FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Peak Interest, Peak Season

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Peak Interest, Peak Season

FHTA, 30 June 2022 – It was renowned American industrialist Henry Ford who once said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

This rings true for Fiji 8 months after its successful reopening and as its tourism industry continues to grow in leaps and bounds after the pain and havoc that the pandemic caused.

Last week saw the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) successfully hold its 57th Annual General Meeting (AGM).

It was the first AGM to be held post-pandemic and tourism operators voted in a new board and enjoyed the network with peers to exchange information or discuss the state of the industry over the last few months.

Tourism operators share a lot in common although they work as individual and often competing businesses that are used to coming together and collaborating effectively as similar segments or parts of the same region to achieve common grounds for the benefit of the entire industry.

Held at Hilton Fiji Beach Resort and Spa, the AGM was well-attended by members and associate members who heard a recap of the Association’s past twelve months of key activities, whilst also voting in new board members and discussing industry trends and issues.

Brian Kirsch of Likuri Island Resort was voted back in as the FHTA President.

He will be assisted again by Vice Presidents, Tammie Tam of Warwick Hotels & Resorts and Narend Kumar of the Tanoa Hotel Group.

It has been enormously rewarding to see FHTA members come through their most challenging period, with the bulk of operators moving steadily back into full capacity since the December 1 reopening with the determination and tenacity that reflects tourism’s continued resilience.

FHTA’s consistent advocacy to address member issues in all possible forums has been at the forefront of its efforts and in doing so, its collective focus is still firmly on ensuring the industry can continue to develop and grow in sustainably managed environments.

We have cultivated and nurtured relationships with every conceivable industry stakeholder because we know that it takes many hands to make the work lighter.

To this end, a regional and sector-diverse Board provides direction and expertise to help guide the Association into a position where it can serve its members more efficiently and robustly.

The full FHTA Board of Directors currently stands as follows:
• Brian Kirsch (Likuri Island Resort Fiji) – President
• Tammie Tam (Warwick Hotels & Resorts) – Vice President
• Narend Kumar (Tanoa Hotel Group) – Vice President
• Lachlan Walker (Intercontinental Hotel Group)
• Allan Gortan (Paradise Taveuni)
• Steven Andrews (Castaway Island Resort)
• Viliame Vodonaivalu (Grand Pacific Hotel/FNPF)
• Bradley Rutherford (South Sea Island Cruises)
• Josephine Smith-Moffat (Musket Cove Island Resort)
• Adam Wade (Vuda Point Marina)
• Neeraj Chadha (Marriott International Inc)
• Vincent Macquet (Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa)
• Azam Khan (Hexagon Group of Hotels)
• James McCann (Yasawa Island Resort & Spa)
• Kaydee George (Wyndham Resort Denarau Island)
• Simon Doughty (Volivoli Beach Resort)

The new Board will take the helm as the tourism industry heads into what is hoped will be a period of sustained recovery and eventual growth after the severely challenging last few years.

As waivers for tax amnesties come to an end this month and payments of loan principals and interests resume, it is imperative that the industry work hand-in-hand to climb back to its preeminent position as Fiji’s highest foreign exchange earner.

And not just in ensuring we get visitor numbers back.

FHTA has continued to push for sustainability inclusion in policy and practice from a national perspective with the need to be far more environmentally friendly with business practices because our environment is a key part of what brings visitors to our shores.

Having seen firsthand the destructive nature of climate change increase exponentially over the years and the high costs of addressing this damage to environments, infrastructure, communities and business recovery generally; we have recognized the urgency and implications far earlier, and therefore have always taken it more seriously.

Unique opportunities exist to invigorate the economy with the introduction of strategies and policies that provide stimulus and accelerate growth through incentivising job retention, sustaining tourism SME’s and protecting vulnerable groups, while also promoting more investment in the industry.

While economists have downgraded their earlier statements about the potentially slow recovery of the industry and have since come out with more positive indications and projections, only time will tell if the industry will flourish once again to pre-pandemic levels.

Too much has changed in the post-COVID world of travel to expect that it will ever go back to “business as usual”, but the 2-year “travel pause” has given us better insight into destination preferences and choices.

From traveller expectations, reasons for travel and the length of stay, to where they go and why; people’s choices have been forever impacted by concerns for health and safety.

Not just their own health and safety, but that of the people and communities around them, as well as that of nature’s ecosystems that we tend to interact with more closely during travel.

Sustainability therefore must play a bigger role in everything we do and not just from tourism stakeholders.

It must be replicated as part of a larger national priority to ensure we make a far more impactful change in efforts to address climate change domestically and globally.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 30 June 2022)

Tourism Fiji appoints the Havas Village Sydney to handle its global creative, CX/digital and media accounts.

Tourism Fiji appoints the Havas Village Sydney to handle its global creative, CX/digital and media accounts.

Tuesday 28 June – Tourism Fiji has appointed Host/Havas (creative and CX/digital) and Havas Media (media) following a highly competitive pitch process. An integrated team will support the country’s post-pandemic recovery as a destination, and implementation of Tourism Fiji’s strategic plan.

The scope of work includes evolving Tourism Fiji’s ‘Where Happiness Finds you’ brand platform, supporting its strategic focus on sustainability, and leading on global media strategy and buying. The team will also help to build digital capabilities across the Tourism Fiji team and develop digital experiences across the visitor booking journey.

The integrated Havas Village approach ticked all of Tourism Fiji’s key decision-making criteria, including global capability, inspiring creativity and a team full of passion for the destination, Tourism Fiji CMO Emma Campbell said.  

“Havas demonstrated amazing consultation and approached the process in a very thoughtful way, asking pertinent questions and really listening to the broader Tourism Fiji team and stakeholders. That enabled them to uncover insights that shone through in their response and created a great dynamic between our teams,” Emma said. 

“The next few years are critical for us as we build on the positive momentum from our successful reopening. We feel very confident our partnership with Havas will help us deliver the next phase of our strategic plan.”

Laura Aldington, CEO of Host/Havas said, “We are honoured to partner with the very talented and ambitious team at Tourism Fiji and showcase the country’s incredible and unique culture to the world. The opportunity to do so as one integrated team across creative, CX and media is also a great endorsement of our Village’s “Better Together” strategy. We can’t wait to get started”

Virginia Hyland, CEO of Havas Media Group, added, “As a Village, we are really excited about the opportunity to continue to highlight, through the power of integrated thinking, why people should enjoy the warmth and beauty of Fiji and its people. It is wonderful to win a client which shares our passion and focus on unlocking customer understanding, and we are thrilled to be working with Emma and the Tourism Fiji team to continue to drive the momentum of visitation to such a magical place.”

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Floating Sustainably on Cloud 9

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Floating Sustainably on Cloud 9

FHTA, 25 June 2022 – Have you ever wished you could take a refreshing dip in a beautiful blue ocean and just float your troubles away?

Well, you can on Cloud 9. Float, dream, immerse and relax.

But it’s not just a floating experience or bar; it is a family-run business that is handcrafted with precision and creativity with visitor fun and great memory-making at its heart.

It is laid-back and naturally classy with a fun and unpretentious atmosphere.

Cloud 9 is just off Viti Levu, near Nadi and it floats in and around the waters of Vanua Malolo on Ro Ro Reef.

Only a 45min boat ride from Port Denarau, it opens its doors to everyone that wants to come on board and enjoy its impeccable service and awesome atmosphere.

But it is the thoughtful touches of sustainability that aren’t usually seen or noticed that make Cloud 9 a Fijian industry leader in this niche market.

The first thing that stands out about the floating platform is that it is entirely powered by solar energy.

They are a zero-carbon-emitting facility and successfully power their needs using 100% solar power.

There are batteries on board just in case the solar power isn’t enough to power the platform and such is their commitment to the pristine surrounding waters that there aren’t any fuel generators on board.

Cloud 9 is careful that they do not disburse any waste into the ocean.

Their respect for marine life and the subsequent aqua-environment is high.

