Tourism Talanoa: Planning For Opening of Borders

Tourism Talanoa: Planning For Opening of Borders

FHTA, 10 September 2020 – Our Blue Lanes have resulted in a positive turnout with 62 yachts of various sizes choosing to take advantage of one of Fiji’s COVID Safe economic Recovery initiatives implemented on 01 August 2020.
Port Denarau Marina has reported many yachts and pleasure craft sailing into the harbour to quarantine themselves for the balance of the required 14 days if the sailing time was shorter and the Marina team have indicated that there were likely to be more vessels due to pass through in the coming weeks.

While the quarantine period remains at 14 days, the good news for sailors is that travel time from your destination is counted in that period provided you had uninterrupted travel from your departing port. Many visitors, with the means, have taken advantage of this offer to berth and enjoy Fiji’s currently quiet cooler season.

With the cyclone season in the Pacific looming, however, yacht owners will have the added challenge of being able to move from Fiji to Australia or New Zealand to wait out the season in time as insurance cover becomes invalid if a vessel remains in a recognised cyclone area anywhere in the world.

One of the required documents that visitors must bring with them is a negative RT-PCR test for COVID-19 from an official laboratory.

RT-PCR stands for Reverse Transcription s- Polymerase Chain Reaction. It is a method for detecting the presence of specific genetic material in any pathogen, including a virus.

The test detects the genetic information of the virus, the Ribonucleic acid, which is only possible if the virus is present and someone is actively infected.

It is not yet clear how long an immunity period after a Covid-19 infection will be.

Research shows that those who survived the 2003 sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak had antibodies in their blood for years after recovery.

Both SARS and COVID-19 are caused by coronaviruses, but it is unknown whether COVID-19 will generate a similar immune response. There have also been some cases where people have been infected twice with COVID, meaning these patients did not develop any immunity at all.

So right now, the world waits with bated breath for scientists, as one portion races to find a vaccine while another portion studies the genetics of the COVID virus to find out more about it and its legacy.

It seems so long ago that Fiji made the tough decision of closing the borders at the end of March but the focus on keeping the Fijian population safe has remained steadfast.

The tourism industry understands implicitly that we will be ready for visitors when we are sure we can continue to keep our people and our communities safe.

It is not difficult to understand therefore that discussions with New Zealand and Australia about committing to any Bubble talks, Bula or otherwise, maybe still some time away.

We know that more than 75 per cent of visitors to Fiji in 2019 were from New Zealand and Australia and with tourism’s multiplier effect throughout the economy, there is a heavy reliance on these markets from all sectors. All the more reason, therefore, that the industry is fine-tuning its efforts on COVID safe guidelines and practices and the concerted efforts to establish visitor confidence as part of a comprehensive safe opening strategy.

With cautious optimism building for when those borders eventually get opened, preparations are also underway for the Fiji Airway’s led Bula Bubble Campaign and the competitive holiday packages they will develop and oversee with tourism partners.

Fundamental to these initiatives being considered is the adoption and practice of the COVID safe guidelines, the competitive value for money packages being offered and the acceptance and practicality of how the VIP Lanes will operate.

What is equally essential is the training of our tourism workers in the new normal and the support of the entire industry and supply chains.

FHTA is currently working on a standard document regarding new COVID-safe operation guidelines for the industry, that is a collaborative effort with Tourism Fiji and the Ministries of Tourism and Health & Medical Services. All aspects are being reviewed, including the required commitment from tourism operators, staff and Wellness Ambassadors training, supply chains involvement and adherence to expected protocols and enhanced Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) for everyone involved.

It is clearly understood by all of tourism’s many segments – accommodation, air, land and sea transport, activities, tours, restaurants, and bars; that every facet of a visitor’s journey must be covered.

Critical to this is our tourism workers’ health and wellness and ensuring that we maintain our newly adopted standards so that we can continue to keep our communities and our people safe.

It is one thing to have the framework guideline in place and it is another thing to see that it really is being committed to, enforced and practised; so here too FHTA will be working with our partners and the authorities to make sure that all of this is widely practised and adhered to.

There must be no room for complacency and there will be absolutely no acceptance of excuses for why anyone in the industry has not adopted, accepted and is ready to practice the new guidelines when they are rolled out.

It has been mentioned in our many Tourism Talanoa columns in previous months, and we say it again – we can only achieve this through collaboration and teamwork.

Because together, Fiji can do this.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA

Published in the Fiji Times on 10 September 20207