$1.25M to F$3M will also go down well with the many small and medium enterprises. Initially considered an antithesis to the growth of smaller businesses because once earnings surpassed F$1.25M, they paid the same amount of ECAL as the larger operators in the country, the incentive now gives SME’s a wider scope with room to grow.

Since its introduction in the 2017-2018 financial year, ECAL collections have totalled F$270.2M of which FJ $255.9 has been used to finance 102 projects that address climate change, environmental conservation, and infrastructure. Largely collected from tourism operators.

By comparison, white-goods vendors have only had to apply ECAL since last year, but they too have felt how quickly a 10% increase can distort your price structure and reduce your popularity with a price-conscious market.

Currently dealing with managing staff without international visitor revenue contributions, maintenance and operational costs even during semi or full closures; every tourism business owner has also been relieved to hear of the deferment of the implementation of the VAT Monitoring System (VMS) to 1 January 2022.

This is expected to cost a minimum of $3,000 for a small business to implement and up to $1.25m for a large hotel to integrate into its complex system of transaction processing, point of sale (PoS), Property Management Systems (PMS) and Management Information Systems (MIS) to name a few.

The deferment directly allows savings for critically needed capital expenditure, for which the direct benefits for tourism businesses are at best vague, but is designed to report VAT payments to FRCS in real-time even though VAT payment reports will continue to be submitted as it is now, at the end of every month. We will continue to work with FRCS on both the need to have this and how it can be implemented with less difficulty and cost.

Obviously, many of the budget’s announced measures support the industry’s collective efforts to pick itself up and be COVID-safe and prepared when the borders reopen.

As the earner of 46 per cent of our country’s total Gross Domestic Product in 2019, tourism has taken an enormous hit that has not just been felt economically. The bigger impact has been felt and continues to drastically impact the communities that tourism businesses operate from. With increased unemployment and lower demand for materials, resources, and fresh produce; there is also reduced economic activity in the communities where tourism is the key employer because of lower or lost incomes.

Preparations for borders opening continue to be the focus for many businesses with the constant review of operational costs and how many staff can be brought back during the weekend bookings in support of the “Love Our Locals” campaign that continues to gain popularity. The implementation of the COVID-safe guidelines and training of staff on the new requirements, the completion of refurbishment if undertaken or the reopening after months of being closed are currently some of the activity taking place across the country.

With the changes in tax policies recently announced, adjustments will need to be made on pricing structures, in-house systems and once passed down from suppliers, food & beverage costing. A collective effort is being made to develop attractive and innovative holiday packaging that will convince ready to travel COVID weary international visitors to select Fiji as their preferred destination.

At the same time, the unpacking of the complex scenarios of travel options within the Bula Bubble have begun. This includes how we deal with borders reopening with just one neighbour that is COVID contained, or two neighbours where only one is contained. How we manage pathways without compromising community safety where even the best and friendliest intentions would be considered breaking protocols, or provide safe accessibility to activities and attractions as opposed to making them safer by deeming them off-limits. Fiji is not alone in trying to navigate a safe path back to borders reopening and being sufficiently prepared.

As we look to compete with every idyllic locale in the region and further, we can only do our best and work together to get Fiji back on track and our workers back at work. Around the world, other tourism destinations are moving their own preparations up to open borders. The ever-mentioned Bali looks to open its borders on September 1 to Americans, while the Bahamas have decided to boldly close their borders to that market.

Tahiti is reopening with a self-test and in Jamaica, if you do not follow the health protocols, the Tourism Minister there will close your resort. Some countries are even offering visitors a year’s work visa to locate there. Such is the widespread reliance on tourism’s ability to quickly rehabilitate a flagging economy.

Our own tourism workers are aware of the industry’s preparation to be COVID-Safe and ready to go when those borders open. They are also looking forward to returning to jobs that pay well and include competitive weekend and holiday pay rates, with wet allowance, risk allowance, height allowance, meal allowances, uniforms, and even transport and accommodation provided depending on where they work and what they do.

While we compete with the world with our Bula Spirits and friendly smiles that set us way above other cheaper destinations, let us do so while maintaining who we are.

We are Fiji.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 23 July 2020 

Marriott International Fiji Resorts Launches Fundraising Golf Tournament in Support of Solia Lesu

Marriott International Fiji Resorts Launches Fundraising Golf Tournament in Support of Solia Lesu

Denarau Island 20 July 2020 – The Marriott International Fiji Resorts will be hosting a Fundraising Golf tournament in support of “Solia Lesu” by Marriott foundation on the 25th July 2020.

The Charity Golf event will be held on Denarau Golf and Racquet Club, home to the South Pacific’s premier 18-hole golf course, located on Denarau Island.

‘Solia Lesu’ which means to “Give Back” in iTaukei was formed by five Marriott International Fiji Resorts (The Westin Denarau Fiji Resort & Spa, Sheraton Fiji Resort, Sheraton Denarau Villas, Sheraton Tokoriki and Marriott Momi Bay Fiji) to provide assistance to associates and the local community affected by COVID-19.