Cloud 9 is proud to be part of the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES) working with all government and non-government stakeholders to ensure they use best practice options with the disposal of their waste products.

Stringently following the necessary protocols and standard operating procedures set out by authorities, all of their liquid waste from their environmentally-friendly toilet systems are tanked and then pumped and transported using their custom vessel MV Saba to the Port Denarau Marina fuel dock where it is then pumped into the Nadi town sewage system.

Port security logs this activity in their daily records and charges a modest fee for the service.

All of their solid waste is bagged in Port Denarau Marina’s branded garbage bags which are then separated and disposed of at the port bins to track the destination of all waste.

Before the guests make their way to the platform, they are reminded that Cloud 9 only endorses reef-friendly sunscreen and will not allow other types to be brought on board.

This extra measure is so that no toxins make their way into the water and onto the reef, effectively harming them and the delicate ecosystems that make their homes in and around our reef areas.

Cloud 9 also has a no straw policy as these could find their way into the ocean and harm the wildlife, including the additional support to reduce the use of plastic in our environments generally.

To support their nearby communities, Cloud 9 continues to manage and service solar panels and DC pumps in nearby Solevu -village as these are needed by the community to ensure a surplus of water for all personal, household and agricultural purposes because these areas often experience very low water supplies.

No generators or maintenance of any kind is required on a day-to-day basis by residents of Solevu for their water needs and this program has been running for the past 10 years.

Also under the MES, Cloud 9’s reef restoration project is undertaken by Solevu villagers that work for Cloud 9.

They firmly believe that this reef rehabilitation is an important outreach and promotes inclusiveness with the Vanua in their reef’s sustainable management.

Any business in the area must ensure that the surrounding ecosystem and community aren’t being disadvantaged, so Cloud 9 safeguards that with robust protocols and procedures to ensure that at the end of the day, the environment is always looked after.

This is what sets them apart from others and it’s why they love Fiji and Fiji loves Cloud 9.

For information on the above, you can contact FHTA (info@fhta.com.fj) or contact Cloud 9 directly.

Published in the Fiji Sun on 25 June 2022

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Rounding Up 56 Years

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Rounding Up 56 Years

FHTA, 23 June 2022 – Tourism members are gearing up for the 57th Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) which is scheduled for this week.

It’s our first AGM post-pandemic and the tourism sector will have a lot to say about what the state of the industry is.

We cast our thoughts back to this time last year and most of the industry’s concerns were with the Delta variant and the subsequent second wave of transmissions and infections and genuine concerns about border reopening plans not being able to be realised.

The nation had banded together and lined up to get vaccinated even while navigating through our first real taste of how cyber trolls can spread misinformation.

Thankfully good sense prevailed and more people accepted that vaccinations were (and still are) the safest and most protective thing you can do according to science.

Countries and cities around the world were, during this time last year, still in the grip of hard lockdowns in various forms and these were challenging for families and businesses both financially, economically and psychologically.

Fiji’s Ministry of Health was resolute in its decision to not implement a similar lockdown in Fiji, once the first rounds were deemed unsuitable to our communities, and in hindsight, we believe that to be an informed and commendable decision.

And as we reflect on how far we’ve come as a nation; it is easy to overlook how hard we have worked together towards a common goal – that of reopening our borders again safely.

Communication efforts have increased considerably in the last month to the general public, encouraging them to get their second booster shot in efforts to help Fiji to stay ahead of future viral threats.

But as only 30 percent of eligible adults have received a booster thus far, the good doctor continues to remind us that the biggest tragedy that Fijians can suffer is not acknowledging the sacrifices that have been made over the past few years.

We agree. It has taken a world of pain amid massive upheavals and untold tragedies to get us where we are right now and we cannot afford to lose our momentum.

As usual, tourism workers are ahead of the pack in getting their requisite inoculation jabs as their work deals directly with incoming visitors and guests, reinforced by the consistent messaging within the industry that we put the safety of staff and guests first.

Better to always err on the side of caution.

So, we will continue to support our industry’s employers to access the best advice on the policies for a safer workforce.

But that has always been a hallmark of Fijian tourism – always looking to go above and beyond to get the industry moving in the right direction.

A year on and even with things starting to look up and tourism’s visitor numbers bouncing ever upwards and business humming along in tourism hot spots, we know we’re not quite ‘’there” yet – with 2019’s economic gains being used as the benchmark to work out whether we’re back to normal again.

And it’s not hard to understand why.

On the back of a receding pandemic threat and travel restrictions being wound steadily back, we started with threats of a Ukraine invasion that was happening at the same time as supply chains feeling the impact of China’s decision to completely stamp out COVID with further lockdowns.

This led to the inevitable imbalance of manufactured goods in those Chinese factories becoming scarcer and then eventually drying up and imports slowing down because suddenly all the containers for imports were on the wrong side of the world.

Economists that had earlier predicted a 6% global growth, reviewed this downwards with 2022 starting with expectations of “disrupted recovery and higher inflation” predicted.

6 months into the year and 7 months post-reopening, we face increasing fuel costs, increasing labour costs due to skilled labour shortages, and increasing imported goods costs and in our key visitor markets, we can already see rising interest rates and further predictions of economic slowdowns.

But we press on as an industry because we have more than just skin in the game.

This includes tourism’s inherent connections to the communities that they are a fundamental part of, and a vibrant industry that at its peak can employ 150,000 Fijians both directly and indirectly, while playing a key role in foreign exchange earnings, a considerable contribution to corporate taxes and with a significant impact on GDP.

So as we gather for the Annual General Meeting this week to recap a year spent hauling ourselves from ground zero to running at significantly high capacities that we hope will allow some clawing back of much-needed yield, we will also discuss rapidly changing challenges even as we try to understand and assimilate evolving global travel trends.

This week, we also submit our National Budget Submission that encapsulates the industry’s recommendations on solutions to the current challenges, and updates on critical tourism trends that Fiji must be able to deliver on if it is to remain the competitive tourism destination it is known for, and identify key opportunities to stay focused on tourism’s continued sustainability.

FHTA has identified three key action areas in its budget submission that Government might consider looking into as we navigate our way past the host of issues facing even the largest global economies.

Firstly, the industry needs more time post-reopening to better utilise the previously released budget for policy and tax incentives.

This will support businesses with increasing operational costs that continue to be forced upwards by global economic conditions and supply chain challenges that have been further exacerbated by the Ukraine war.

Also identified is the need to continue to provide critical support for the recovery of SMEs, many of whom are still struggling to reopen.

And finally for the wider recognition and implementation of sustainability policies and practices that support a national focus across all industries, public sectors and communities.

At this AGM, we will celebrate the industry’s success stories since the country’s reopening and we will also dissect the weak spots that will require pragmatic recommendations and solutions in the same way we approach many other challenges – by consulting and always asking how we can improve.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 23 June 2022)

FHTA Completes Child Safe Tourism and Respectful Workplaces Training

FHTA Completes Child Safe Tourism and Respectful Workplaces Training

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) has successfully concluded its two-month training on Child Safe Tourism and Respectful Workplaces in Nadi today for the staff of tourism industry businesses.

This joint training provided participants with tools to recognise and respond to situations that may increase the risk of child exploitation and abuse within their workspaces, as well as give them insight into the indicators and effects of domestic and sexual violence, workplace bullying and harassment and how to formulate an appropriate workplace policy to respond to this.

This training opportunity was facilitated in collaboration with the Australia Volunteers International (AVI) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) and was held at the Hilton Fiji Beach Resort and Spa.

FHTA welcomes Government’s imminent launch of a National Child Safeguarding Policy with the recently completed validation workshop with stakeholders in May supporting similar theming.

The Ministry for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport (MCTTT) has also included child safe practice requirements in the National Tourism Code of Conduct that they are developing that would have an extensive set of guidelines that tourism businesses would be encouraged to adhere to.

This would then dictate child safe practices for all Government ministries and business partners as an indicative step for recognising the importance of having these included in workplace policies.

