Editorial comment – Keeping those numbers steady

Sabeto village Entertainment Group welcome tourist Warren Fleming arriving from First Fiji Airways Flight from New Zealand at Nadi International Airport. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

The revelation that Fiji welcomed a total of 46,000 visitors in the month of April alone is encouraging.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said this was a testament to Fiji’s successful efforts to bring back visitors to Fiji since its borders reopened last year. He made the comment in Nadi at the weekend.

He referred to vaccinations as the key that “unlocked solutions to all those challenges”.

“Thanks in no small part to our successful nationwide vaccination campaign, Fiji is back in business,” he said. “We are welcoming international travellers again, and those travellers are showing how much they missed us.”

He said it brought to over 95,000 the total arrivals this year.

“And looking at numbers since our borders first re-opened, Fiji has received approximately 119,000 visitors to our beautiful shores.”

He said current laws created the environment for businesses to invest and thrive in Fiji. Interestingly, back in April this year, Tourism Fiji chief executive officer Brent Hill had said the sector had a strong month ahead in terms of tourist bookings.

He said it had been “incredibly challenging”, however, he was proud of the “collective effort of the Fijian industry to have achieved what we have done, and to be where we are today”.

“From when we first set the target of opening in December, there was a collective will to match the Fiji Government’s ambition of reopening. But it wasn’t easy.

“I think if you said to me we would battle a new variant – Omicron, a tropical cyclone and flooding, a neighbouring volcanic eruption that threw up an ash cloud affecting flights – I would have said there’s no way we can survive all that.”

The tourism sector, he said, looked strong with core markets – Australia, New Zealand the United States — already open.

Mr Hill predicted April would be a big month.

He said more New Zealanders had started coming to Fiji, adding to the numbers from Australia and the US.

He believes we should expect good numbers from May onwards as well.

While we were reliant on Australia, NZ and the US for now, with a little coming in from Europe and countries that are open, Mr Hill said there was still a lot yet to open up, and there was still room for optimism for the future. Any effort to encourage tourism figures to rise would be welcomed by stakeholders.

Let’s face it, the industry was greatly impacted when the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic struck us in April last year.

That second wave brought the country to its knees. Thousands of Fijians lost their jobs.

Thousands more were forced to take massive pay cuts and reduced hours. Thousands of Fijians struggled to put food on the table. It effectively brought the tourism industry to a grinding halt.

The crippled industry has since slowly recovered, however, there is still a segment of the workforce who are negatively impacted.

This latest revelation is going to be welcomed with enthusiasm. It will inch out hope and reassurance for those impacted and waiting to return to work.

It makes sense that if things go according to plan, it will mean good things for many families, and a positive impact on our domestic economy.

It will mean positive roll-on effects on support industries to tourism. The virus is still with us though. That means we must all play our part to keep it at bay.

We have to adhere to safety advice. We should be vigilant. We must play our part in ensuring the borders stay open and tourists have the confidence to visit our beautiful country.

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