FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Embracing Diversity, Inclusion and New Expectations

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Embracing Diversity, Inclusion and New Expectations

FHTA, 26 August 2021 – It is true that when tourism in Fiji is rebooted, it must be geared toward more sustainable practices.

These are principles that refer to the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, and a suitable balance must be established.

It can only benefit Fiji in the medium and long term. However true sustainability cannot be achieved without diversity and inclusion in all areas.

This will be critical as we build Fiji back better.

The global tourism market is in tatters due to the pandemic and once the rampant virus has been reined in, we can expect a rush on consumers as we have never seen before.

All the world’s hotspots will be pushing their deals and attractions to attract visitors to their locales but this global reset is an opportune time to try and better understand consumer travel preferences and habits.

Tourism can no longer rely on the ways of old to entice potential tourists and recent studies have shown us that these travellers will demand far more from their destinations and their newfound freedom to travel.

Travellers have also changed their priorities and Fiji must adapt or lose out to other destinations.

When we listen and celebrate what is both common and different, we will undoubtedly become a smarter, more inclusive and successful industry.

If we put ourselves in the shoes of the traveller and consider all that they will undergo before, during and after their trip to our shores, we can redefine ourselves to improve our service delivery and product offerings.

This is slightly different from the usual 360-degree check on what you’re offering with an actual “take a walk in the customer’s shoes” to see how you would be perceived by a paying customer. And this might not apply just to tourism businesses, but to any business with customers, they need to capture and retain.

This is going to be a critical element to understanding the post-COVID traveller and it correlates eventually to our national economic success as we come out of the current abyss of high unemployment, low revenue and reduced demand.

Our tourism products, services and our marketing efforts must all be geared towards diversity and inclusion. If you haven’t already, you should be continually asking if your current marketing activity is only aimed at your traditional key markets or whether it is now more inclusive of wider or even newer markets.

Whether we are reaching a wider audience than pre-COVID times because of COVID’s impact on different parts of society, different regions and even different demographics.

While some consumers have indicated a preference for all-inclusive pricing with quality value positioning, others have completely changed their preferences based on whether they want to socialise with people and cultures more or select from options offering wide open spaces and all things nature-based.

Such has been the impact of lockdowns, months of separation, working from home and limitations on the freedom of movement that there is a whole plethora of data available now, including the spotlight on mental health issues.

In the wake of the constant lockdowns and restrictions due to the pandemic, there have also been protests, riots and pushbacks to regain those freedoms, with an avalanche of these being vocalised via the internet on blog sites and social media and no doubt mountains of submissions to government representatives globally.

Many governments around the world have been caught between facing criticism if they fail to adequately protect their populations from the virus or if they remove certain freedoms as part of their often well-meaning, science-based protection measures.

It has been long debated that governments have applied public health measures and economic stimulus with varying intensities and as a result, have experienced very different results on mortality and their economies.

And while this debate has raged for close to a year, what is increasingly clear from reports is that no country has been able to keep its economy moving well without taking control of the virus at the same time.

As a small island nation, therefore, facing the same “enemy” with far more financial, social, medical and economic disadvantages; our responses to the pandemic might not be perfect or popular, but as we near what we believe might be the final leg of the home run to reopening of borders, it is way past time to be looking ahead with our rapidly increasing vaccination rates allowing us to plan accordingly.

The focus is now on what we are learning and what the last sixteen months of survey statistics are telling us as a weary world looks to free itself from limited freedoms of movement.

We know more and more people are appreciating nature and outdoor activities than ever before and that never has the focus on taking a holiday overseas been such a global trend.

This change in perspective can be built into our tourism products and services, or extended to incorporate them because we have the resources available that can be harnessed with a bit of effort.

These same analysed surveys and in-depth studies have placed more importance on people’s mental and physical health and wellness.

An area that Fiji and the Pacific Island’s generally have always done well as part of the many facets to our tourism offerings.

But apparently, this is not just for us to consider for our international visitors.

Health and wellness must also be part of the responsibility of organisations for their staff wellness.

Personal wellness allows people to be improved versions of themselves, balancing their life and managing stress and therefore your customers’ needs.


Travellers have indicated a preference for more cultural immersions with a strong sustainability component woven into it, and Fiji is more than capable of offering this especially now that we are increasingly demanding and addressing issues on climate change and protection of the pristine environments that we are protagonists for.

This goes beyond the swaying palm trees and white sandy beaches that epitomises Fiji and increasing our options that will undoubtedly value add to the unbeatable element of unique Fijian relaxation.

The tourism sector in Fiji must evolve with the times and everything must now be accessible to the potential visitor through their devices – most of all, their smartphones.

How ready will you be? Does your target market know what you have and can they see what you have to offer? Will they be able to book directly? Is there room for price concessions? What does your website look like when viewed on a smartphone? Is someone answering a phone contact or email you have provided?

It might be marketing 101 but we are in new territory now and the “same old” is not going to give us the competitive edge we desperately need.

The internet can be a lawless wasteland but if harnessed correctly, it can be the best money and skill you spend to get your product out there.

We are getting ready to must ensure that eventually all of our future visitors receive an experience like no other, that they have no hesitation in talking about and spreading positive information about their holidays in Fiji.

For that to work, it will take a collective effort from all stakeholders in tourism and that includes the people taking or changing their bookings, the flight attendants, the taxi and bus drivers, the cleaners, the entertainers and the tour guides.

Before they even get to their resort room and the adventure that awaits.

A weary world once let loose will be looking for Fiji’s ancient “Sega Na Leqa” that has been in place long before they knew they needed “Hakuna Matata”.

No worries. We always had this.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 26 August 2021)