Fiji says it is already experiencing a boom in demand after announcing this week that it would open non-quarantine travel to visitors from select countries, nearly two years after closing its borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The data on our website is fine; we are seeing a real increase in interest. It’s exciting and we want to encourage people to come and spend Christmas and New Years in Fiji, ”said Tourism Fiji’s Executive Director, Brent Hill.
“Our tourism industry has been waiting for this for a long time. While not everyone will be able to open on December 1, the vast majority of our industry and those employing significant numbers are well behind the announcement and ready to safely open our borders once again to the world.
“We have seven more weeks to really fine-tune our preparations, but we’ve all been working overtime since the beginning of the year, to reopen our industry to the world again. We are ready.”
Fiji will reopen its borders to fully vaccinated travelers from countries such as the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and most Pacific Island countries as of November 11, although the official reopening will be on December 1, when the first The country’s scheduled sightseeing flight on the national airline, Fiji Airways, arriving.
Visitors must have a negative Covid test three days prior to arrival and must also take a rapid test upon arrival. Tourists and returning residents will have to undergo hotel confinement for two or three days, respectively.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said the country was “fully confident in our ability to manage the risk associated with travel without quarantine.”
“Our planes are ready. Our airports are adapted. All Fiji hotels and tour operators in Fiji will be certified under the Care Fiji Commitment Certification program, which will require that all hotels and tours meet the highest standards of comfort, health and safety. “
Bainimarama said hotels would have to ensure access to comfortable and well-stocked isolation facilities and medical care, such as tests, routine cleaning of staff and escalation protocols in case positive cases are detected.
‘No jab, no work’
The easing of travel restrictions and quarantine requirements comes after the government launched an aggressive vaccination campaign; 96.6% of the target population aged 18 and over have received their first dose, while 80.3% have received both doses.
The government’s “no needles, no work” work policy for civil servants and private sector personnel, announced in July, forced many Fijians to get vaccinated.
Fantasha Lockington, director of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association, said months of preparation had gone into planning the reopening.
“The industry has been closely watching our core Australian and New Zealand markets and its own vaccine management and border management, because the reopening of Fiji must eventually coincide with these countries allowing their citizens to travel here,” he said.
“Those tour operators that have remained open have been ready with the required health protocols, even though these openings may be at reduced capacity or only open intermittently.
“But nonetheless they have been ready and have been able to survive with limited local demand, as well as the smaller but quite lucrative influx of visitors through our Blue (yachting) and VIP Lane initiatives.”
Lockington said it had been extremely difficult for smaller operators with restricted movements to restrict even local tourism, as many operators needed confirmation that their key markets could travel to more confidently plan their respective reopenings.
“From a resort perspective, they have to factor in the cost of a closed resort that maintains its operations with a skeletal staff to keep things running, versus when they go fully operational with higher overhead and open with all staff on deck and fully stocked restaurants and bars. again, but still no income until your guests have arrived, ”he said.
Before the pandemic, tourism contributed almost 40% of Fiji’s gross domestic product, around 2 billion FJ dollars (1.4 billion Australian dollars), and directly or indirectly employed more than 150,000 people. But as visitor arrivals fell 87%, the economy slumped 19% in 2020.
“Despite economists continuing to say otherwise, Fiji could surprise everyone with what it could start with a gradual recovery gathering momentum,” Lockington said.
“The Fijian diaspora around the world is very interested in seeing family and friends and has shown massive support with interest in reservations long before the announcement. They are planning to vacation here knowing that they will support more Fijians to get their jobs back. “
Fiji’s fastest growing markets over the past five years were India, South Korea, China and New Zealand. Australia remains Fiji’s largest market, with the number of Australian visitors growing at an average rate of 2%. Since 2013, tourist arrivals to Fiji have increased by an average of 5%.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism