Fiji says it is already experiencing a boom in demand after announcing this week it would open up quarantine trips to visitors from some countries, almost two years after its borders were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic .
“Our website data is up – we’re seeing a real surge in interest. It’s exciting and we want to encourage people to come and spend Christmas and New Years in Fiji, ”said Tourism Fiji Managing Director Brent Hill.
“Our tourism industry has been waiting for this for a long time. While not everyone can open on December 1, the overwhelming majority of our industry and those who employ significant numbers are very behind the announcement and ready to reopen our borders safely to the world.
“We still have seven weeks to fine-tune our preparations, but we have all worked overtime since the start 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 from November 11, although the official reopening takes place on December 1, the date of the country’s first regular tourist flight on the national carrier, Fiji Airways, will arrive.
Visitors must have a negative Covid test three days before arrival and also take a rapid test on arrival. Tourists and returning residents will still have to undergo hotel lockdown of 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 prepared. Our airports are adapted. Every Fijian hotel and tour operator in Fiji will be certified under the Care Fiji Commitment Certification Program, which will require all hotels and tours to meet the highest standards of comfort, health and safety.
Bainimarama said hotels should ensure access to comfortable and well-provided isolation facilities and medical care such as testing, routine swabs and escalation protocols if positive cases are detected.
“No jab, no job”
Relaxation 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 received their first dose, while 80.3% received both doses.
The government’s “no jab, no job” labor policy for civil servants and private sector staff, announced in July, has forced many Fijians to get vaccinated.
Fantasha Lockington, head of the Fiji Hotels and Tourism Association, said months of preparation had been spent planning for the reopening.
“The industry is closely monitoring our major markets of Australia and New Zealand and their own management of vaccinations and border management, as the reopening of Fiji must eventually coincide with these countries allowing their citizens to travel here.” , she said.
“Those tourism operators who have remained open have been prepared with the required sanitary protocols in place, even though these openings may be at reduced capacity or only open intermittently.
“But they were nonetheless ready and were able to survive on limited local demand, as well as the smaller but fairly lucrative influx of visitors through our Blue (yachting) and VIP Lane initiatives.”
Lockington said it had been extremely difficult for small operators with restricted travel limiting even local tourism, with many operators needing confirmation that their key markets were allowed to travel to more confidently plan their respective reopenings.
“From a resort’s point of view, they have to factor in the cost of a closed complex maintaining operations with a small staff to keep things in place, versus when they become fully operational with higher overheads. raised and open with all staff on the deck and fully stocked restaurants and bars. again but still with no income until your guests have almost arrived, ”she said.
Before the pandemic, tourism contributed nearly 40% of Fiji’s gross domestic product – about FJ $ 2 billion (A $ 1.4 billion) – and directly or indirectly employed more than 150,000 people. But while visitor arrivals fell 87%, the economy fell 19% in 2020.
“Even if economists continue to say otherwise, Fiji could surprise everyone with what could start as a gradual recovery that gains momentum,” Lockington said.
“The Fijian diaspora around the world are really eager to see their family and friends and have shown overwhelming support with an interest in bookings long before the announcement. They plan to take their vacation here knowing that they will help more Fijians find their jobs.
Fiji’s fastest growing markets over the past five years have been India, South Korea, China and New Zealand. Australia remains Fiji’s largest market, with Australian visitors increasing at an average rate of 2%. Since 2013, tourist arrivals to Fiji have increased by an average of 5%.