Fiji is on course to achieve another record year for tourist arrivals in 2015, Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Siddiq Koya revealed at the annual Industry Day on October 20, 2015.
Ranked as the ‘happiest country on Earth’ in a recent global survey, key players in Fiji’s tourism industry were all smiles as they reflected on the successes of the sector at the Sofitel Resort and Spa on Denarau Island.
During his opening address, Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Siddiq Koya announced that Fiji is expected to easily achieve its target of 714,000 arrivals in 2015, and has its sights firmly set on making tourism a $2 billion industry by 2020.
Fiji’s previous tourism records were set in 2014, when the Pacific island paradise attracted 692,630 visitors and generated revenues of $1.4 billion. The Minister said this continued growth demonstrated that the government’s commitment to the industry was paying off, but more could be done to diversify and enhance the nation’s tourism product.
“We want our image to go beyond sun, sea, and sand: we want to be a sought-after destination for professional sporting events, a preferred venue for large-scale regional and international meetings and conferences, and an enjoyable place for adventure and cultural tourism,” Mr Koya said.
To this end, an industry consultation on the draft of Fiji’s Tourism Development Plan (2015-2020) will be held in December with a view to officially launching the document in the first quarter of 2016.
Industry Day provided the platform for Tourism Fiji to share its global plans and strategies for 2016 with some 340 delegates representing Fiji’s full range of resorts, operators, and attractions.
Tourism Fiji Executive Chairman Truman Bradley praised tourism stakeholders for being able to work together for the collective benefit for the industry, and urged “Team Fiji” to continue their efforts in 2016.
Building on the success of the recent Fiji International golf tournament, Mr Bradley said the country would look to host further major sporting events and continue to develop as a holistic destination attracting a diverse range of visitors, from backpackers to honeymooners.
Fiji Airways’ new CEO Andre Viljoen was unveiled to delegates at the event. In his first public address since formally assuming the role, the former Air Mauritius chief executive said that Fiji Airways’ achievements in remaining profitable, whilst maintaining a high level of service and successfully rebranding itself, were nothing short of remarkable. Approximately 70% of visitors arrive via Fiji Airways, demonstrating the airline’s crucial role as the islands’ “bridge to the world”.
The flag carrier is aiming to improve its Skytrax ranking from three stars to four stars in 2016, putting it on par with prestigious airlines such as Turkish Airlines, British Airways, and Emirates.
Mr Viljoen also revealed that the airline was in advanced discussions to introduce direct flights to Singapore that would enhance connectivity with a broad range of destinations in the Far East and beyond. An announcement on the new Singapore route is expected by the end of 2015.
The top three tourism markets for Fiji remain Australia, New Zealand and USA, but stakeholders are keen to capture more of the Asian market, with Chinese overseas tourists ranked as the world’s biggest spenders in 2014, followed in second place by American travelers.
Following the opening formalities, delegates had the opportunity to listen to presentations and interact with management from Tourism Fiji and Fiji Airways during breakout sessions related to short-haul and long-haul destinations, Asia, social media, and marketing.
Echoing Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama’s often-repeated statement that no Fijian will be left behind by his government, Mr Koya said that tourism operators both big and small should feel that they have the support of his ministry.
“Your excellent products and high standards of service have made this industry what it is today: buoyant, robust and innovative,” the Minister told delegates in his closing speech.