FHTA, 14 January 2021 – With all the lessons we’ve learned over the past 10 or so months, are we, as an industry, prepared for what the year 2021 has in store for us?
Being a small island developing state, Fiji was lucky to be able to identify and isolate the COVID-19 risk once it arrived on our shores.
Following that, we have been successful at containing confirmed cases at our border quarantine facilities.
But just because the virus isn’t present in our communities at the moment, does not mean that we can risk complacency.
And thus, we plan and strategise. We anticipate and research. We modify and we communicate.
All of this to build up a stringent business framework that is more resilient in light of recent global events.
The tourism industry has been meeting and actively discussing the ins and outs of these trying times and how best to move forward as a collective, for the betterment of the industry.
When the Care Fiji Commitment was rolled out, many tourism operators jumped at the chance to adapt to the new normal and adjust their standard operating procedures to the minimum required standard from Government, to stand a chance to welcome visitors back to their properties.
This included more open dialogue with their staff as to the change in hygiene and sanitization of rooms and public access areas. This also contains the implementation of new policies to govern the property at all times and if necessary, should there be an active case of COVID-19 in their midst.
These changes have been successfully tested out on the domestic tourism market who flocked to hotels and resorts during the Love Our Locals campaign instigated by Tourism Fiji.
While hiccups remain, we hope that these are ironed out before the borders are opened and visitors eventually touch back down in Fiji.
Properties will need to plan how they will respond to the prospect of absent employees who may refuse to work in light of the threat of COVID-19. Lack of manpower may adversely affect tourism operators, in particular the larger properties who need many hands to help move their operations along positively.
Supply chains will have to be bolstered in preparation of the border openings. As of late, many suppliers of goods and services have seen a slight improvement in the demand from hotels but it is currently not at the level of pre-COVID-19 times.
There were usually contracts between suppliers and hotels but given the state of the market at the moment, alternatives arrangements might need to be made in ensuring that goods and services are readily available. Dealings with a single supplier may not work as well as before, given the local market.
Modifications to service delivery are not only expected, it will be mandatory. When visitors finally set foot in the country, they will be required to follow the Vacation In Paradise (VIP) lanes which will ensure that contact between tourists and locals is greatly minimised.
This will be the norm until COVID-19 and its variants are eradicated and even then, the VIP lanes may stay for a while as there will always be a risk of infection and transmission.
Tax breaks and payment holidays were quickly implemented at the start of the pandemic but businesses may need more assistance for as long as the status quo remains. Fixed payments like rent and loan repayments haven’t magically disappeared and these will need to be addressed once things change for the better.
In the meantime, Government is sincerely urged to consider more advantageous measures and stimuli to ensure businesses do not wind up in light of the global shutdown.
Tourism will definitely assist in moving the country beyond the pandemic and this is done by bringing people together and promoting unity and trust.
We will stand together to ensure that our communities and our country recovers well from the current situation.
UNWTO estimates that by 2050, 68% of the world population will live in urban areas, while 80% of those currently living in ‘extreme poverty’ live outside of towns and cities.
But with Fiji’s communal living framework, we can work together to ensure that estimation does not happen here.
Tourism is a lifeline, offering workers a chance to earn a living where they live, or get a skill and use it to travel further for a richer experience.
We deserve to be on top of travelers wish lists and it’s up to us to prove to them that they were right to choose us when the time is right.
By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 14 January 2021)