All successful participants from FHTA’s training will now be able to on-train their own colleagues to raise this critical awareness with the help of toolkits designed for this purpose.

The two pieces of training are being staged together because they will draw on similar approaches to recognising, responding to and reporting incidents as well as raising awareness on both issues through educating our staff and communities.

FHTA Chief Executive Officer Fantasha Lockington stressed the need to continually support the industry workers in furthering their scope of work and being the best possible versions of themselves by practising respectful and responsible work ethics.

FHTA is committed to promoting these practices and supporting members who mirror this commitment. They are looking to make this training an annual event to include more tourism operators and support staff to formulate and implement relevant new policies or review their existing policies in line with changing expectations for behaviour in the workplace.

2022 FHTA Annual General Meeting

2022 FHTA Annual General Meeting

FHTA 23 June 2022 – The Fiji Hotel & Tourism Association (FHTA) held its 57th Annual General Meeting (AGM) today, the first meeting post-reopening of borders.

Held at Hilton Fiji Beach Resort and Spa, the AGM was well-attended by members and associate members who heard a recap of the Association’s past twelve months of key activities, whilst also voting in new board members and discussing industry trends and issues.

Brian Kirsch of Likuri Island Resort was voted back in as the FHTA President. He will be assisted by Vice Presidents, Tammie Tam of Warwick Hotels & Resorts and Narend Kumar of the Tanoa Hotel Group.

“It has been enormously rewarding to see our members come through their most challenging period to-date, with the bulk of operators moving steadily back into full capacity since the December 1 reopening with the determination and tenacity that reflects tourism’s continued resilience. FHTA never ceases its consistent advocacy to address member issues in all possible forums and our collective focus is still firmly on ensuring the industry can continue to develop and grow in sustainably managed environments” the re-elected FHTA President, Brian Kirsch said.

Other new board appointments were: Neeraj Chadha (Marriott International Inc), Vincent Macquet (Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa), Azam Khan (Hexagon Group of Hotels), James McCann (Yasawa Island Resort & Spa), Kaydee George (Wyndham Resort Denarau Island) and Simon Doughty (Volivoli Beach Resort).

The full 16-member board will take the helm as the tourism industry heads into what is hoped will be a period of sustained recovery and eventual growth following the most difficult period that the industry has ever faced.

The Association firmly believes unique opportunities exist to invigorate the economy with the introduction of strategies and policies that provide stimulus and accelerate growth through incentivising job retention, sustaining tourism SME’s and protecting vulnerable groups, while also promoting more investment in the industry.

FHTA CEO, Fantasha Lockington confirmed that the Association liaises and consults with relevant Government ministries, agencies, statutory bodies and development partners to ensure support, awareness and access to required assistance is facilitated, and that this further enables the industry to continue its substantial contribution to the Fijian economy.

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Marine Conservation at Plantation Island Resort

FHTA Sustainable Tourism: Marine Conservation at Plantation Island Resort

FHTA, 18 June 2022 –

It is not just about providing a perfect holiday spot and not just about corals either at the popular Plantation Island Resort in the Mamanuca group of islands just off Nadi.

After a long two years, the southern tip of Malolo Lailai Island came alive on Friday, April 1st 2022.

Plantation Island Resort finally welcomed international guests to their doorstep with a long overdue ‘Bula’!

Since then, the island resort has roared back to life with a buzz of excitement from staff and guests alike.

During the pandemic-induced closure, the resort used the time to implement several improvements and upgrades.

Their renowned restaurant and bar facilities have undergone stunning makeovers, amongst other improvements, and they will launch their brand-new Kids Club next month.

However, like many resorts around Fiji, their focus is firmly set on sustainability and therefore they have a few initiatives in place to ensure that through these conservation practices, their beautiful island and surrounding oceans are conserved for future generations to enjoy, whilst ensuring their guests can experience and appreciate their gorgeous surroundings.

Carefully thought-out steps have been put in place to provide more sustainable and environmentally friendly travel around the island including the highly recommended use of bicycle rentals to guests explore the island’s beauty and its many activity offerings.

They also have a unique and fun underwater museum with its own golf buggies, a formal dining setting and villages of fish houses to explore.

Guests are encouraged to snorkel and explore marine havens around the island, as well as learn about Plantation Island Resort’s dedication to marine conservation.

For this, they have partnered with Dr Austin Bowden-Kerby and the University of the South Pacific since 2018 to implement a number of reef protection initiatives and to foster sustainability and protection of the surrounding waters.

Along with 2 resident Marine Biologists (Sarah & Keleni), the Plantation Island Resort Team have been cultivating coral gardens to grow coral for reef restoration projects locally and globally.

The man known as “the coral gardener”, US-born marine biologist Dr Austin, pioneered the unique reef restoration technique.

He has created a coral restoration ecology manual and action strategy that merges decades of observations from field sites in 12 nations, coupled with relevant published literature.

His passion and assistance in this field have been an incredible boon to the resort’s coral conservation and marine restoration program that he and the staff at the resort are responsible for.

Other sustainable and eco-positive projects on the island include Giant Clam nurseries, seaweed farming and mangrove planting.

While the focus is mainly on corals, other projects support and strengthen the local environment and help prevent some of the adverse effects of climate change among the area’s reefs and local oceans.

Giant clams are a vital part of coral reef ecosystems in the Indo-Pacific and they play a crucial role on the reefs in which they’re found. As large bivalves, they are efficient water filterers, removing excess nutrients that flow into the reefs from land.

They also grow very large, dense shells which contribute to the growth of reef structure and provide habitat and settlement points for a wide range of other reef animals.

Seaweed farming or Kelp farming is the practice of cultivating and harvesting seaweed. In its simplest form, it consists of the management of naturally found batches and consists of fully controls the life cycle of the algae.

Finally, planting mangroves has been proven to help with environmental issues and they thrive in areas with low-oxygen soil, where slow-moving waters allow sediments to accumulate.

Mangroves thrive in brackish waters and help to control coastal inundation, especially in Pacific Island countries.

Guests at Plantation Island Resort are also included in Clean-up Campaigns around the resort property, primarily on the beach, to help keep the surroundings tidy and free of waste.

The resort’s long-time commitment to the environment includes the banning of single-use plastic shopping bags in 2017, the banning of plastic straws in 2018 and the more recent introduction of plastic water bottle recycling.

In 2019 the resort was the first South Pacific partner to join the Oceanic Standard Commitment and replace single-use amenities with bulk-use toiletries.

Coupled with the in-house health and safety protocols of their Savasava Hygiene Promise coupled with Fiji’s Care Fiji Commitment, Plantation Island Resort is well placed to not just keep their guests safe but also to keep their staff and surrounding communities safe as well.

The commitment to community, the environment and all things green keeps the resort staff and their guests who support these efforts busy throughout the year.

Published in the Fiji Sun on 18 June 2022

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: It Feels A Lot Like The Old Days

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: It Feels A Lot Like The Old Days

FHTA, 16 June 2022 – Seven months post reopening of the Fijian international borders, things are buzzing for this small, but resilient Pacific Island nation with the tourism industry keeping its tenacious grip on moving from recovery to opportunity and we hope, further growth.

And this is the case around the world as travel restrictions continue to get rolled steadily back.

This week the United States of America declared that they were removing the pre-arrival negative COVID-test requirement to enter their borders.

If anyone is planning to travel to or return to the USA soon, you no longer need to undergo mandatory COVID testing before departure as of Sunday 12 June 2022.

They join Canada, Australia and New Zealand that have implemented this previously.

From a Fijian tourism perspective, this makes it easier for travellers to get to our golden shores and make their way back home again with the minimum of fuss, and we are delighted with this prospect.

The travel world is starting to look like its old self again in most parts of it that are not otherwise hampered by conflict or the determination to completely stamp out COVID before reopening.

According to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics, the 97,979 Americans that arrived in Fiji back in 2019 accounted for 11 percent of Fiji’s total visitors and with minimal restrictions now confirmed, we can expect this market to continue to increase.

