FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Ready, Set, Go

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Ready, Set, Go

FHTA, 2 September 2021 – What is the value of a minute to you? Is it an individual measurement tool or do you feel that it plays a part in the big picture?

How much does your time matter to you now in this pandemic season?

Time is a great equalizer and it is our most valuable commodity.

We can certainly give time to something but we’re surely not going to get any more of it than we’re owed.

In the tourism industry specifically, time is money and if time isn’t being used productively to secure a bottom-line, it is considered wasted. And right now, when your revenue earning capacity has been severely depleted, anything wasted, including time, is nothing short of throwing money out the window.

The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus continues to rage against the masses.

Just when countries think they’ve defeated it, another case pops up in the community.

Our neighbours and key tourism markets Australia and New Zealand find themselves now dealing with an enemy that we hope we’re seeing the tail end of here, as a new wave slowly makes its way through their populace.

While acknowledging people will get sick, Australia has listed the reasons it could get on with the new normal and treat COVID like other infectious diseases: achieving vaccination targets, a strong public health system, retaining common-sense public hygiene measures, and using more effective treatments for Covid-19.

The Aussies fully expect case numbers to rise when retractions are relaxed as inevitable.

The World Health Organisation reports that globally, as of 30 August 2021, there have been 216,229,741 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 4,496,681 reported deaths.

By now Fiji is well-versed with the devastation that the virus can and has created and, it has been a painful learning experience for island populations where communal living exacerbates the virus’s ability to rapidly move through communities where sharing resources and close living circumstances is normal.

Despite this, in the next few months, the country will hit its target of fully vaccinated adults which will be the precursor to opening up those borders that we know have been shut now for 18 long months.

According to WHO records, as of last weekend, a total of 4,953,887,422 vaccine doses have been administered worldwide.

As of 29 August, 558,944 adults in Fiji have received their first dose of the vaccine and 266,608 have received their second doses. This means that 95.3% of the target population have received at least one dose and 45.4% are now fully vaccinated nationwide, with expectations that these figures will continue to increase.

So as discussions and plans for what the reopening framework will entail getting fine-tuned, tourism continues its steady preparation to greet the world.

Whether we open in November or December, not every business will open at the same time, preferring instead to manage their openings based on booking numbers and factoring into their preparations the long list of compliance requirements that must be in place first.

The tourism sector will be keeping an ear to the ground to find out what travel protocols will be implemented to ensure safe surroundings and travel for both the visitor and the local staff.

If our potential visitors will have to quarantine upon arrival for the usual 14 days, there is no doubt this will be a deterrent to many potential travellers because realistically, visitors aren’t interested in spending two weeks locked up in a hotel room.

But if it is based on how bad the COVID situation is in their countries of origin then it would make more practical sense.

A solid line of thinking, however, asks why, if Fijians are vaccinated and our guests are vaccinated, is it still necessary to enter quarantine at all?

Especially if the visitors have had to undergo a PCR test for COVID-19 before arrival at our International Airport.

If we have widespread cases, active and recovered, of the Delta variant and our guests come from countries who are also going through second and third waves of infections, why do guests have to enter quarantine?

There is more acceptance now that COVID-19 will never be eradicated and that we would do well to learn to live with it.

Globally, it may very well replace the common flu and booster shots of the vaccine may become commonplace for everyone, post full vaccination.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States has approved travel for millions of vaccinated Americans who have started planning trips abroad.

Several countries in Europe, Asia and Africa have started welcoming international visitors but with new and unique rules for vaccinated travellers.
Visitors in Hawaii are being offered free vaccinations with additional shopping discounts and giveaways. All of this is courtesy of the State of Hawaii and the Hawaiian taxpayers.

Thailand’s private sector is proposing a Bangkok Tourism Sandbox model, hoping for the re-opening of businesses, but with customers limited to vaccinated people.

Fiji’s own Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) will prove to be very important when potential visitors are booking their trips because we fully expect that the CFC will help to instil confidence and trust in our COVID-safe processes, internally and externally.
American actor Milton Berle said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

For us, that’ll mean having to appeal to new markets to widen our pull. If Australia and New Zealand do not get a handle on the current outbreaks, we may have to look elsewhere for visitors and their dollars.

Time will tell. And we already working against the clock.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 2 September 2021)