Sep 20, 2018 Last Updated 4:57 AM, Sep 13, 2018

1 million and counting

Region pushes for more tourists

CAUTION – the one word that describes the response of regional tourist destinations to a World Bank reports which predicts revenue gains of up to $US1.8 billion per year and 128,000 jobs by 2040. Launched at the South Pacific Tourism Organisation’s annual board meeting on the Gold Coast, Australia, the report suggested significant gains with careful and sustainable planning around emerging visitor.

The Pacific Possible: Tourism report, will now be circulated for public comment with responses expected from member countries within six weeks from May 23. Initial concerns expressed by SPTO members centre on environmental sustainability and the effects of an influx of tourists from the burgeoning Chinese market. Cook Islands Travel CEO, Halatoa Fua, said waste management was a problem for many small Pacific island nations – particularly atolls like the Cooks and Kiribati – even with current population size and visitor numbers.

“Additional arrivals are good for the economy but we will need to consider these against the impact on the environment and the sustainability of very fragile ecosystems,” Fua said. “Sustainability of the environment is crucial to survival of our tourism industry. “Waste management and water sanitation are two areas which we will need to address very carefully when it comes to developing tourism.”

The World Bank report has recommended four key strategy areas for attention: improving international transport links to the region; attracting higher-spending tourists; improved public sector engagement; and improving linkages between tourism and local economies.

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The big push North

THE Chinese and Indian markets has been the focus of many Pacific hotels, airlines and travel companies at a tourism exchange on the Gold Coast last month. Chinese tour companies who attended the Bank South Pacific –sponsored Australian Tourism Exchange were prime targets for the Pacific because of the growing affluence of those markets. Despite a recent slowdown in China’s economy, its growing middle class with the means to travel is a potential major source market for the region.

“There was a huge number of Chinese tourism buyers at the Australian Tourism Exchange and they are looking for destinations which the Pacific can offer,” said South Pacific Tourism Organisation Acting CEO, Alisi Lutu. Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau CEO, Josefa Tuamoto, said opportunities existed for partnerships between Pacific destinations to access more of the Asian market. “China is big, very big and not all Pacific countries have the flight connections or the rooms needed to cater for such a large market,” Tuamoto said. “But working together it’s possible for various destinations to take a small number of Chinese visitors each and then move them on to the next country.”

Fiji is the only Pacific destination other than Australia or New Zealand with direct links to China. The big push North ‘ ‘ Papua New Guinea and Fiji have direct flights to Singapore and Hong Kong while PNG also has services to Indonesia and the Philippines. Tuamoto said the challenge was for Pacific airlines, tour companies and destinations to work together to develop attractive, efficient and cost effective packages for visitors.

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Vanuatu revival time

Ready for business after repairs

VANUATU is back on line after two major disasters – Category Five Cyclone Pam in 2015 and the closure of the runway at its international airport early this year. Cyclone Pam took out the hugely popular Iririki Island Resort and the Holiday Inn as well as destroying infrastructure and smaller hotels. Coupled with the refusal of Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand to fly into Bauerfield International Airport, Port Vila, due to poor runway conditions, visitor arrivals fell to 80,000 – the lowest level since 2003.

With repairs to Iririki completed and the Holiday Inn Port Vila to come on line this month, Vanuatu Tourism CEO Linda Kalpoi is confident of a dramatic resurgence. “We’re looking at a 10 per cent increase in visitor numbers this year,” Kalpoi said at the South Pacific Tourism Exchange on Australia’s Gold Coast.

“Support for us here at the SPTE has been great – our buyers have been really understanding of the situation and they are enthusiastic about the products we have to offer “This is definitely good news for us.” The Bank South Pacific-sponsored event drew around 60 global buyers and 150 regional sellers over two days at Sea World Resort.

“I’m very confident that our numbers can come back up to 110,000 a year very quickly. We’re working hard with a number of partners and Vanuatu will capitalise on a number of projects around the region.” One of those projects is Fiji Airways’ direct services to Singapore.

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Bank pushes tourism presence

THE growing middle class in China and India means more travellers from those markets over the next five years. It also means possible investment outside those two economic giants in smaller countries, including the smaller Pacific countries which are in desperate need.

The mix of tourism and investment is a marriage made in heaven for travel companies, national economies, investors, entrepreneurs and – of course – banks. Last year the ANZ Bank recognised that potential when it sponsored the South Pacific Tourism Exchange in Melbourne Australia.

At the time the bank pointed to its belief in tourism and its presence in the region as reasons behind its sponsorship. Speaking to Islands Business, ANZ’s Head of Emerging Corporates, Saud Minam, said the bank was committed to expansion throughout the region while providing financial support for communities.

“We recognise the potential tourism has in the Pacific and we want to show that we are part of this region, a major part of this region.” This year, however, the bank has reviewed its marketing strategies and decided not to sponsor the event. Even the much-publicised ANZ one-stop shop Regional Tourism Desk based at its Nadi, Fiji branch has been downgraded.

The void was immediately filled by Bank South Pacific who pumped FJ$55,000 per annum for three years as sponsors of this major regional event. 

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Singapore - the new focus

FIJI’S national carrier has embarked on a twice-weekly service to Changi International Airport, Singapore, casting aside New Delhi and Shanghai. The airline’s intention is to use the new destination as a hub from which to link to Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Operating the Airbus A330, Fiji Airways can carry around 400 passengers on the route and is currently running at around 25 per cent capacity with a huge marketing plan in progress. With fierce competition among airline flying out of Singapore, Fiji has recognised the possibility that flights may not be easy to fill immediately.

Finance Minister Aiyaz SayedKhaiyum told local media that the Fiji government would provide certain subsidies to the national carrier. He did not specify the form or duration of the subsidies designed to keep the route viable while Fiji Airways attempted to grow the market. An airline marketing teams was in Singapore before and after the HSBC Sevens leg there to push the brand and Fiji as a destination. The airline was also a major sponsor of the tournament with billboards around the National Stadium advertising cheap fares to Fiji. Manufacturers believe Singapore is the right choice.

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Guide to the 49th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting – Nauru 2018

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