Early 2020 arrival figures for American visitors and indeed all other nationalities looked promising and we believe we would have surpassed our targeted one million arrivals in that year had it not been for the pandemic.

Rest assured, however, that the boots are well and truly on every tourism playground, resort and activity as we are working tirelessly with industry and authorities to aim to achieve that milestone or even higher.

The industry continues to acknowledge that the widespread phasing-out of travel restrictions does not mean that the COVID-19 pandemic has come to an end.

It merely signals a pragmatic shift by nations around the world to treat COVID-19 as endemic as we learn to live with a virus made less lethal by mass vaccination efforts.

We have stated on more than a few occasions in this forum, that rather than continuing to implement these travel restrictions and risk being alienated as a tourism destination – a status Fiji could not afford to take; we needed to provide a haven for our people, our communities and eventually our visitors through vaccination efforts and the inculcation of COVID safe practices, with extensive communication of these nationally.

The world has largely fully opened up again and the race to being the top tourist destination is well and truly on!

And because those tourism businesses that have been opened, or have opened up only recently have been way too busy dealing with full houses and not enough staff (more on this later), there was no celebration of any sort of pause to reflect on the journey to get here, when it was noted recently on Australian TV that Fiji was top of the list for Australians in their five key holiday destinations.

As mentioned in this forum last week, the industry has been experiencing an immense drain on labour, following hard on the already existing gaps we found post-COVID. Not all our staff chose to return to their original workplaces and not all tourism employers could take all their staff back immediately.

The reopening took place in phases across regions and across different tourism segments, with larger accommodation providers choosing to review the inventory levels they made available based on booking trends, access to staff, reopening preparedness and the need to have a percentage of room inventory set aside for guest isolation in the event they had COVID-positive guest cases.

The drain on skilled and unskilled staff means that everyone has to work even harder to fill the gaps with competent staff, and through even more training taking place than would otherwise be undertaken, especially during tourism’s peak season.

Unfortunately, it is not just the tourism industry feeling the impact of recruitment agencies looking for much-needed labour in hospitality, agriculture, finance and medical services.

Fiji is losing nurses, chefs, hospitality workers, accountants, skilled aged care workers, tradespeople and service staff.

New businesses setting up in Fiji, and existing businesses expanding or running at full capacity are therefore extremely challenged to find staff. This will mean that service standards and productivity levels drop, business costs escalate and already in-service staff are pressured to carry more of the workload because customer demands are currently high.

At a popular Suva restaurant recently, that was at full capacity where I was ordering dinner, I asked a tired-looking staff member what was the matter because she looked ill. She let out a long sigh and said they were short-staffed had been on duty since early that morning, and had not been able to take more than a 10mn break between the breakfast, lunch and current dinner service.

FHTA has invited tourism stakeholders to participate in our industry survey to better understand the future skills needs of the national hospitality industry.

We hope to share this data with the training and education sectors and the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations (MEPIR), to provide insights into the current industry issues on professional development and the links to recruitment and retention.

And the need to consider what solutions are required and required quickly, as has already been noted to them.

If you haven’t received the survey in your mail yet (or are not a member), drop us a line at info@fhta.com.fj and we’ll include you in the data collection.

We’re needing more hands-on-deck in the industry and every little bit helps the process moving along.

Tourism has only recently come out of a very long, dark tunnel and we’re not planning on going back anytime soon, so challenges like these need to be met head-on with collated data gleaned from surveys and industry and public sector consultations.

A short-term solution is obviously to bring in workers from overseas to fill these gaps but even that is fraught with its own set of challenges that include increased costs of doing business.

Our other key issue has been that while we make it simple enough to allow Fijian workers to go overseas to access work, we have not considered the current difficulty of accessing work permits for foreign workers which can take up to 3 months or longer to get approvals for.

We understand and support the need for stringent processes and why systems are designed to manage compliance, reduce human trafficking, protect local jobs, etc, but the introduction of online services still hampers efficiency efforts and continues to thwart inter-agency cooperation.

There is optimism all around with the increasing list of advertised jobs in the dailies and the upswing of tourism with increasing visitor numbers means those available jobs will remain constant and probably increase.

Discussing these issues with other employers in the construction, manufacturing, business outsourcing, mining, retail and airline sectors reveals that it is not just tourism feeling the impact of these skill gaps.

It might be starting to feel just like the old days, and while we are ecstatic about that, we are keenly aware that we must keep up the momentum so that we can come back full circle.

Fiji has been through too much already to simply allow things to slide, so let’s keep a wary eye open and always scan the peripherals.

We never really know what tomorrow will bring but we can be as prepared as we can ever be.

And that comes about from teamwork as working through COVID has taught us.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 16 June 2022)

Plastic Waste Free Islands (PWFI) Project Shares Recommendations

Plastic Waste Free Islands (PWFI) Project Shares Recommendations

On 15 June 2022, under its Plastic Waste Free Islands (PWFI) Project, IUCN through consultants Environment Law Oceania Consultancy (ELOC) conducted a validation workshop on proposed policy recommendations for the reduction of plastic waste leakage from the waste management, tourism and fisheries sectors in Fiji. Around 40 participants from government and non-government organizations, academic institutions, affiliations, associations and the private sector took part in this event.

The main objective of the workshop was to validate (i) the review of the policy and legal frameworks for plastic waste management and pollution prevention in the Waste Management, Tourism and Fisheries sectors in Fiji; and (ii) the proposed policy recommendations for the plastic leakage reduction measures in the three sectors.

Mr. Paula Katirewa, Project coordinator recapped some of the themes that were covered in the policy consultations in his opening address. Some of which were governance, legislation and policy, economic and market-based instruments, Innovations and environmentally acceptable alternatives to plastics, education, training and engagement and capacity building on plastics and data collection and monitoring. Mr. Katirewa encouraged feedback from workshop participants on the policy recommendations that were formulated from the consultations.

Consultant Ms. Patricia Parkinson of Environment Law Oceania Consultancy (ELOC) shared the approach and methodology that were adopted for developing the policy recommendations for the three sectors. The proposed recommendations were informed by a comprehensive review and analysis of the relevant international, regional and national policy and legal instruments analyzing the provisions relevant to plastic waste leakage and their impacts; a literature review; and most importantly by the outcomes of the consultations conducted with the stakeholders of the waste management, tourism and fisheries sectors in Fiji.

In response to a question from participant Ms. Patricia Malam – “Of all of the recommendations that you presented in relation to waste management, in your opinion what are the top 3 you think are practical and achievable in a 3-5-year time frame- and I ask this because there is an opportunity now with the window for budget submissions to government open for us to lobby the case?”

Ms. Parkinson identified the 3 top recommendations as

  1. Legislate for, and implement a Container Deposit Scheme, that will facilitate the establishment of (a) waste transfer station/resource recovery centre(s) for recycling;
  2. Improve waste collection and management, especially in rural and remote areas where a large part of the population does not benefit from a public waste collection system; and
  3. The development of a National Plastic Pollution Prevention Plan (N4P) to be incorporated in the Ministry of Waterways and Environment’s Waste Management and Pollution Control Strategy and Action Plan, which would include control measures to control (and eventually eliminate) the import of problematic and unnecessary plastics.

Other identified priorities include strengthening the enforcement of existing legislation relating to the reduction of plastic leakages, especially the ban on single-use plastic bags, as well as revising the legislation to address loopholes (such as the replacement of currently banned plastic bags with plastic mesh bags or thicker plastic bags), and sustainable financing for the implementation of the N4P.

For the Tourism sector, the key policy recommendations proposed included the enactment of a Sustainable Tourism Act, to enable the implementation of the Fiji Tourism policy, and the development of a Sustainable Tourism Development Framework, as envisaged by the Fiji Tourism policy, which would provide practical tools for the implementation of plastic waste reduction and management measures. For the Fisheries sector, a range of proposed recommendations addressed the main issue of plastic leakage from abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear (ALDFG), as well as from the dumping of waste by fishing vessels in the ocean. They included conducting awareness and training programs on waste management and ALDF; and attaching conditions to the issuance and renewal of fishing licenses, such as a waste management plan, reporting obligations, and the marking of fishing gear.

