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)