Tourism Talanoa: Our New Board

Tourism Talanoa: Our New Board

FHTA, 3 September 2020 – 2020 marks the 55th year in operation for the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA), making this year our Emerald anniversary.

After being delayed due to the current pandemic, our Annual General Meeting finally took place on Thursday 27 August, in line with our FHTA Constitution and following consultations with the Registrar of Companies regarding the timeframe for AGMs.

The highlight of every AGM is the election of members to the FHTA Board of Directors. After several departures in 2019 and earlier this year some through contracts ending and some departures totally unexpected, there were eventually nine open director vacancies during the 55th FHTA AGM.

The AGM paid a fitting tribute to tourism icon and past President Dixon Seeto whose notable absence since his untimely passing last year was felt by all who knew and worked with him. This somber reminder was echoed in the address from Association Life Member, Hafiz Khan, who fondly recalled Dixon’s vast experience and deep passion that was always available to guide and steer the industry.

The full board of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association for 2020-2021 are as follows:

  • Allan Gortan – representing Paradise Taveuni Resort
  • Azam Khan – representing Hexagon Group of Hotels (Hexagon International Hotel Villas & Spa, Suva Motor Inn)
  • Bradley Robinson – representing Raffe Hotels & Resorts (Lomani Island Resort, Fiji Gateway Hotel, Plantation Island Resort)
  • Brian Kirsch – representing Robinson Crusoe Island Resort
  • Francis Lee – representing Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort & Spa
  • Lachlan Walker – representing Intercontinental Hotel Group (Holiday Inn, Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa)
  • Narend Kumar – representing Tanoa Hotel Group (Tanoa Plaza Hotel, Tanoa International Hotel, Tanoa Apartments, Tanoa Skylodge Hotel, Tanoa Waterfront Hotel, Tanoa Rakiraki Hotel)
  • Neeraj Chadha – representing Marriott International Inc (Sheraton Fiji Resort, Sheraton Denarau Villas, The Westin Denarau Island Resort, Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay)
  • Nicholas Darling – representing Volivoli Beach Resort
  • Patrick Wong – representing Viwa Island Resort
  • Robert Speed – representing Captain Cook Cruises Fiji
  • Steven Andrews – representing Castaway Island Fiji
  • Tammie Tam – representing Warwick Hotels & Resorts (Warwick Fiji, The Naviti Resort, Tambua Sands Beach Resort, Tokatoka Resort)
  • Tarun Patel – representing Vision Investment Ltd (Hilton Fiji Beach Resort & Spa, DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Fiji, Sonaisali Island, Tadrai Island Resort)
  • Viliame Vodonaivalu – representing Grand Pacific Hotel, FNPF
  • Vincent Macquet – representing Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa (Novotel Suva, Novotel Nadi, Pullman Nadi Bay Resort, Mercure Nadi)

The officers elected during the AGM were Brian Kirsch as President with Tammie Tam and Tarun Patel serving as Vice Presidents.

The Board Directors come from diverse backgrounds and experiences and represent members from the northern, central, eastern, and western divisions; further broken down into the Mamanuca & Yasawa Island areas, the Coral Coast, and Sun Coast, as well as representing the now approximately 60% locally-owned tourism businesses in Fiji. The mix of large, medium, and small operators also ensures all member interests are covered comprehensively.

“The last twelve months have been extraordinarily challenging for our industry, and our members are still navigating a broad range of issues that range from keeping our employees and customers safe, managing cash flows, reorienting operations in the new normal to planning for reopening in a still unknown timeframe,” newly elected President Mr. Kirsch had noted at the AGM.

He also added that supporting the membership in addressing these challenges, providing clarity and advice on constantly changing situations, and ensuring that communication was efficient and proactive, was even more critical for the Association to provide now, more than ever.

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association Secretariat and membership extends our heartiest congratulations to the 2020-2021 appointed Board members and Office Bearers and wish them well for their term on the FHTA Board.

This board has its work cut out for them as they will lead FHTA through what is undoubtedly one of the toughest times of Fiji tourism as it navigates itself out of the current doldrums brought about by COVID-19 and border closures.

However, buoyed by Government’s targeted relief from import and excise duties as well as reforms in its tax structures from the National Budget, FHTA has been actively planning for the return to business pending the restart of global commercial travel.

There are general optimism and a firm belief amongst tourism stakeholders that there are unique opportunities to invigorate the economy with the introduction of policies that provide stimulus and can accelerate growth by incentivising job retention, sustaining tourism SME’s and protecting vulnerable groups, while also promoting more investment in the industry. Once international tourism recommences, every effort will need to be made to generate much-needed revenue for the flow-on effect to be felt throughout the economy.

And while no-one is under any illusions about the hard work ahead of the industry to pull itself back up, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the effort must be collective, consistent, and done with the same perseverance that this industry is renowned for in dealing with set-backs from climatic, economic and political upheavals. Even though, this crisis will take out all the records for being the most unpredicted, the hardest to recover from, the longest, and the most devastating.

Only with this collective effort can Fiji tourism look to begin earning its pre-COVID share of Fiji’s National Gross Domestic Product, which stood at 46 percent in 2019.

Another highlight of the FHTA AGM was the passing of a Special Resolution to apply a fifty percent discount on Annual Dues for 2020 for all members of FHTA. This discount is applicable to all members on the member’s registry as at 01 January 2020.

Done in consideration of the financial hardships faced by all the Association’s members due to the downturn in the economy caused by the international pandemic, while taking into account the continued work of the FHTA Secretariat, members welcomed the initiative that would assist with cash flows and operational costs.

Members were also updated at the AGM on the Association’s continued efforts to create opportunities, consult widely, and lobby strongly for its members as it has been doing over the last year.

This included liaising with relevant Government Ministries, agencies and statutory bodies, consulting widely with tourism stakeholders in both the private and public sectors, and ensuring that all tourism businesses get the support they need to be compliant, develop in the industry and grow the economy.

While it may be considered a far more difficult challenge for the industry to get back on its feet now, the work has started in earnest, preparations are well underway and while the real struggles of our smaller members are recognised, the industry remains hopeful by continuing its collective efforts to prepare, respond and recover with anxious expectations on international travel commencing by early next year.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 3 September 2020