Following the conclusion of the waste audits and consolidation of recommendations from the Quantification and Economic Assessment work, Fiji takes lead in carrying out the process of policy review and development of policy recommendations for plastic waste leakage reduction measures in the three sectors. The same activity is expected to begin in Samoa and Vanuatu in the coming weeks. Ultimately the outcomes from this project will be incorporated into an approach that uses the learning from the project countries to develop a blueprint that essentially is a framework that can be used and promoted based on the unique conditions of the PWFI project countries, and can be used to guide other countries in a similar context particularly Small Island Developing States (SIDS) address some of these complex and difficult issues of plastic waste management.

The PWFI project is initiated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with funding from the Government of Norway to support the work on addressing the problem of plastic waste leakage from island states.

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Navigating Cooler, Cleaner Oceans

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Navigating Cooler, Cleaner Oceans

FHTA, 9 June 2022 – Over three billion people depend on the marine and coastal biodiversity of the oceans for their livelihoods according to United Nations research.

That’s almost 40 percent of the entire global population. Fiji’s ocean resources generate about $2.5 billion worth of economic activity annually, according to the National Ocean Policy released in 2020, with marine-related tourism contributing about $1.2 billion (US$531 million) to the economy each year.

The balance of ocean resources is based on the value of fishing, commercial food harvesting, mineral and marine aggregate mining, coastal protection, carbon sequestration, and research and education that is generated from the ocean.

The Convention of Biological Diversity notes that “the top 100 metres of the open oceans host the great majority of the sea life with which we are most familiar—turtles, fish and marine mammals—as well as the microscopic plankton that forms an integral part of the marine food web and provides so much of the oxygen that we breathe”.

With over 300 islands making up the Fijian Islands, our forefathers, as many other Pacific Island communities did, navigated using only the stars and sailed the seas in search of new lands and used its bounty for sustenance.

Today the ocean is just as important to us as it ever was, especially as the oceans produce over half of the world’s oxygen and absorb 50 times more carbon dioxide than our atmosphere.

A majority of the world’s trade involves some form of marine transportation.

Meteorologically, the ocean transports heat from the equator to the poles, regulating our climate and weather patterns.

Also, the ocean provides more than just seafood; ingredients from the sea are found in surprising foods such as peanut butter and soymilk and wide research continues to glean deeper insights into the opportunities to add even more of the ocean’s bounty to already refined pharmaceutical, food, decorative and cosmetic uses.

This week saw the commemoration of World Oceans Day with the appropriately named theme of ‘One Ocean, One Climate, One Future – Together’ with a call to action that reminds us that we share this same ocean and must therefore work together to conserve its biodiversity and ensure a healthy climate into the future.

2022’s Conservation Action Focus is to protect at least 30% of Earth by 2030 or “30×30”.

Around the world and here in Fiji, the bulk of tourism activities rely on the ocean as the industry’s main drawcard and understand the ocean’s intrinsic value not just for business, but for all its recognised properties.

Whether it be the stressed-out professionals looking to relax by the beach with a cocktail or head out on a kayak or view the ocean’s biodiversity in glass-bottom boats to the more serious ocean goer who prefers to surf the gnarly waves or dive at exotic locales.

The ocean well and truly touches most of the tourism sector.

It is our responsibility to protect the ocean and it is a shared responsibility we must take far more seriously because the industry shares the ocean and all its maritime resources with commercial fishermen, the aquaculture industry, the maritime transport industry, communities and Governments.

While it often feels that what we’re doing is insufficient, may not be as effective or happening at the speed that we have no doubt it should have; we are consistently reminded that with a more concerted, collective effort by everyone doing all the little things right, we can eventually ensure we meet all those sustainability goals we constantly trot out at all the right times.

We know there should be far more dialogue with communities that rely on tourism in their areas and the sea for their food and transport.

They are our unofficial guardians of the sea as most of their livelihoods depend on whatever they can harvest from the waters so they must be empowered to stand up to any wrongdoing that they see happening.

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

But with Fiji’s communal living framework, we can ensure that estimation does not happen here by providing wider awareness, more focused education and better-placed monitoring and enforcement for protecting these resources that managed wisely will continue to provide their bounty to the island nations like ours.

Tourism is considered 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.

As a Pacific Island destination, Fiji deserves to be on top of travellers’ wish lists and it’s in our hands to show them how right they were to choose us. But only if we look after these resources through sustainability practices that become a part of our everyday lives.

Because we see it so often, we usually take the sea for granted.

Embarrassingly large volumes of rubbish continue to find their way from the internal waterways via streams and rivers out to our open waters. Inconsiderate shipping companies break reefs and allow vessels to sink in plain sight of our towns and cities, further fowling the waters and delicate ecosystems below the water.

Educated people continue to toss rubbish out of cars cruising our seawalls and ocean frontage and children follow their lead by ignoring “no litter” signs.

The resulting onslaught of waste getting dumped into the oceans is slowly suffocating the ocean by killing off millions of organisms and marine stock as well as poisoning the water with toxins.

While slowly but surely reducing even further the critical carbon stock that protects the earth and all living things.

So what can you do to help; each of us has a role in this.

We must continue protecting and conserving those marine species and habitats that are especially threatened.

We must practice sustainably using resources so that we can continue to reap the benefit of these resources well into the future.

Disposing of our rubbish in more sustainable ways like recycling and repurposing as often as possible, ensuring our vessels are always sea-worthy and not leaking fuel into the sea and making sure that our diving and surfing visitors are not harming the marine ecology but enjoying its beauty and bounty and leaving it intact for others.

Small but effective ways we can all contribute.

We must protect our little patch of ocean paradise and keep it safe.

If not for us, then for the future generations.

It is our collective responsibility.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 9 June 2022)

Fiji Airways Awarded for Best Food & Beverage in the South Pacific by APEX

Fiji Airways Awarded for Best Food & Beverage in the South Pacific by APEX

9 June 2022: Fiji Airways, Fiji’s National Airline, has been awarded the 2022 Passenger Choice Award® for Best Food & Beverage in the South Pacific by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX). Fiji’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency, Mr Jitoko Tikolevu, accepted the award on behalf of the airline at an award ceremony in Dublin, Ireland on Wednesday 8 June.

Fiji Airways Managing Director & CEO, Mr Andre Viljoen welcomed the regional culinary recognition: “This recognition represents almost 24 months of care and commitment from our Fiji Airways family to take our service to an entirely new level. Fiji is open and travelling to our islands has never been better. We’re grateful to APEX and our customers for this recognition of our new in-flight menu. Our team have worked hard in offering a dining experience to our customers that is equal parts phenomenal and uniquely Fijian. If you haven’t tried our kava ice cream –– you must!”

Fiji Airways launched its new award-winning Business Class menu with multi-award-winning chef Richard Cross earlier this year, taking the airline’s catering to new heights. A highlight of the new in-flight dessert menu includes Chef Cross’s signature kava and cinnamon ice cream, as well as cookies and cream banoffee parfait, and bittersweet chocolate panna cotta. Showcasing homegrown vegetables in a new light, modern cooking and preservation techniques have been used to transform the likes of cassava, sweet potato (yellow kumala), dalo (taro) and plantain into edible garnishes you’d expect to enjoy in a fine-dining restaurant.

Cross runs regular workshops with Cabin Crew Trainers at the airline’s Aviation Academy in Nadi, Fiji, providing hands-on training for Fiji Airways Cabin Crew to ensure they can confidently execute the new techniques and deliver an elevated onboard dining experience. He also works directly with the crew on flights to ensure that the airline’s dining experience is consistent.

The airline is working on a number of enhancements in other key areas which will further enrich the guest experience with Fiji Airways.

