Tourism Talanoa: Our Care Fiji Commitment

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FHTA, 22 October 2020

2020 will be remembered as a year defined by adjustments and pivots.

Everyone from hotels to bands to schools has been forced to make changes on the fly to best navigate the constantly changing state of global affairs and if you have not already done so, it is time for everyone to do the same.

And many of us involved in tourism has been busy working on our own recovery plans and how we can help others with theirs.

Last week the Care Fiji Commitment program was officially launched by Tourism Fiji at the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport offices.

This comes at a critical time for tourism operators in Fiji as this program will set the standard for the industry with regards to operations in the New Normal.

The main aim for the entire exercise is to reassure potential travellers that Fiji is safe, that we know how to keep you safe and that we are serious about protecting our workers and our communities when the borders open.

To get everyone on board with what must be practised industry-wide, the Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) demands everyone’s obligation to agree that they will comply by registering their business, receiving the information, links, training and collateral and allows access to downloadable action plans that are simple to follow and incorporate as part of existing policies and procedures.

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) played an integral part in researching and finalizing the minimum COVID-19 Safety Standards and the Standard Operating Procedures portion of the CFC program that was compiled in consultation with stakeholders from the tourism industry, the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Transport and Tourism (MCTTT), through the Tourism Recovery Team and endorsed by the COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Taskforce and Ministry of Health and Medical Services.

The long and widely consultative process has achieved a milestone outcome where the industry now has a comprehensive minimum standard by which tourism businesses, their staff, customers, and suppliers can easily incorporate and comply with.

While specific details are provided for accommodation providers, they are simple enough to be tailored for use by restaurants, bars, retailers, tour operators, transportation providers, offices and most areas where staff and customers are involved.

The identification and training for Wellness Ambassadors, who will take the lead role as a business’s in-house COVID-19 safety champion has been introduced as part of the program to indicate the business’s commitment to have one or more trained staff that will train other staff, monitor customer behaviour and be ready to assist in contact tracing and other best practice COVID-19 safety protocols.

All businesses compliant with the CFC will be able to be recognised clearly by customers, suppliers, wholesalers and booking agents.

Tourism operators in Fiji saw the need for this Commitment very early in the pandemic and this exercise has been several months in the making with many minds and hands collaborating to ensure its successful launch and subsequent implementation. Visitors, local and international, can then be reassured upon arrival in Fiji that their entire journey is safe.

With global travel coming to a halt, over 80% per cent of Fiji’s tourism sector has become unemployed. Some of these tourism workers have been rehired or are doing more hours now with the “Love Our Locals” domestic tourism focus on right now. Many more will be reemployed when international travel resumes, so Fiji is ensuring the resources being put into place will fortify the industry for a strong economic comeback.

The natural move from the workplace, to taking the main messaging of practising good hygiene, social distancing, not sharing equipment and utensils and wearing masks when in confined spaces and in the company of people other than your close family, into our communities is then expected.

Fiji is not alone in moving through these phases as countries that are as heavily tourism reliant globally have taken similar steps to enforce the new safety programs, get tourism businesses aligned, train staff and move this messaging into communities.

Tourism dependent Jamaica, for example, has included training COVID-19 Ambassadors within their communities. The Bahamas and Hawaii have released videos on national TV and social media platforms to reaffirm the hygiene reminder protocols with Hawaii enacting a new law making the wearing of face masks mandatory in public.

While it has not been discussed at any great length by anyone, the industry hopes the steps it is taking will also be mirrored by other industries that come into close contact with thousands of customers on a daily, physical basis. Tourism touches almost every other business by default and everyone needs to practice a safer workplace.

Earlier this week, Tourism Fiji held a webinar session with industry stakeholders as they gave an overview of what the CFC will entail and how it will work.

Once implemented industry-wide, Fiji hopes that the communication of our success at implementing these processes to our key target markets will provide the required confidence to create further interest in bookings and maybe even to convince the
relevant ministries here and across the ocean that we can plan on opening those borders soon.

Lockdowns and enforced isolation have resulted in travellers desperate to take vacations away from their current surroundings, with money to spend, and Fiji is well placed to provide this, given the right environment. The increased enquiries and bookings still being made reflect this.

FHTA is doing all it can to assist tourism industry stakeholders to prepare well, make the commitment, and adopt the safe practices to ensure that Fiji can safely reopen its borders for visitors.
We also strongly encourage all tourism operators, regardless of size and activity, to register their expression of interest with Tourism Fiji to ensure that they are not left out.

Barring the success and global distribution of a vaccine for COVID-19, the next best step for Fiji is mitigation and working with containment and doing our very best to ensure we keep our people safe now and in the future.

As we continue to focus our efforts on getting international visitors back to our shores, it in no way diminishes the positive effects that domestic tourism has had and is appreciated by the industry.

We remind everyone again, to enjoy the facilities provided during your stay and leave it better than how you found it, for the next person to enjoy.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 22 October 2020)