FHTA, 14 April 2022 – It has been a testing 24 months for the tourism industry in Fiji and no doubt around the world.
But things are always felt a little more poignantly in the Pacific, with our size, distance and smaller economies of scale affecting our ability to absorb and bounce back differently from far larger economies.
Looking back now, it often seemed our ability to recover kept getting hampered by one thing after another.
But we have managed to get our bearings back with Fiji’s tourism industry clawing its way back to be able to stay on par with the rest of the world in terms of getting back to normal.
Whatever “normal” now looks like.
Some would even dare to say that Fiji led, in that regard, at least in the region.
Now into our 5th-month post reopening, the national airline has moved on to increase flight frequencies based on demand, the national tourism office is strengthening its marketing efforts in our key markets and beyond, while tourism operators have brought a larger workforce back online, are adjusting to higher visitor numbers.
These visitor statistics will probably outdo even our more positive expectations, but of more interest to tourism, stakeholders are the data showing visitors are choosing to stay longer (and therefore see and do more), and that many of these visitors are first-time travellers to Fiji.
Both bits of information is exciting to us for a few reasons. Longer visitors’ stays mean more money is spent in the economy as people generally move around during their longer-term stays to try out different accommodation and restaurant options, see as many regions around Fiji and try out a range of activities from diving to adventure sports.
The tourism dollar is therefore stretched further and deeper into communities and a larger collection of businesses.
The impact of first-time travellers to Fiji is also exciting news because it provides some insight into how potential travellers are perceiving Fiji as a holiday destination post- COVID, and have chosen to come here for the first time, provides some understanding into whether our destination marketing efforts are paying off and whether the collective support to get Fiji into its safer reopening mode was worth all the considerable effort.
It appears both efforts are to be applauded.
Additionally, it speaks to Fiji’s timing of the reopening coming on the heels of the confirmation of a highly vaccinated population, with tourism stakeholders committing to safety practices that together created the confidence for first-time visitors to choose Fiji over their previously preferred destinations that may not have been as prepared.
At least not by the time they were ready to travel anyway.
We can then hope that the visitor experience while here will be so positive, that it will reinforce the change in their future holiday plans and that they join thousands of other lovers of Fiji that return year after year.
Every tourism operator in the chain of businesses those visitors come into contact with – from check-in to airline, airport arrivals, transport, hotels, restaurants, bars, shopping and activity or entertainment experiences – all contribute to the overall Fiji experience and value chain.
Such is the impact and marketability of our globally recognised Fiji destination brand – that we all contribute to in some way.
And it is not just visitors coming in as tourists to Fiji that are part of this wide circle of collective experiences.
Included in these visitor numbers are returning Fijians who are visiting family and friends while taking a break at a resort, as well as local citizens and work permit holders doing the same thing.
And what better time to do just that than during the upcoming long Easter weekend.
The Fijian weather has settled down to sunnier skies and cooler temperatures, which give way to deeper hued sunsets that are picture-perfect for sipping cocktails and endless postings of pictures.
And those picturesque holiday images will provide just the right tinge of envy on social media posts that will do even more to convince more visitors to come over.
Local travellers should be aware that international visitors have usually booked months in advance, with many taking up their holidays kept in “credit” by airlines, hotels and resorts because they could not travel during the border closures.
Early bookings are therefore necessary. Especially now.
Because of the constant need for accommodation providers to be always ready for sudden COVID outbreaks; they must keep a certain percentage of their rooms aside that will not be sold so that if isolation of positive cases is required, families can be separated as part of safety protocols.
There are other mitigating factors however that add to how we are managing safer environments and these include a continuation of some of the safety mechanisms that have been adopted as part of everyday operations (staff wearing masks, sanitising surfaces, the increased use of hand sanitisers, use of air purifiers in conference rooms, etc), and that is the very nature of what most Fijian holidays are about – beaches, open-air, sunshine and all things marine.
Mask wearing is optional and getting out in the fresh, open-air is the easiest way to have a safer holiday.
So depending on what you want out of a Fijian holiday, and whether you have already booked you and your family somewhere exciting; here’s hoping the Easter holidays provide you with your idea of a perfect holiday.
Being where the sunset can be seen with a cocktail in your hand is the next best thing.
A happy and peaceful Easter to you all.
By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 14 April 2022)