The impact of COVID-19 around the world was always expected to affect Fiji’s tourism as well as supply chains for tourism and other industries. Tourism stakeholders have been preparing for impacts as early as mid February when group and independent travel bookings from China started getting cancelled.
Many had commenced reviewing operational costs, put in
contingency plans to reduce staff hours if the situation deteriorated and may
even have to consider laying off staff eventually depending on how long travel
bans stay in place. We expect SME’s to be hit the hardest, but we know many
businesses will be impacted.
In preparing for this evolving situation since mid February,
Tourism Fiji, FHTA, SOFTA and other tourism operators have been meeting to
discuss what initiatives can be put in place, as well as meeting with the
Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Health to stay in touch and ensure
information to tourism stakeholders and potential visitors is aligned to the
message that there is no confirmed case of COVID-19 in the country, that Fiji
was safe and that we maintained confidence in Fiji’s Health Services. FHTA has
also contributed to the recent Private Sector Stakeholders Meeting to discuss
the effects of the Pandemic on tourism businesses and provided a submission for
consideration to the Supplementary Budget.
The travel industry already had many of the hygiene
practices being recommended in place because of the food and beverage sector,
but these have been stepped up to its highest levels yet with hand washing
reminders, advice to use a ladle and individual bowls when serving kava and the
provision of hand sanitisers in all public areas. Staff training and more
visible signage for visitors and ensuring our tourism members have contingency
plans in place in the event we get a case of the virus are additional efforts
already being taken with the utmost seriousness.
With all group bookings cancelled and current booking levels
for the next 3 months showing an approximate decline of 40% that is increasing
daily and fewer booking enquiries coming through for the next quarter; the
situation is both unprecedented and difficult to predict and calls for greater
flexibility in all sectors for planning purposes.
Fiji’s visitor numbers are made
up of 41% of Australians followed by 21% New Zealanders, with 11% coming from
the US and other countries making up the total numbers. Fiji must work
extremely hard to win the confidence of visitors overseas amid the overwhelming
response by tourism destinations around the world to also do the same. It is
therefore hoped that our national tourism office gets the