Sheraton Fiji Gold & Beach Resort Hosts 10th Sheraton Golf Classic 2022

Sheraton Fiji Gold & Beach Resort Hosts 10th Sheraton Golf Classic 2022

Nadi, Fiji –­ June 7th, 2022 –The Sheraton Fiji Golf and Beach Resort, is hosting its 10th Sheraton Golf Classic Tournament on Denarau Golf Championship Course this week, from the 7th – 11th of June, after a lapse of two years.   More than 200 golfers from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji converged on Denarau Island to participate in this event.

The International Pro-Am tournament is the largest in Fiji and the South Pacific that has been a resounding success over the years since its inception, as it serves as a breeding ground for budding golfers who grow in numbers year on year.

The long-term partnership with the organisers of the event, the Pacific Golf Management team in New Zealand contributes to the success of the annual week-long tournament. Key support from Tourism Fiji and major sponsors such as Luxury Escapes and Sigatoka Electric including additional support from other local sponsors enable the organising team to stage a premier golf event.

Richard Ellis, Managing Director of Pacific Golf Management said that this year’s event was a sell-out and about 80% of players that played in previous years are back again this year. ‘The Fiji event is always a drawcard. We have the likes of Glen Joyner who won in the US on the Seniors Tour last week and is also part of the starting line-up. The next few days will be exciting to watch.’

Multi-Property Vice President for Marriott International Fiji & Samoa and General Manager Sheraton & Westin Resorts, Fiji Complex, Mr Neeraj Chadha iterated the importance of niche events such as Golf that target an affluent segment in our key source markets of Australia and New Zealand. The visitor economy is stimulated with Events such as these and it is wonderful to see so many players back on our Championship Golf Course.’

Participating teams are split into two groups and will play at the Championship Golf Courses on Denarau Island and Natadola Bay over the next few days.

Building Back Blue: BLUE ACCELERATOR GRANT SCHEME

Building Back Blue: BLUE ACCELERATOR GRANT SCHEME

The Blue Accelerator Grant Scheme, funded by UNDP, aims to support statutory organisations, private businesses, cooperatives, civil society organisations, non-government organisations and community-based organisations, that have developed highly promising blue economy projects that are aligned to national development priorities and have a compelling business case to support either a pilot phase or a scale-up phase. It is separate from the Blue Bond but is expected to create a pipeline of projects that could then be supported by the Blue Bond, such as through the Blue Investment Fund. This call for proposal seeks well-developed funding proposals for projects that have already done substantial preparatory works and need financial support to rapidly operationalise or scale. Projects in the conceptualization or concept stage are not being solicited by this call for proposal.

Projects that are selected through the grant scheme will be given tailored support from the Drua Incubator of the Fijian Government, UNDP’s Inclusive Growth team, the Accelerator Lab in the Pacific, and established partners from the private sector. Apart from providing technical assistance, the grant scheme will also provide performance-based impact grants to respective project proponents and help attract private sector investors such as venture capitalists and angel investors. Each project will be required to work with the Drua Incubator to establish robust impact indicators. The grant scheme will evaluate projects relative to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with particular reference to SDG 14 targets.

  • Who can apply
  • Statutory organizations, registered PBs, CSOs, NGOs, and CBOs in Fiji involved in the blue economy space and supporting gender sensitized national development or are either involved in community development in one or more of the priority areas for this grant scheme or are interested in integrating sustainable blue economy approaches into their existing programmes/projects/initiatives.
  • Community-Based Organisations (for example youth groups, women’s groups, religious groups, as well as social enterprises) that are involved in community development, are encouraged to apply with a letter of support from local/subnational government partners or registered CSOs and NGOs.
  • Applicants are encouraged to submit their letters of partnership with local/subnational government stakeholders, CSO/NGO partners, government gender machinery and government agencies responsible for climate change and disaster risk management. Selected applicants might be required to submit support letters from partner public agencies. Land access/ title rights may also need to be submitted where applicable.

Procedures of submission

  • Fill out the Funding Proposal Template and provide all relevant documents (see Annex A)
  • Include CVs of lead implementing staff
  • Please send 1 & 2 above electronically in one file (PDF format) signed and scanned to the following email: blueacceleratorgrantscheme@gmail.com. If additional clarifications are required, questions can be sent to the same email address indicated above by 27 June 2022. Answers to questions will be provided within two working days and will be posted for the benefit of all applicants.
  • The documents can be located on the UNDP website via the link HERE.

Application deadline
The deadline for applications is 30 June 2022 at 5pm Fiji time. Applications received after the deadline will not be considered.

Contact
For more information, please email the team at blueacceleratorgrantscheme@gmail.com

Tourism Fiji Launches Plan to Return to a Booming Tourism Industry by 2024

Tourism Fiji Launches Plan to Return to a Booming Tourism Industry by 2024

Nadi, 30 May 2022 – Tourism Fiji (TF) officially launched their Corporate Plan 2022 – 2024 at a media launch at the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort in Nadi today. The two-year roadmap document was shared with industry stakeholders, media and representatives’ organisations who were consulted and provided data for the plan.

TF Chief Executive Officer Brent Hill said, “We strongly believe that our Corporate Plan gives us a clear vision to collectively work towards and achieve. The plan encapsulates our values, our aspirations for our beloved destination and we’re confident it will help us truly make a difference.”

He also acknowledged the Pacific Private Sector Development Initiative (PSDI) which funded the Corporate Plan. PSDI has been helping Asian Development Bank’s 14 Pacific developing member countries achieve sustainable economic growth through business environment reform.

PSDI Tourism Expert, Sara Currie said, “ADB’s PSDI welcomed the opportunity to work with TF to set targets and goals for the two years ahead, as Fiji recovers from COVID-19. We look forward to working with TF on the corporate plan’s implementation and seeing Fiji’s tourism sector go from strength to strength.”

The TF Corporate Plan 2022 – 2024 can be found online HERE

A comprehensive consultation was conducted with Tourism Fiji staff and major sectors including the Fijian Government through the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, industry and key partner organisations like Fiji Bureau of Statistics, Reserve Bank of Fiji, Ministry of i-Taukei Affairs, South Pacific Tourism Organisation, Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association and SOFTA. It also included the creative and agrotourism sector with Fiji Arts Council, UNESCO, ILO, Association of Visual Artists (Fiji) LTD), Fiji Island Dance Association and agritourism.

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Committing To Sustainability

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Committing To Sustainability

FHTA, 3 June 2022 – Great news for Fiji’s tourism industry this week as our national marketing arm, Tourism Fiji (TF), launched its Corporate Plan 2022 – 2024.

This roadmap leading up to the end of 2024 was shared with the tourism stakeholders and Fijians generally, mapping out Destination Fiji’s vision for the next few years that are critical for the industry to more than just bounce back within, but expand into and more diligently deliver on Fiji’s 5- year and 20-year National Development Plan (https://corporate.fiji.travel/about-us).

These target 3 key Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – inclusive and sustainable economic development, sustainable consumption and production, and sustainable use of oceans and marine resources.

TF had conducted comprehensive consultation with staff and major partners including the Government through the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport MCTTT), the Fiji Bureau of Statistics (FBOS), the Reserve Bank of Fiji, Ministry of i-Taukei Affairs, as well as industry and key partner organisations like South Pacific Tourism Organisation, Society of Fiji Travel Associates SOFTA) and with Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA).

It also included bodies from other sectors like Fiji Arts Council, UNESCO, ILO, Association of Visual Artists (Fiji) LTD, and the Fiji Island Dance Association.

As an industry that at its height employs 36.5% of Fijians or provides 118,000 jobs that contribute to a FJ$3billion output; it is well recognised as a driving force of the Fijian economy.

It is therefore a responsibility we all take very seriously, to ensure we push the industry back into its top spot and that any future progress and development continues to be inclusive.

But of most interest is the renewed focus on sustainability being driven at a national level that was previously so often spoken grandly about in written development plans but only delivered on far smaller scales by individual businesses and private sector entrepreneurs with passionate dreams about ensuring marine and land ecosystems could be maintained for generations to come.

