FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Peak Interest, Peak Season

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Peak Interest, Peak Season

FHTA, 30 June 2022 – It was renowned American industrialist Henry Ford who once said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

This rings true for Fiji 8 months after its successful reopening and as its tourism industry continues to grow in leaps and bounds after the pain and havoc that the pandemic caused.

Last week saw the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) successfully hold its 57th Annual General Meeting (AGM).

It was the first AGM to be held post-pandemic and tourism operators voted in a new board and enjoyed the network with peers to exchange information or discuss the state of the industry over the last few months.

Tourism operators share a lot in common although they work as individual and often competing businesses that are used to coming together and collaborating effectively as similar segments or parts of the same region to achieve common grounds for the benefit of the entire industry.

Held at Hilton Fiji Beach Resort and Spa, the AGM was well-attended by members and associate members who heard a recap of the Association’s past twelve months of key activities, whilst also voting in new board members and discussing industry trends and issues.

Brian Kirsch of Likuri Island Resort was voted back in as the FHTA President.

He will be assisted again by Vice Presidents, Tammie Tam of Warwick Hotels & Resorts and Narend Kumar of the Tanoa Hotel Group.

It has been enormously rewarding to see FHTA members come through their most challenging period, with the bulk of operators moving steadily back into full capacity since the December 1 reopening with the determination and tenacity that reflects tourism’s continued resilience.

FHTA’s consistent advocacy to address member issues in all possible forums has been at the forefront of its efforts and in doing so, its collective focus is still firmly on ensuring the industry can continue to develop and grow in sustainably managed environments.

We have cultivated and nurtured relationships with every conceivable industry stakeholder because we know that it takes many hands to make the work lighter.

To this end, a regional and sector-diverse Board provides direction and expertise to help guide the Association into a position where it can serve its members more efficiently and robustly.

The full FHTA Board of Directors currently stands as follows:
• Brian Kirsch (Likuri Island Resort Fiji) – President
• Tammie Tam (Warwick Hotels & Resorts) – Vice President
• Narend Kumar (Tanoa Hotel Group) – Vice President
• Lachlan Walker (Intercontinental Hotel Group)
• Allan Gortan (Paradise Taveuni)
• Steven Andrews (Castaway Island Resort)
• Viliame Vodonaivalu (Grand Pacific Hotel/FNPF)
• Bradley Rutherford (South Sea Island Cruises)
• Josephine Smith-Moffat (Musket Cove Island Resort)
• Adam Wade (Vuda Point Marina)
• Neeraj Chadha (Marriott International Inc)
• Vincent Macquet (Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa)
• Azam Khan (Hexagon Group of Hotels)
• James McCann (Yasawa Island Resort & Spa)
• Kaydee George (Wyndham Resort Denarau Island)
• Simon Doughty (Volivoli Beach Resort)

The new Board will take the helm as the tourism industry heads into what is hoped will be a period of sustained recovery and eventual growth after the severely challenging last few years.

As waivers for tax amnesties come to an end this month and payments of loan principals and interests resume, it is imperative that the industry work hand-in-hand to climb back to its preeminent position as Fiji’s highest foreign exchange earner.

And not just in ensuring we get visitor numbers back.

FHTA has continued to push for sustainability inclusion in policy and practice from a national perspective with the need to be far more environmentally friendly with business practices because our environment is a key part of what brings visitors to our shores.

Having seen firsthand the destructive nature of climate change increase exponentially over the years and the high costs of addressing this damage to environments, infrastructure, communities and business recovery generally; we have recognized the urgency and implications far earlier, and therefore have always taken it more seriously.

Unique opportunities exist to invigorate the economy with the introduction of strategies and policies that provide stimulus and accelerate growth through incentivising job retention, sustaining tourism SME’s and protecting vulnerable groups, while also promoting more investment in the industry.

While economists have downgraded their earlier statements about the potentially slow recovery of the industry and have since come out with more positive indications and projections, only time will tell if the industry will flourish once again to pre-pandemic levels.

Too much has changed in the post-COVID world of travel to expect that it will ever go back to “business as usual”, but the 2-year “travel pause” has given us better insight into destination preferences and choices.

From traveller expectations, reasons for travel and the length of stay, to where they go and why; people’s choices have been forever impacted by concerns for health and safety.

Not just their own health and safety, but that of the people and communities around them, as well as that of nature’s ecosystems that we tend to interact with more closely during travel.

Sustainability therefore must play a bigger role in everything we do and not just from tourism stakeholders.

It must be replicated as part of a larger national priority to ensure we make a far more impactful change in efforts to address climate change domestically and globally.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 30 June 2022)