Fiji tourism looks to India, China

Brent Hill, Viliame Gavoka and Akuila Batiweti (L-R)

Fiji’s Deputy Prime Minister Viliame Gavoka’s busy schedule last week included a brief meeting with Indian actress, Rakul Preet Singh and her new husband, film producer Jackky Bhagnani.

The couple were in Fiji for their honeymoon, an occasion that Gavoka hopes will inspire other Indian visitors to Fiji’s shores.

Today he told media at the Fiji Tourism Exchange (FTE) that India is amongst emerging source markets that Fiji is keen to tap into.

“Right now the [air] connection is through Singapore, and we want to strengthen the India-Singapore sector to help with the Singapore-Fiji leg,” Gavoka noted.

“We are renewing the code share with Air India and  Fiji Airways and that we believe will help, given Air India’s presence in the Indian market.”

Tourism Fiji CEO, Brent Hill noted that Australia’s tourism industry has been prioritising marketing to Indian consumers and the Indian market.

“They think that the Indian story can replicate the Chinese story that happened over the last 10 years where China went from fifth biggest in Australia to number one, by far. A lot of that is down to air capacity,” Hill said.

He says while Tourism Fiji is “really bullish” about India, there is also opportunity in attracting members of the large Indian diaspora in Australia and New Zealand to Fiji

“The one secret surprise packet that we have in Fiji is of course, how much Indian culture is here. You know, people don’t necessarily always appreciate that, we’re trying to tell that story more. So you know, when they see the amazing temples, they experience the amazing food, the color, if they come during Diwali, so it’s a very welcoming place for Indian tourists to be able to come to, so we have we get more.”


Rakul Preet Singh and her 23 million Instagram followers may signal a possible promotional opportunity for Fiji tourism, but in China, the visit by Ali Baba founder Jack Ma last year is still providing valuable brand recognition for the country, noted one of the Chinese journalists attending FTE.

Brent Hill says his post welcoming Ma to the country on WeChat last year “went nuts”.

Fiji’s tourism industry is also keen to attract more Chinese tourists.

Fiji Airways relaunched its direct flights to Hong Kong a year ago. The Airline’s Chief Marketing and Sales Officer, Akuila Batiweti, says the airline saw  a 276% increase in flights to Asia in 2023 (over the previous year). Fiji Airways’ third Asian port is Narita.

He says the airline is “always looking for new options” and that flights to mainland China “are on the list, along with some other destinations”.

Batiweti notes Fiji Airways “strong partnership” with Cathay Pacific which connects passengers on to other Chinese destinations.

 “Our Hong Kong flights are not daily yet. We’d love to make it daily at some stage. But we’ve also got great partnerships with other airlines that connect through a lot of our gateways with Chinese carriers flying direct.”

Batiweti adds that almost 80% of passengers flying on the Hong Kong flights are from mainland China. He says the airline is about to launch its Mandarin and Cantonese language websites and has done a lot of work on easing transactions in the payment methods most widely used in China (eg Weibo, WeChat). Fiji is also looking to work through Air Service Agreements in China.

Hill says Chinese visitors spend more per capita in Fiji than any other visitors, and he thinks they have the potential to be Fiji’s third largest source market in the future.

“They do a lot of experiences, they pack in a lot during the day, which is fantastic. So naturally, the luxury side is great.”

He adds: “One thing that I probably underestimated, that I’m so pleased [about] is that the Chinese guest is really engaged with our culture. And I love seeing that as well. There’s a real fascination with the Fijian culture.”

FTE continues on Tuesday.

Photo: Fiji Government