FHTA, 1 July 2021 – Hindsight, they say, is 20/20.
The ability to sit back and analyse and dissect past events or instances is a joy that most, especially critics, can find solace (or pleasure!) in doing.
There has been quite a few should-have, could-have and would-have but they don’t change the fact that we are where we are right now.
This second wave has consistently recorded 300 plus confirmed COVID cases daily for the past few days and that tells us that the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 is no average virus for which most vaccines were initially planned to protect us from.
Even our neighbour to the West, Australia, is grappling with several community outbreaks of the extremely contagious out Delta variant, with a wave of restrictions rolling across the country and plunging some cities into lockdown for the first time since the pandemic began.
Sydney, Darwin and Perth have gone into full-blown lockdowns and light restrictions have been implemented in Adelaide and Canberra.
Australia has not reached our numbers of infections and confirmed cases in the current situation and the rapid response with mitigative measures have been put into place to counter their currently low vaccination numbers.
Fiji’s total vaccinated adults is around 7 percent of the target recipients, or 80% of our total population, with 49 percent having received the first dose of vaccine by the 29th of June.
The outbreak in Australia pales in comparison to Fiji’s but both nations enjoyed a charmed life in the early days despite the global pandemic due to the rigid rules that were implemented from when international borders closed.
New Zealand has paused its Trans-Tasman bubble for a few days as Australia manages this new wave of infections and we have no doubt that Fiji is paying close attention because these two nations are our tourism industry’s key target markets.
Visitors from these countries accounted for at least 75 percent of total visitors into Fiji pre-COVID.
We believe we were actually getting closer to being included in the Trans-Tasman bubble until the current wave started. Or at the very least, being considered.
So, we know what we’re capable of, what is required of us and, we have a fairly good grasp of what lies ahead.
We just need to tame this beast in front of us.
How? And this might start to sound like we are repeating ourselves (and we are), but it is clear to those of us in the tourism industry that getting vaccinated, following the current health regulations and changing our current behaviour is our only chance to get out of this.
By staying in our own bubbles, washing or sanitising our hands, keeping our distance from others and avoiding crowds. By calling 158 or 917 if you see gatherings or other violations of Fiji’s health measures. By being the best patriotic versions of ourselves and doing the right thing, at the right time.
Many of us fail to realise how difficult this might be for many people to actually do though.
If the only way you know to survive is to go out and sell your fresh produce, the baked goods you prepare daily, the items you sew each night or to do work you are paid daily for; your alternative options are limited.
If you choose to stay home because it is deemed safer, or because they locked down your residential area, then you must rely on others to provide the food you can no longer buy, with money you could not earn.
The reliance on others to support you and your family may impact your self-esteem and if this support comes late or intermittently, can also affect your mental health.
Just a few areas that many of us that are more fortunate may not fully appreciate.
On the positive side, our rugby 7s teams, both the men’s and women’s teams, had a wonderful weekend of rugby this past week and they have provided some very positive messaging for fans to follow in their successful strides by getting fully vaccinated.
Even our rugby champions have been vaccinated to not only protect themselves, their teammates and families, but to ensure they could travel abroad and play against any other team.
And yet, we are still seeing resistance in many of our communities.
The tourism industry has been at the forefront of getting all employees vaccinated and this has probably been easier to implement in an industry that has had to implement the COVID safe protocols early.
That is not to say we have not faced some resistance, but only that we have had more time to work on our collective communication efforts and monitor where we need to work harder on efforts.
This is despite the vast amounts of misinformation and well shared false claims on the virus and/or the vaccine. Suddenly social media is awash with overnight medical ‘experts’ extolling the virtues of not getting the vaccine.
These false prophets might be harmless enough but can be disruptive if they are believed and become self-professed influencers.
But we can and must learn from them to derail them at their own games.
What can each of us do to get the right messages out and ensure we protect Fiji?
Speak out on the positives. Share your stories and why protecting your family, friends, colleagues or customers is important.
Share your pictures. Explain the science and provide the evidence. Talanoa, listen and discuss the concerns people have and help them to understand.
In the language of preference, by people they respect and will heed or at the very least to consider.
While we still have some way to go for a fully vaccinated industry, there are many operators who are already happy to share their success because they know they have a critical layer of protection in place, and can now focus on their reopening strategies.
We are extremely proud of the bulk of our tourism staff who have been loyal and fully onboard with what it means to be vaccinated. Thousands of them rushed to their nearest vaccination station and did their bit despite the naysayers.
And that’s how the entire tourism fraternity continues to plan for receiving international guests, despite the current wave of infections and negative press.
We are focusing on survival.
We are focusing on recovery.
We are focusing on coming back better and stronger.
We need our staff to get back to work.
We need our tourism business machinery to start humming again to make Fiji the destination of choice again.
We need our suppliers to get to work so our once fruitful relationships can recommence.
We need all the ancillary SME businesses we cannot do without to be back up and running again.
Bottom line, we need our national economy to begin to hum again.
Sounds simple? That’s because it actually is.
Spread that positive vaccination message.
By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 1 July 2021)
Tourism Talanoa: Stemming the Flow
FHTA, 1 July 2021 – Hindsight, they say, is 20/20.