While we await MCTTT’s more overarching tourism strategies (Fijian Tourism 2021), we are thrilled to note that Tourism Fiji’s Corporate Plan articulates those very ideologies tourism stakeholders support that needed to be encapsulated in wider national development plans.

Moving these from broader strategies into more measurable objectives and goals is more important than ever now because sustainability needs to be understood and actioned at a national level to have increasingly effective outcomes.

An inclusive, economic recovery that includes SMEs and informal sectors that are very much a part of the industry adds to Fiji’s rich cultural diversity and a broad range of experiences.

“A recovery with continued development through which our people can enjoy the benefits of a uniquely Fijian industry that creates meaningful jobs and value chains promotes environmental stewardship, connects visitors to our rich culture, and delivers value to the custodians of the land and all Fijians” as the plan so eloquently notes.

And in this area, we have so much more we can and absolutely must do, but not without the help of the ministries and agencies that connect these value chains like iTaukei Affairs, iTaukei Land & Trust Board (TLTB), Fisheries, Environment, Marine & Safety Authority (MSAF), the divisional commissioners, agriculture and forests.

The plan sets the tone for a better, greener and more sustainable industry with what we believe is an achievable ambition to surpass 1 million visitor arrivals by 2024.

Provisional figures from the Fiji Bureau of Statistics (FBOS) show that last month’s arrival figures were 60.7% of arrivals for the same period in 2019 (46,680 compared to 76,813), so we have some work to do collectively.

And while that is an exciting milestone for an industry that’s just six months into reopening, we know there are still many businesses and far more interlinked workers and supply chains struggling to get back into the upswing of tourism.

It is also wonderful news for Fiji that several recently announced projects support these sustainability initiatives at different levels.

One is the recently announced United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launch of its Blue Accelerator Grant Scheme (https://www.undp.org/pacific/blue-accelerator-grant-scheme) is therefore fitting perfectly into this narrative.

This scheme is expected to identify transformative, ready to implement, blue economy projects and have them operationalized using grant-based impact financing.

UNDP has put out a Call for Funding Proposal and FHTA is supporting efforts to actively encourage tourism businesses by identifying projects that meet the criteria to apply for this funding that has sustainability at the very forefront of tourism’s continued development.

Smaller projects that are being replicated in other businesses can consider consolidating their efforts to create better momentum, while medium to large projects that have been underway for some time but need much-needed capital, resources or technical support have the opportunity to finally see these through to fruition.

Additionally, the World Bank has recently come on board with a new commitment that is expected to deliver up to 10,000 new Fijian jobs through a Jobs for Nature (JFN2) initiative through additional financing that was made possible through the International Development Association (IDA) providing credit with highly concessional terms (https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2022/05/23/new-world-bank-project-helps-create-thousands-of-green-jobs-in-fiji).

The World Bank press release noted, “The JFN2 cash-for-work program is a community-focused program to create jobs for Fijians in rural areas across the country and will be delivered with the support of Fijian village cooperatives and civil society groups, including women’s and youth groups. The program will prioritize activities including wetlands protection (mangrove planting, seagrass planting, restoring waterways); riverbank rehabilitation and coastal bank protection (mangrove planting, vetiver grass planting); biodiversity improvement (forest restoration, land upgrade through native tree planting, coral reef protection); and waste and wastewater management.”

The FJ$106million provided to the Ministry of Economy uses cash for work in nature programs which directly supports unemployment, can create an estimated 10,000 more jobs and drives the importance of sustainability more inclusively and effectively.

The project is being implemented by the Ministry of Economy, in collaboration with the Ministry of Waterways and Environment, the Ministry of i-Taukei Affairs, the Ministry of Women, Children, and Poverty Alleviation, Fiji National Provident Fund, National Employment Centre within the Ministry of Employment, Productivity, and Industrial Relations, and MCTTT.

Therefore, it is welcome news that we are thinking, planning and executing more programs, awareness, corporate and strategic planning, and fast-tracking more initiatives that are committing to Fiji’s sustainability on a national level.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 3 June 2022)

SPA InterContinental Nominated for World Spa Awards

SPA InterContinental Nominated for World Spa Awards

24th May 2022 (Natadola, Fiji): SPA InterContinental at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa, Natadola has been nominated for the 2022 World Spa Awards as Fiji’s Best Resort Spa 2022. The World Spa Awards serves to celebrate and reward excellence in spa and wellness tourism through the annual awards programme with the aim to inspire exceptional standards and connect spa consumers with the best in spa and wellness tourism.

Combining Asian, Eastern and Western treatment methods to bring balance to mind, body and soul, SPA InterContinental’s wide range of spa experiences and the caring touch of qualified therapists makes it one of the best Fiji resorts for a rejuvenating spa getaway filled with rest and relaxation.

Lachlan Walker, Area General – South Pacific, InterContinental Hotels Group said: “We are excited to be nominated alongside Fiji’s best luxury Spas for Fiji’s Best Resort Spa 2022. SPA InterContinental undoubtedly embodies the best Spa experiences to the highest standards for our guests which has been acknowledged time and again living up to the ethos of the luxury brand. I would like to show my appreciation to Kalpana and the Spa colleagues for continuing to deliver the best wellness experience for our guests and bringing True Hospitality for all to life.”

As a global brand, World Spa Awards have the unique ability, offer international status of excellence, and increase awareness to the spa and wellness industry.

Nominated among six other luxury Spa’s in Fiji, SPA InterContinental lives by the Wellness philosophy through a unique selection of refined western and indigenous organic treatments, created to soothe the soul, balance, and harmonise guest well-being for a truly rejuvenating experience.

It is the one of the few Spa’s in Fiji with Wai Zone facility for complete a Hydrotherapy experience. The Wai Zone features water in three states: gas – the steam room, liquid – the hydrotherapy pool and rain forest showers and solid – the ice room. Guests are not only able to use the Wai Zone as part of the treatment but also have pre-treatment consultation, soothing relaxation tea and snack to calm the senses as well as a post-treatment detox drink in the relaxation room.

SPA InterContinental has nine treatment rooms named after the exotic flora and fauna of Fiji as well as an expansive open-air yoga deck and relaxation zones. Guests are also able to book Cabana Massage options and experience treatments in the open to the soothing waves of the Pacific Ocean on the backdrops of Natadola Bay.

PAST ACCOLADES
2019 – Global Luxury Hotel & Spa Awards: Fiji’s Top Luxury Spa Retreat & Resort Destination
2019 – World Luxury Spa Awards: Australia and Oceania Luxury Resort Spa 2019
2018 – World Luxury Spa Awards – South Pacific/Oceania Luxury Resort Spa
2017 – World Luxury Spa Awards: South Pacific/Oceania’s Best Luxury Resort Spa
2016 – World Luxury Spa Awards – Best Fiji Luxury Resort Spa

To vote for SPA InterContinental, visit https://worldspaawards.com/vote/spa-intercontinental-at-intercontinental-fiji-golf-resort-spa-2022. Voting is now open and runs until 25 July 2022.

InterContinental Fiji Promotes Colleagues From Within

InterContinental Fiji Promotes Colleagues From Within

24th May 2022 (Natadola, Fiji): InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa has promoted two of its key leaders to recognize their expanding roles and contribution. The resort which is part of the IHG Hotels & Resorts portfolio in Fiji has promoted Shazia Mohammed to Manager – Finance and Business Support and Izak Prakash to Assistant Manager – Information Technology.

Shazia joined InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa in 2009 as an Accounts Payable Officer. Being promoted to the position of Income Audit & Cost Control Officer in 2014, she took the role of a Financial Accountant two years later. Her expertise and qualifications further moved her up the ranks to Assistant Finance and Business Support Manager in 2018. A graduate from the University of the South Pacific, Shazia was part of the Task Force that provided support to the Holiday Inn Vanuatu in March 2018 where she provided support and training on CSA Compliance for the Vanuatu team.

