As Fiji’s largest foreign exchange earner pre-COVID-19, the tourism and hospitality sectors went into free fall when international borders closed due to the spread of the pandemic, and the nation entered into lock down mode.
Up to 112,000 workers were out of work almost overnight, most of whom worked in Fiji’s hotels and resorts. Most of them are now surviving by drawing on their life savings at Fiji’s National Provident Fund.
As workers adjust to the new normal, Fantasha Lockington and her team at the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association have been busy helping members to prepare for the wholesale operational and indeed, cultural changes, the industry requires.
She explains some of these changes in an interview with Islands Business publisher, Samisoni Pareti:
Fantasha Lockington: We’ve worked with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Tourism for COVID safe guidelines to be put in place. The Association is using those guidelines as a baseline for what we do in the tourism industry.
Obviously the larger branding properties would defer to their overseas brands or their sister hotels overseas to incorporate the requirements that get rolled out throughout the hotels. But we want to make sure that our medium and small size operators that don’t have those linkages can also do best practice themselves. So, we’ve used the government’s COVID-safe guidelines and we are putting more details into it that identify with the different tourism segments.
The idea is that we ensure that we provide the confidence level that potential visitors would need for them to actually book. Fiji will need to have every single business buy into this COVID-safe guideline. It can’t be just tourism businesses that need to do it. If you’re a bank and your clients are tourism businesses, you must be implementing these things too. If you’re a supplier of some sort, and you’re going to have to drop off some supplies at a hotel you need to do this as well.
That includes downloading the Fiji Care app, and already at the hotels if you check in now, they will be scanning you at the entrance of the door, they will be taking your name, they will be reminding you to download the app. Fiji Airways is making it compulsory to download the app to make sure they can do contact tracing. We’re just putting together the last part of the plan which will determine the training section of what the Ministry of Health would also need in terms of the special medical practices.
If somebody is sick what do you do, what are the processes, how do you isolate them, who do you call, and then what is the process that works from there. Every possible scenario or question has to be responded to.
I will be working with TLTB (iTaukei Land Trust Board), FITBA (the backpacker’s association), SOFTA, the transfer vessels and companies that take tourists out to the outer islands. They are not all our members out in the islands, so we want to be able to touch base with them and I’m hoping that TLTB can assist us do that, and we’re signing an MOU with them very soon to promote a closer working relationship with locally owned businesses that they work with.
Read the full interview at https://emag.islandsbusiness.com/