Tourism Talanoa: FHTA Holds Historic 55th AGM

Tourism Talanoa: FHTA Holds Historic 55th AGM

FHTA, 27 August 2020 – The global headlines in the 1960s were dominated by the Vietnam War, the assassinations of the US President John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King and the first man on the moon.
Here in Fiji, amongst other things, the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association also came into being during these historic mid-Sixties.

Originally established to look after the interests of hotel operators, the Association has grown from strength to strength as the country’s premier tourism body that has lent its membership’s collective voice in support of the evolution of the industry as Fiji’s strongest foreign exchange earner, tourism’s exponential growth, related infrastructure development and recognition of the iconic Fiji brand.

An integral part of the industry now; the Association continues to lobby and advocate for its membership interests that progress opportunities and investments through reviewing the ease of doing business and provides consultative input on the cost of doing business in a rapidly developing pacific island country .

In the mid-2000s, membership was opened up to Dive operators and a few years later, Marine operators and eventually Yachting became a part of the Association to embrace the diversified segments that operated under the tourism umbrella.

The membership ranks also include Associate members who are indirectly part of the tourism chain as a supplier or distributor significantly influenced by tourism businesses, their employees, trends and infrastructure.

Later this afternoon (Thursday 27th August), FHTA convenes its Annual General Meeting on Denarau Island in Nadi. This will be the 55th AGM in FHTA’s history, making this our Emerald anniversary; one of several firsts that this AGM will mark.

It will be the first time in 21 years of consistent annual AGM’s that FHTA’s President of 16 years and much-loved mentor will not be gracing with his presence, having left us a year ago with his untimely passing. Dixon Seeto was a titan in the tourism sector with a wealth of experience and fortitude that was immeasurable and still missed.

It will also be the first time that an AGM will be attended via Zoom as well as in person, during a historical and unprecedented time when the tourism industry is in a forced hiatus. And yet, in contrast to how hiatus’ generally go, this one has not only gone on now for almost 6 months, and quite likely to continue for a further 6 months, it has been anything but quiet. Instead, it has also been a time of consistent adjustment, transformation and forced pivoting for the entire industry.

There has never been a time historically, where while negligible or no income is possible, that businesses have had to review their human resource needs, restructure and amend strategic plans, reconsider products and services and plan for the adoption and implementation of new hygiene practices and marketing strategies.

As the global travel lockdown persists, tourism around the world has been affected and Fiji, being so reliant on it, has been spared the tragic health repercussions but has fared no better than everyone else economically.

During FHTA’s historic AGM, we will vote in new and dynamic members to join our board to lend their expertise and diverse backgrounds to steering the industry back to the pinnacle of what private sector as the engine of economic growth must continue to be.

Creating jobs, increasing trade, providing products and services and generating required tax revenue to fund basic public services such as health and education.

COVID-19 might have thrown us all for a loop and businesses may not be the same again for a long time. We understand implicitly how severely our members and their employees have been impacted and will be working with all of them to implement the new normal of COVID Safe standards expected around the world to instil the levels of confidence needed by potential visitors to confirm travel when the world opens up for travel again.

We continue our consultations and discussions with the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport and the Ministry of Health & Medical Services to set the standard for Fiji’s new health guidelines in terms of what is expected of all tourism operators in the country. It is difficult and often complicated work, but people’s livelihoods depend on the new framework being approved, implemented and in operation as quickly as logistically possible.

Our economy depends on getting these practices becoming second nature in our places of work, homes and public spaces. As does the alignment of the new marketing strategies also being developed and planned concurrently by the national airline and all tourism operators keen to be first cabs off the rank when those borders open.

We also continue our collaborations and consultations with the Ministries of Fisheries, the Maritime Safety Authority (MSAF), Ministry of Transport and the Land Transport Authority (LTA), Investment Fiji, the Immigration Department, the Department of Environment, the Fiji Revenue & Customs services (FRCS), the Fiji Higher Education Commission, USP, FNU, the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC), the Fiji Commerce & Employers Federation (FCEF), Fiji Competition & Consumer Commission (FCCC), the Consumer Council, the Accident Compensation Commission Fiji (ACCF) Fiji Airways, Tourism Fiji, Society of Fiji Travel Associates (SOFTA), South Pacific Travel Organisation (SPTO), Fiji Independent Travel & Backpackers Association (FITBA), Airports Fiji Ltd, the Ministry of Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, the Employment Relations Advisory Board, the various legal fraternity, the Unions, the Ministry of Economy and Departments of Energy and Communications, EFL and Water Authority, the iTaukei Land Trust Board, the Fiji Bureau of Statistics (FBoS), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), ADB, the Reserve Bank of Fiji and the Association of Banks in Fiji (ABIF), the many High Commissions and foreign embassies.

These are just some of the many platforms the Association meets with to navigate tourism’s business processes, obtain legislation clarity or amendments, or develop partnership programs and support with.

FHTA continues to work on understanding what the changing key membership priorities and challenges are in the current economic environment to enable the most advantageous partnerships and cooperation for viable and sustainable solutions.

We will remember Dixon’s timeless legacy by ensuring we continue to work towards that which he had the most passion – “it was good for tourism only if the whole economy benefitted”; a conviction that defined who he was and one that we continue to support with the same passion.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 27 August 2020