The Golf Tournament sponsored by the Denarau Golf and Racquet Club aims to support this charitable cause and proceedings from registrations will go towards the Solia Lesu foundation and its community initiatives.

With the Golf Course located on Denarau Island, local residents, guests of Westin Resort & Spa and neighbouring hotels, business houses including the general public are encouraged to register for the fundraising tournament with Amitesh Chandra, Manager at the Denarau Golf and Racquet Club.

Registration fees are F$70 per player for members and F$100 for visitors with a prize-giving event at the end of the tournament which includes accommodation vouchers at Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Boy and The Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa and dining vouchers at Zing Restaurant.

“The golf event is limited to just 100 registrants and we aim to attract avid golfers, sporting enthusiasts looking for a fun activity or those just keen on helping a good cause”, says Amitesh.

The Heineken Club House will also be accessible to all players to relax, enjoy some beverages and amazing wood-fired pizzas, grilled Octopus, or the exotic Fideuo while unwinding after the tournament.

For more please contact:
Amitesh Chandra, Manager – Denarau Golf and Racquet Club.
Phone+ (679) 9904 250

Regina Wilson, Market Director of Sales & Marketing – Fiji & Samoa, Marriott International Fiji.
Phone+ (679) 9904 458

FHTA 2020-2021 Budget Response

FHTA

FHTA 18 July 2020 – The Fijian Government’s bold recovery initiatives and the revolutionary tax reviews is a clear indication reinforcing that we are all in this together.

The Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) was optimistic that the 2020-2021 budget address would incorporate pragmatic approaches to assisting the industry and the Government has directly responded to our needs as we recover from the lowest point of our industry’s recent history.

We are therefore delighted that the Government has delivered a bold and innovative budget that has responded to our needs and has set the framework we need to reduce overhead costs. We are confident that our members will support the initiatives to ensure that the savings are passed on to the customers and know they are keen to provide value for money packages to rekindle the tourism industry. Government has taken a critical enabling step towards this goal.

We have no doubt that this mix of government commitment and business creativity will define Fiji’s recovery from COVID-19. It recognises that to bring jobs back quickly, we must bring back visitors quickly and driving business creativity during far from normal times is critical.

The industry has already commenced working on creating safe work practices and environments to maintain Fiji’s COVID containment status that ensures we keep our people and our visitors safe, and sincerely acknowledge the intense efforts by all concerned to get us to this safe stage.

Covid-19 might have taken a negative toll on our businesses and our economy, but we have a great opportunity to restart the travel industry and rebuild it in a way that it can operate more sustainably.

Business recovery for tourism delivers socio-economic benefits; we can make more jobs available and tourism’s multiplier effects have always benefited communities throughout Fiji.

We also acknowledge and greatly appreciate that Government continues to enable and provide assistance to tourism industry staff, who we know are struggling as a result of employment cuts caused by this pandemic.

The Association remains optimistic that quarantine-free travel will commence soon with New Zealand and shortly thereafter, Australia. Domestic consumption, while highly appreciated, is not sufficient for the long-term sustainability of the industry and we urgently need the foreign tourism market to recommence to fully reinvigorate the industry together with the employment it brings.

We look forward to cooperating with Government and our national carrier, Fiji Airways, to return tourism to its rightful place as the key driver of economic growth in Fiji.

For now, we need the support of all Fijians while we work hard to recover.

2020-21 National Budget Verdict: Bold & Positive

2020-21 National Budget Verdict: Bold & Positive

Fiji Sun 19 July 2020 – Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) chief executive officer, Fantasha Lockington, said the Government had directly responded to the industry’s needs towards recovery.

“We are confident that our members will support the initiatives to ensure that the savings are passed on to the customers, and know they are keen to provide value for money packages to rekindle the tourism industry. Government has taken a critical enabling step towards this goal,” she said.

The Association remains optimistic that quarantine-free travel will commence soon with New Zealand and Australia.

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Tourism Talanoa: A Chance To Reset

Fantasha Lockington

FHTA, 17 July 2020 – Late last week I had the privilege of being invited to join a panel of tourism stakeholders for Mai TV’s RESET Fiji show which is produced in conjunction with Oxfam, University of the South Pacific, and Pacific Network on Globalisation.

It is an expectation for any industry to continually raise issues and discuss opportunities, and with the current challenging economic climate, tourism has a responsibility to contribute to debates on how best to move forward.

Debating the potential to reset tourism and make it more resilient through public policy dialogue is another way to simply ”talanoa” on a public platform and create even more opportunities for those listening to gain insight into the industry and initiate even further ”talanoa” sessions of their own, even if only around the grog bowl.

Speakers from the many segments that make up tourism contributed richly from their varied backgrounds. How can we in an industry so heavily relied on, readapt ourselves using our greatest assets: our people, our environment and our diverse cultures to rebound from sliding into recession and reimagine a better version of tourism for Fiji. And with it, hope for a more sustainable future.

