Apr 21, 2018 Last Updated 5:28 AM, Apr 19, 2018

FIJI is still the number one tourist destination in the Pacific region attracting a little over 840,000 visitors last year with a total estimated earnings of US$4.3 billion from all countries in the region. And authorities are projecting a 2.2 million tourist arrivals to the region by 2020.

The provisional tourist arrivals for the 18 member countries of the South Pacific Tourism Organisation is 2.13million for 2017.

Fiji’s visitor arrivals increased by 6.4 per cent last year due to strong growth in tourist arrivals from New Zealand, the United States of America and Australia.

Cumulative to February, visitor arrivals rose by 2.4per cent led by increased arrivals from New Zealand, US, Continental Europe and China.

This was confirmed by the Reserve Bank of Fiji in its March Economic Review.

Way ahead of all other Pacific Island countries in terms of tourist arrivals, it is Fiji’s tourism resilience and solid growth from Asia, China and New Zealand markets that contributed to Fiji’s success story.

South Pacific Tourism Organisation chief executive officer Christopher Cocker attributed Fiji’s lead to active post Winston recovery campaigns by the Fiji tourism industry.

It was the joint marketing efforts by the Fiji Airways and Tourism Fiji with the industry that boosted the high arrivals.

The surge in other Asian markets was also triggered by the increased direct flights to new destinations such as Singapore that connects other booming Asian markets such as India, Korea and Malaysia.

The establishment of new market links, increase in air service agreements, flight routes and schedules and the upgrading of the Nadi International Airport also contributed to the increase in tourist arrivals.

Nadi International Airport was last Fiji is the Pacific’s top tourist destination still month named as one of the world’s most improved airports during the Skytrax 2018 World Airport Awards held in Stockholm, Sweden.

Fiji’s national airline- Fiji Airways, its subsidiaries Fiji Link and Pacific Call Comm Limited plus a 38.75 per cent stake in the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa on Denarau Island which are all part of the Fiji Airways Group recently announced its highest ever profit before tax of FJ$95.8million or US$47.09million for the fiscal year that ended December 31, 2017.

It was a 13.4 per cent increase from the previous fiscal year.

Fiji’s Attorney General who is also the line Minister for Civil Aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that for a country that’s very heavily dependent on tourism, it is critically important to have a very healthy national carrier.

He said it was a proud achievement for the airline and the entire nation.

With the provisional data provided by SPTO, French Polynesia is on second spot with 9.40 per cent of total arrivals in the region with 161, 362 tourist arrivals.

Cook Islands is on third spot with 7.5 per cent of total arrivals with 161,362 visitor arrivals.

Samoa records 155,098 visitor arrivals at 7.3 per cent, Papua New Guinea with 142, 943 arrivals at 6.7per cent, Palau with 122,726 arrivals at 5.7per cent. New Caledonia records 120,697 at 5.6 per cent, Timor Leste with 119,432 arrivals at 5.6 per cent, Vanuatu with 106,338 arrivals at 5 per cent and Tonga with 62,434 arrivals

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Killing the golden goose

High taxes threaten tourism

HIGH taxes and service charges have pushed Fiji’s major revenue generator into the more expensive destinations for tourists. With VAT increasing from 5 to 10 per cent and Service Turnover Tax reducing from 10 to six per cent and Departure Taxes at $200 per passenger, what was once a popular choice for New Zealanders and Australians may soon be out of reach for families.

And families are the key to the success of tourism in Fiji. Hoteliers have been forced to find creative ways to sell their destination and product in a very competitive market where technology has had a major impact on how companies reaching out to their customers.

The Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association has lobbied government not to tax the only industry that it claims actively and positively addresses environmental issues through pro-active self-funded programs. During a media workshop organized by the association in Suva last month, participants discussed the need to reduce the tax levied on the industry. Instead, tourism operators want the same taxes spread across industries which impacted the environment. These taxes would be collected and used to fund environment protection programs.

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Time to walk the talk

Conference to dialogue on tourism issues

In a bid to provide a regional platform for dialogue on matters of interest in international and regional tourism, the first ever Pacific Tourism Insights Conference (PTIC) will convene in Vanuatu next month. Through a memorandum of understanding (MOU), the conference is a joint collaboration between the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO), Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and Vanuatu Tourism Office (VTO) The one-day conference will bring together regional and international thinkers, professionals and leading reputable companies such as Trip Advisor, BBC Worldwide Asia and other reputable organisations. Priya Chand of Islands Business talks to SPTO chief executive officer Christopher Cocker for get an insight on the inaugural conference and other tourism-related matters in the region.

IB: What is the main purpose of the inaugural Pacific Tourism Insights Conference in Vanuatu?

COCKER: IT will be very important for us to make contact and strengthen our existing relationship with PATA which has tremendous Asian connections. A partnership between PATA and the SPTO would have enormous potential for possible entry of the Pacific into the Asian market for our regional destinations. There’s also the opportunity at this event to look at developments in the Asian market and more importantly around the globe in the area of tourism.

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Beauty with purpose

Miss World Fiji to use global pageant to spread divine word

FULL-TIME missionary and university science graduate Nanise Rainima will represent Fiji at this year’s Miss World Pageant to be staged in China in November. There are three things on her mind: to spread the word about her faith, to promote her culture, and to create awareness about climate change.

The 25-year old lass from Nakelo, Tailevu has a distinguishing feature that makes her stand out. The “buiniga” or traditional Fijian afro hairstyle that she wears with pride. “It’s the true epitome of Fijian beauty,” she says. Nanise will be the first indigenous woman to represent Fiji at the global event. Previous contestants have either been part-European or Indian with long straight hair.

She calls it a blessing having the “buiniga” but reaction on social media from outside Fiji has not been receptive. However, she is determined to fully experience what the pageant has to offer, both the negative and positive. “I’m fully aware of what I’m getting myself into and I’m ready.” It’s not usual for a missionary with a strong evangelical church background to be entering pageants. But this is nothing new to Nanise.

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Rosie’s legacy lives on

WHAT started off with only two drivers and two staff members is now recognised as Fiji’s best travel company employing more than 600 people. Meet Rosie Whitton, who started her business - Rosies Tours - in 1974, at a time when aviation and tourism industry recorded a decline in visitor arrivals to our shores.

During her time at Hunts Travel, Rosie said her biggest challenge was juggling naps in-between flight arrivals. “Those days, Nadi Airport was a refuelling stop for all the flights crossing the Pacific.” Fiji was a mandatory stopover for San Francisco-Sydney flights, Hawaii and America at the time. It was during this time that Rosie met Roy Whitton, an Australian who was sent by Qantas to manage its operations in Fiji in the mid 1960s.

During the first half of the ‘60s, Nadi served as a key airport for the transfer of passengers from Auckland’s Whenuapai Airport, which could only take turboprop and piston aircraft. Passengers flew from Auckland to Nadi on turboprops and piston-engine airplanes, and were transferred on to the new McDonnell Douglas DC-8 and Boeing 707 jets bound for North America and Europe. But the enthusiastic struggling single mother of one accepted the challenge, with no cash and no people to work with, ventured into the tourism industry with the ability to improve the services and economy well-being.

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