Nadi town, home to our international airport and once thriving tourism industry, is arguably one of the worst hit by COVID-19.

Fiji could lose 30, 000 to 100, 000 tourists with an estimated loss of 74 million dollars if the COVID-19 outbreak escalates.

The current pandemic will also halt Fiji’s forecast of a 3.3 percent growth from this year.

Home to what’s been the backbone of our economy over decades, COVID-19 has brought tourism numbers to a grounding halt with people struggling to survive and to make ends meet.

COVID-19 will lead to the biggest contraction of the town’s economy with
already thousands of people without work.

“Well this is the worst ever crisis to affect us here in particular Nadi
because Nadi’s lifeline is tourism as well as the international airport. So we
are heavily dependent on tourism as well as the airline industry. So our
businesses have been affected to a very big extent and we don’t really know
when the crisis is going to be taken care of,” said Dr Ram Raju, President of the Nadi Chamber of Commerce.

Business people like Dr Raju remain optimistic that the future will get
better.

Already, the declaration that the country is COVID 19 free, is light at
the end of the tunnel. Fingers crossed this will pave the way to some form of
economic recovery in the near future

“It’s
almost basically zero tourism activity here so you can expect the
repercussions, thousands have been laid off, hotels have all been shut down
except for a few with skeleton staff and some rooms available and although some
of them area also encouraging domestic tourism, it’s not really picking up.”

Business owners are determined to keep going conducting meetings via
zoom discussing ways and means to continue helping each other.

Members are encouraged to take advantage of stimulus packages announced
soon after the first case.

“We kept reminding members look there are packages available to continue
to help with businesses. The soft loans been announced, so we’re keeping
everyone connected. Just getting to talk to the members to keep their spirits
up as well. Nothing is impossible so surely but slowly members are absorbing
the shocks and are able to continue with some form of business,” Dr Raju said.

However, some businesses have remained closed.

“Well so far we have counted close to 20 have closed business
altogether. Some of them have actually closed to move on to open some other
business like catering. That is one business that is continuing to survive.
Some have found alternative business, by and large – majority those who have
closed are just buying time to come back and reopen once the situation
improves.”

Dr Raju has been operating a business in Nadi for 35 years now,
withstanding coups and natural disasters but COVID-19 he says, is the worst
ever.

“The people’s spirit is still there. The resilience of our community I
think and also reaching out to help each other and I think this is another
positive sign that we have. And we have always come back from major natural
disasters like the two devastating floods of 2009 and 2012. We will come back.”

Despite the adversity, Nadi Dr Ram Raju says will bounce back one day.

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