“Is it a wedding,” asked two curious guests as they watched several hundred people walk through the grounds of the Sheraton Resort to the beachfront last night.
It was not nuptials, but the opening of the Fiji Tourism Expo (FTE) at the recently refurbished resort last night had a celebratory feel.
The event was opened by Fiji’s President, Ratu Wiliame Katonivere, who said, “After 21 months of border closures, the eyes of the world are on this industry like never before. The tens of thousands of Fijians who rely on this sector are counting on us to keep our tourism recovery going strong.”
Earlier, Tourism Minister, Faiyaz Koya said, “I understand that last month, Fiji averaged occupancy that often exceeded our 2019 peak across thirty key hotels. Our Average Daily Room Rate and our Revenue per Available Room matched 2019 pre-pandemic figures; very good signs as we continue to build back.”
Tourism Fiji Chair and Fiji Airways CEO, Andre Viljoen, told delegates that bookings for the next six months were approaching pre-COVID levels, and announced the resumption of a twice-weekly Adelaide-Nadi air service from July 4.
The FTE opening speeches had two main themes, the reliance of Fiji and Fijian workers on tourism recovery, and a focus on sustainability. The relationship between the environment and the sector has been under scrutiny again recently with the $1 million fine levied against Malolo resort developer, Freesoul, by the Suva High Court.
Minister Koya said growing the industry “in a much greener and bluer way” will involve “setting the Fijian industry on a new–more equitable footing. The Fijian Government, through the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, has now embarked on a renewed sectoral plan in this regard.”
Ratu Wiliame said: “The pristine nature of our environment is the reason visitors come to our islands. We must protect it.
“That is a cause I campaign for personally because I believe it is on us to lead the world in responsible, resilient and sustainable development in every regard,” he continued, before urging delegates to consider visiting his province, Macuata and the Cakaulevu (Great Sea Reef) marine protected area.
Similarly, Viljoen said, “we must continue to make nature part of our tourism experience, not a casualty of it”.
The President noted that Fiji’s trade partners have dubbed the country the “hottest destination of the year”.
“When I hear that, I think of more jobs for our people,” he said.
Tomorrow the FTE will hear about Tourism Fiji’s new corporate plan and will hear from destination development strategist, Oliver Martin, about key insights and tourist market intelligence.
Resorts and hotels, transport and tour companies and other tourism related businesses are participating and exhibiting at FTE. There are 83 international buyers present, 83 sellers and eight international media registered.