Izak commenced his employment at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa in 2015 as an IT Trainee. With his knowledge and experience gaining momentum over the years, he was promoted to IT Coordinator in 2019. In addition to this, he was awarded the Employee of the Month in May of 2017 and also Employee of the Year in 2019.

Lachlan Walker, Area General – South Pacific, InterContinental Hotels Group said: “At IHG, we’re excited to see our colleagues flourish, as this is one of our main goals in terms of talent development and retention. As the need for travel rises, these adjustments will enable us to better meet our company’s demands. Izak and Shazia, as well as everyone else involved, have worked diligently to ensure that we addressed the needs of our owners, stakeholders, team members, and guests, and we look forward to continuing to grow our talent as IHG expands its presence in Fiji.”

At IHG Hotels & Resorts, our people make our world extraordinary and learning never ends. IHG invests in our talent from the beginning – with the support to understand the strengths and how to take charge of their journeys. Giving colleagues everything they need to grow an incredible and rewarding career.

Sadranu first female Chair of FETA

Sadranu first female Chair of FETA

Nadi, 25 May 2022 – Debra Sadranu is the new and first-ever female chair to be appointed to the Fiji Excellence in Tourism Awards (FETA) – Board of Trustees in its 31-year history. The committee met in Nadi today for the first time this year and made the exciting announcement.

Thrilled with the news of her appointment, the founder and managing director of Essence Group Fiji, Debra Sadranu said she can’t wait to get underway with the resurrection of the Tourism Awards.

“It really is an honour for me to be appointed as chair and to be the first woman to take up the role is definitely a bonus! As I step into the role, I’d like to acknowledge the great work of my predecessor, Mr Bill Whiting, and his team for really laying a great, solid foundation for all the activities planned for this year, including the FETA awards,” Debra said.

The FETA was established in 1991 with a mission to recognise individuals and organisations, who’ve gone the extra mile to develop national tourism and inspire others to share their vision of bettering Fiji’s tourism industry.

Each year a committee is formed to organise and host the FETA awards, which celebrate the outstanding performance of those in our tourism industry that have made exceptional contributions to the industry.

“We only just had our first meeting today but already we’ve had an influx of great new and fresh ideas and perspectives for next year’s awards, and I am looking forward to getting into action with the support of my team,” she added.

Trustees also include Bill Whiting, Craig Powell, Brent Hill, Kameli Batiweti, Brad Rutherford and Fantasha Lockington.

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Fiji’s Greatest Assets – Our People

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Fiji’s Greatest Assets – Our People

FHTA, 20 May 2022 – They are the ones with the biggest smiles when you disembark the plane at Nadi International Airport or when you are checking into any of the many accommodation providers across the country.

They are the usually burly porters who lift your bags with ease onto their trolleys with beaming smiles and booming welcomes, and they are the housekeeping staff with flowers tucked behind ears who sing as they clean and refresh your rooms or move around the many resort functions areas.

They are the shy support staff wiping down tables and chairs when guests leave to make way for the next lot of guests and they are the ones happily calling out their “bula” while tending to general maintenance or trimming trees & gardens when you walk past.

They are Fiji and tourism’s greatest resource. They are our valuable and important tourism workers.

When the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns gripped Fiji, we shared the anxiety and suffering of our workers as a consequence, and as tourism now moves from a slow but steady reopening to fully operational in the next few months; ensuring worker rights and conditions are recognized as a key element in the industry’s return is more important than many might appreciate.

Hence the consistent efforts by the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) to continue with discussions commenced many years ago to recognize the importance of genuine good faith bargaining and providing a standard Collective Agreement (CA) as a minimum baseline for the tourism industry.

Earlier this week the FHTA HR/IR Sub Committee was thrilled to finally have such a document agreed to with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed off with the main workers union.

This marked the culmination of years of lengthy discussions, the collation of ongoing changes to employment legislation and the reviewing of many separate appendices and addendums being finally included into a single document that would provide a template and guideline for management staff and workers in hotels and resorts, regardless of size, with the first homogenous document of hospitality-specific positions, employment terms and conditions.

The milestone event is not just a benefit for FHTA members.

It provides a more widely accepted understanding of employee working conditions and provides clearer progression or career pathways for employees in the industry to aspire to.

As well, it recognizes the many different levels within employee categories that are usually only relevant to accommodation providers that are invariably further differentiated by property size, location and even whether they are an island, remote or mainland based.

It has been an extremely long and complicated process that required working with the Union representatives, the Ministry of Employment, law firms for legal opinions and FHTA’s many members to gain all their respective insights.

Wage rates, benefits and additional conditions may be further negotiated by individual employers over and above the document’s guidelines and it is hoped that in sharing this agreement widely, improved employment conditions and rising productivity levels become preferred by-products that in turn lift the industry’s product and service offerings.

As the Fijian economy recovers lost ground and the industry moves back into its usual frenetic pace with visitor arrivals moving surprisingly quickly into pre-COVID levels, the signing of the MOU comes at an opportune time for recognizing the importance of our people and the central role they play in this industry.

With the many segments that exist within the industry to cater for the wide product offering Destination Fiji offers, the accommodation providers have the lion’s share of employees in an industry that employs 130,000 people both directly and indirectly

And while we cannot treat all businesses in a specific sector as similar, equally profitable and therefore equally capable of providing the standard annual pay rises; we know the agreement provides much-needed clarity on previously ambiguous clauses and an improved understanding and recognition of intake and skill levels for the more appropriate remuneration.

A collective agreement can articulate work conditions, annual leave, working hours, overtime rates, holiday and evening work, etc, within the scope of, but pay scales and increases are left to individual hotels to remunerate workers fairly and according to skill sets, job descriptions and years of service amongst other role-specific, additional benefits.

We need the industry to develop and grow and are committed to fostering a climate conducive to this in return for great working conditions, higher wages and career paths, we know many employers want commitment, efficiency and productivity.

It might not always be easy to make everyone happy all the time, but if happy workers equal happy visitors in our business, then we believe we’re on the right track.

And we are nothing but happy for every single one of them who turns up to work with their biggest Bula smile.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 20 May 2022)

FHTA Conducts Child Safe Tourism and Respectful Workplaces Training

FHTA Conducts Child Safe Tourism and Respectful Workplaces Training

FHTA 18 May 2022 – The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) completed their two-day training on Tuesday 17 May 2022 on Child Safe Tourism and Respectful Workplaces Policies in Nadi for staff of the tourism industry businesses.

The two-day training launched a month-long collaboration which will culminate in the participating businesses reporting on their new initiatives that support and promote Child Safe Tourism and Respectful Workplaces through the implementation of the new policies.

This joint training provides participants with tools to recognise, respond to, and report incidents of child exploitation and abuse within their workplaces, as well as gives them insight into the indicators and effects of domestic and sexual violence, workplace bullying and harassment and how to formulate an appropriate workplace policy to respond to this.

The two pieces of training were delivered together because of the synergies they share with similar approaches to recognising, responding to and reporting incidents as well as raising awareness on both issues through policy development and staff and community education.

This training was facilitated in collaboration with the Australia Volunteers International (AVI) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) and was held at the Tanoa International Hotel.

It is no coincidence that within the next few weeks, the Fijian Government is set to launch a National Child Safeguarding Policy that would dictate child safe practices for all Government Ministries and business partners.

The Ministry for Commerce, Trade, Tourism & Transport (MCTTT) is also preparing to include child-safe practice requirements in the National Tourism Code of Conduct that is being developed that is also expected to have an extensive set of guidelines that tourism businesses will be encouraged and eventually required to adhere to.

FHTAs training program prepares participants to raise awareness within their own workforces and are equipped to provide on-training to other staff members on completion.

FHTA Chief Executive Officer Fantasha Lockington stressed the need to ensure the tourism industry in Fiji was also suitably prepared to develop safety networks and appropriate policies for safeguarding tourism staff, guests and the communities tourism worked closely with.

FHTA is committed to promoting responsible workplace practices and supporting initiatives that mirror this commitment.