FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Towards Constant Improvement

FHTA Tourism Talanoa: Towards Constant Improvement

FHTA, 10 March 2022 – Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn, and you will.

Wise words indeed from the “Lion of London”, Winston Churchill.

It is often hard enough to stay motivated about the need to continue to improve ourselves, never mind keeping up with our continual learnings for work-related skills, whether in a classroom or in life.

Learning is an essential element of our existence. Just like food sustains our bodies, information and continued learning nourish our minds, build a wider collection of skill sets and build stronger confidence for more successful businesses that are better prepared for innovation, competition and problem-solving.

This is true for the tourism industry in Fiji and around the globe as we continually look to make our destination safer, compete with tourism destinations with far more marketing spends and ensure we are better prepared to overcome the expected challenges that come with a destination and industry like ours.

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association (FHTA) commenced its annual training program earlier this month, having actively listened to member challenges over the last 2 years that covered managing COVID safety, guest isolations and testing protocols, along with dealing with staff during business closures and the HR issues around letting staff go and bringing them back.

We have participated in discussions to get SME businesses back online, supported efforts to access concessional loans and consulted widely to get all segments of the industry regulatory compliant when it was difficult to do so while cashflows were low or depleted.

This, therefore, requires a range of flexible and often redesigned, targeted training programs that consider the industry’s geographic spread, varied sizes and segments and more critically, its extensive groupings of workers.

Training kicked off with the first of many more planned weather map awareness sessions that were conducted by the Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS).

This allowed tourism stakeholders to learn the intricacies of weather forecasting and to support weather map interpretation; not just to maximise customer, staff and business safety, but to also enhance business planning for sales and marketing and enable decision making that could potentially save money.

This has proven to be a success and is scheduled to be a monthly affair for members to get better at utilizing the FMS suite of products and services that are often not taken advantage of because few understand their critical importance.

Tourism is an industry that likes to be prepared, especially on anything weather-related. After all, some key reasons that Fiji is a preferred tourism destination are its wonderful weather and location.

Earlier this week FHTA rolled out its subsequent programs – a two-day COVID Safe Training for staff of tourism businesses, in collaboration with the Australia Pacific Training Coalition (APTC) and with the generous support of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

And completing the tailored training for the medical aspects was the team from the Ministry of Medical & Health Services (MOHMS) and staff from the Fiji Centre for Communicable Disease Control (CDC) that was led by the very capable Dr Aalisha Sahu Khan.

The MOHMS team provided the hands-on training for in-house COVID testing, compliance and reporting, with updates also included for the online Tamanu e-reporting database used by them.

The database access is being expanded to include private labs, pharmacies that will also be providing Rapid Antigen Tests and hotels for test reporting.
The current minimum 3-night pre-booked hotel stays required for all visitors entering Fiji is being phased out, with pharmacies around Fiji being included as approved Rapid Antigen Testing sites.

Visitors will soon only be required to show a confirmed booking for a hotel, or a confirmed and pre-paid booking for a Rapid Antigen Test at one of the approved locations to be done 48 hours after their arrival.

The industry training dovetails with this rollout that ensures MOHMS and CDC are aware of where the tests and result reporting is being done and ensures that these are carried out by staff who have been had medical supervision with the training, as well as complying with the testing protocols that are subject to inspection.

ILO Director for the Pacific Island Countries, Mr Matin Karimli opened the training and very succinctly noted that our collective efforts to provide safer environments not only support keeping our borders open but also create more decent job opportunities across the industry’s widely linked value chains, and in turn impact economic recovery and the growth Fiji needs right now.

These efforts reinforce our commitment to identify, develop and deliver the supportive mechanisms required to enable businesses to reopen, remain open and hopefully continue to grow as they might have without the forced interruption of the pandemic.

Tourism properties in the central division turned out in numbers to access the 2-day training session that now equips them with the confidence and toolkits to train other staff members in their individual businesses.

The second day was led by APTC who delved into Micro-Credential courses specifically tailored to the tourism sector.

These covered new protocols for ‘COVID Safe Dining In’ as well as ‘Dealing with Difficult Customers’ and created an opportunity to discuss the current challenges of integrating COVID safe compliance with customer service delivery and customer expectations.

It might not be widely appreciated that focusing on COVID compliance can often distract our service providers from offering their usual Fiji-friendly customer expectations and that losing front line staff to COVID illness and/or greener (and less stressful) pastures has often meant newer and less skilled staff have had to fill gaps.

By recognising and then addressing these challenges, we hope COVID compliance becomes second nature to the industry and that our usual Bula Spirit shines through to ensure Fiji can continue to maintain its competitive edge.

Small things perhaps, but we have no doubt they will make a steady but effective difference because all things start and stop with Our People in this industry.

This training will be conducted in the Western Division later in the week and if sufficient demand warrants, in the Northern Division too.

There are more training opportunities lined up for the calendar year as we ramp up efforts to make COVID compliance second nature and ensure that as the industry becomes part of a very critical layer in MOHMS’ border control efforts, we play our part to ensure consistent applications of these necessary protocols supports their data collation and any new variant identification and subsequently more rapid containment.

This is a collective commitment to ensure safety remains paramount and that we never have to close our borders again.

By: Fantasha Lockington – CEO, FHTA (Published in the Fiji Times on 10 March 2022)