Around the world, the current pause on all things tourism-related has led to a global review of how we treat our environments, especially when the effects of reduced travel and widespread lockdowns has shown such positive renewal and rebirth in nature.

This in turn has given way to much discussion on over-tourism that exists in all the tourism hotspots, all over the world.

Crowds of international travellers flock to see the Taj Mahal, the Sydney Opera House or Machu Picchu. Often likened to a virus, hordes of travellers are often seen overcrowding the Great Wall of China, the beaches of Bali, Bondi or the Maldives.

Many large cities have now reported rare events of clearer skies and cleaner breathable air. News reports show how the Adriatic Sea which flows through Venice have become so clear now that one can see the bottom of the Venice canals for the first time in decades. Even the usual smog around the Himalayan mountains has dissipated to provide a clear majestic sight of Everest.

In the lockdowns, the major global contributors to air and sea pollution would have been forced to switch off their production machines as factories became unmanned due to furloughed staff. Airlines parked planes, trains remained in stations and traffic came to a standstill.

In the Pacific, reports indicate that our fish stocks have increased, no doubt through a combination of reduced commercial fishing, decimated demand from restaurants and a few months of no noise, pollution or movement of vessels of any size in oceans around the world.

With families forced to stay home, many have been using this down-time wisely by turning their efforts to subsistence farming to address reduced or no incomes and the very real possibility that things could stay this way till the end of the year or even next year.

According to the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC) 2018 study of the fresh produce demand from our hotels and resorts, Fiji spends more than FJD 38.48 million annually in importing fresh produce for tourism alone. A further FJD36 million is imported annually to cater for local demand.

The report states Fiji has the potential to cut FJD 24.1 million off the total import bill and focus its resources on growing and producing the high potential produce locally.

Food drives the world; apart from clean water, access to adequate food is the primary concern for most people on earth. This makes agriculture one of the largest and most significant industries in the world. Agricultural productivity is important not only for food security, but its contribution to the economy.

63% of the tourism import demand is for meat (beef and pork), dairy and seafood (prawns) with the key reason for reliance on imported produce being supply inconsistencies, quality and food standards (meat and seafood).

But there is no doubt that Fiji can deliver in some areas and has been able to meet some of the required demand for fresh produce like pawpaws, watermelon and pineapples, as well as for chicken.

Not only would the injection of the potential FJD 24 million into the local economy be a tremendous support for farmers, supply chains, the rural communities and the economy generally; it would offset tourism food costs and bring these costs down for resorts. Reduced overheads mean you can better price your products and services.

It does not stop at farmers. To improve our beef and pork production, we need technical training for farmers, butchers, meat packers and suppliers. We have all heard of Vanuatu Beef but there is no Fiji Beef brand. We have a wonderful variety of seafood, but lack understanding of the required packing and storage requirements demanded by food safety regulations that chefs are trained to comply with.

Tourism demands bacon be served at breakfast, seven days a week throughout the year, but cannot access sufficient stock locally, forcing resorts to pay the highly taxed imported option. There is a wide selection of fruit that are often in abundance seasonally, but no large scale locally produced juice that would be an exotic option for visitors.

Many restaurants and resorts have been planting their own fruit, vegetables and herbs for years. And there is growing interest in making cheese and more sophisticated productions in yogurts and ice creams now, while small scale cottage industries are growing with chocolate making and healthy juices. Many of these small manufacturers report challenges with outdated health regulations that do not recognise new food products or the technology that supports it.

Coming into this mix now are thousands of unemployed tourism workers armed with thousands of packets of cabbage seeds. Luckily, the combined efforts of the Barter for Better Fiji and good Samaritans doing their bit to support the unemployed, will ensure that along with the thousands of bundles of cabbage being released into the marketplace, we will also have eggplants, long beans and cassava. And thanks to closed borders and around 80% of our room inventory still being closed, prices for chicken, pork and seafood have dropped. Even kava prices have dropped.

So, for our local population, there is plenty of fresh produce available and the price of these generally have gone down. This may not be sustainable in the long term, but at least we are focusing on our environment.

We are planting more and eating fresher. Good for us, great for the environment. As we put in place plans to open to a new post-COVID world, we hope that we can convince visitors to travel to Fiji when the borders open.

While we wait, we can re-evaluate our health and eating habits. We can review how we work with, live in and treat our environments because we understand its importance better now, and because we have been given an opportunity to pause, to reflect and consider; we should also review our relationships. With our families, our communities and each other.

We should move out of comfort zones to test new relationships and partnerships. There have been practical guidelines and prolific policies written on public and private partnerships and food security though agriculture.

Tourism may have hit a brick wall, but it is the kind of industry that is already working on how to climb over it or break it down. And while it is, it is also actively looking for opportunities to reinvent itself through its products and services and its cost structures.

Achievable? Most definitely.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 17 July 2020