FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Come On Over

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Come On Over

FHTA, 21 October 2021 – If indications of recent online activity are anything to go by, Fiji is looking good for the planned official border reopening on 1st December.

Our tourism family has been overwhelmed by the number of bookings coming in, especially from our Vuvale partner Australia.

This comes in the wake of Government’s recent Fiji Day announcement on the firm dates for our borders opening up again for international visitors.

Our borders will open up to fully vaccinated travellers from the United States, United Kingdom Australia, New Zealand, most Pacific Islands countries and others, with the “green zone” country list advised as being expanded and updated consistently.

Visitors must have a negative COVID test three days before arrival and also return a negative rapid test 48 hours post-arrival to warrant unrestrained travel anywhere in Fiji.

Tourists and returning residents will need to do at least a three-day hotel stay to have their whereabouts accounted for before that test, during which they will still be able to enjoy COVID-safe approved sights and activities for the duration of their observation period.

While the New Zealand government is advising its citizens not to travel internationally (and we understand their current hesitancy), we are working hard to prove that we can maintain a safe environment for all travellers should they decide to pack a bag and head off our way for some fun and sun.

As we watch vaccination levels move slowly around the world, New Zealand’s fully vaccinated rate sits at 55 percent this week and across the Tasman Sea, Australia’s vaccination total is 56 percent for fully vaccinated adults.

Media reports in Australia note that many families there looking for a tropical getaway are feeling more and more confident planning a holiday to Fiji than domestically, and this is largely due to our commendable vaccination rate now at around 84 percent for eligible adults (and still rising), and may also be an acknowledgement that we are remaining cautious with our current demand for COVID -safe practices for work, play and public behaviour.

There will be several ‘no-go’ areas for travellers but thanks to our vaccination rate, these will continue to reduce and visitors can still visit a large number of tourist hotspots around the country.

Kudos to the great work from the teams at the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and the Fiji Government for this achievement that has laid a sturdy foundation with which the tourism industry has built its COVID-safe protocols to be able to finally reopen.

We are now looking forward to all that hard work for a safe reopening paying off.

The framework for the reopening isn’t set in stone, and it certainly should not be, but it does provide a solid base to build confidence.

During these past two years with the tourism sector grinding to a halt, far too many lives and businesses have been affected in the process.

In the Pacific, livelihoods were more than just curtailed when incomes collapsed. It had a crippling effect on families forced to make decisions about where they lived and what they had to sacrifice to earn a living.

The access to the land, sea and the strong bonds of family or vuvale kicked in to look after one another either directly or through remittances being sent home, which for Fiji has seen the biggest increase – overtaking tourism earnings in the last month while tourism remained stalled.

But as we have pondered what level tourism comes back on and which safety frameworks must be in place; it has been a complicated and exhausting series of deciding between planning for the worst-case scenarios or adopting a cautionary approach with several safety nets ready to go.

Suffice to say that with just under 2 months to reopening, we have a little of both in place with discussions still ongoing that we can drop, amend or adopt alternative health measures based on a mixture of the evolving science, country-to-country agreements and the good doctors’ increased confidence level with the industry doing what it says it can, and will.

Our readiness levels are high, our national airline is primed, our accommodation providers, tourism stakeholders and suppliers are bursting ready.

Ready also because most of the last 22 months has been spent understanding the changing science around COVID, and studying the unfortunate mistakes of countries around the world dealing with a virus that has been able to stay alive thus far.

We will consistently maintain as we have done before, that businesses, tourism or otherwise; must realise that entrenching layers of strict controls against (pandemic) disease into their operations, such as safe air, increased ventilation and masking when needed, will ensure that their businesses are far more likely
to remain open and not be subject to disruptions, nor lose key staff or customers to illness.

Of the many things that will change and evolve as the months move on, this preparation will remain constant for some time yet.

We have seen some massive vaccination figures come through in the last few months, solidifying a national effort to kick COVID to the curb and get those international borders back open again.

As bookings roll in for the peak Dec period and look to be changing even into our traditional trough months of January and February, excitement is rippling through many tourism businesses as they increase their staff numbers, spruce up their resorts and get their vessels, vehicles and activity products compliant.

Everyone wants to make the reopening work.

And everyone with any attachment to the industry is busy making sure they know what to expect and include the safety compliance requirements that now go with getting a Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) certification or approval to indicate they are ready for visitors.

Without a CFC certification or approval, visitors will be advised to avoid doing business with you.

That’s how serious the industry is.

We need Fiji back in the Best Places to Go for A Holiday list and for anyone worrying about how safe it is to travel to select Fiji based on our preparations to welcome them back safer.

Fiji’s tourism mantra is ‘Let Happiness Find You’ and we know our visitors will find that happiness when they get here.

And when they’re happy and safe, Fiji will be happier. And safer.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 21 October 2021)