Editorial comment: Making it count for us all

Tourists at the Nadi International Airport before the borders were closed. Picture: FILE/BALJEET SINGH

As we count down the days to the reopening of our international border, attention has to shift to getting Fijians ready.

There can be no doubts about the fact Fijians in the tourism industry are anticipating a change in fortunes. They are looking forward to good things.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not been good for anyone. In fact it has robbed thousands of Fijians of their jobs. Thousands more were forced to take massive pay cuts, and thousands more are working on reduced hours. That’s the harsh reality of our situation. Businesses were forced to take drastic action to stay alive. Fijians were forced to adjust their lives, and live the new normal.

Eighteen months down the line, there is growing expectation, and enthusiasm focused on the reopening of our border. The reopening of containment borders in September saw a surge in traffic and foot traffic in every urban centre around Viti Levu. It slowly injected life into the domestic economy.

There is great hope of big things when we open up on November 11 and for tourists to return on December 1. The industry has slowly shifted into preparation mode in the wake of Government’s announcement earlier this month.

There is a positive vibe in the air as the industry prepares for the return of employees affected by the downturn in tourism arrivals in the wake of the pandemic. As our report on Page 2 points out, one such employer is Tour Managers managing director Darmend Gounder who explained that while they would like to recall all their staff, the process would be carried out progressively.

A lot depends on bookings, he noted. “Today (yesterday) was the first time we welcomed back a group of our staff and while we would like to call all of them back we cannot at this point in time. We will do that gradually and obviously we hope to have more of them towards the middle of November and then gradually in December.”

In saying that, we are reminded about our role. In fact we have quite an important role to play in the greater scheme of things. Tourists will look forward to a safe destination.

They will not want the pandemic hanging over their heads, and will be keen to enjoy their holiday here after months of isolation and confinement in their countries.

That will mean every Fijian must adhere to COVID-19 safety rules. We are reminded to wear masks when out in public. Adhere to physical distancing rules.

Be aware of where you are, avoiding crowded areas. Wash your hands often with soap and water, cover your mouth every time you cough or sneeze.

Thousands of families depend on us all ensuring our nation is a safe destination for everyone, for Fijians and for our visitors.

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