Editorial comment – Tourism figures

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Tourists from Australia arrive at the Nadi International Airport in December 2021. Picture: FILE

The revelation that Tourism Fiji expects more than 150,000 visitors in the next three months is encouraging, especially in the wake of the events of 2021.

Tourism Fiji chief executive officer Brent Hill said bookings were still strong. Tourists, he believes, now understood what was involved, and were comfortable with processes in place.

The response from tourists over the past five months, he said, had been “incredible”.

“We started so well and then were impacted heavily by Omicron — meaning many guests had to cancel planned trips, as well as Tropical Cyclone Cody which resulted in flooding and some cancellations,” he said. “But since then, it has only been on the up — firstly March with 21,000 visitors, then April’s huge 47,000.”

Tourism Fiji, he said, were now expecting May to be above 40,000.

“And June, July and August could well go above 50,000 per month on current bookings and load factors, which is tremendous for Fiji and above our forecasts which is of course really pleasing.”

In March this year, Attorney-General and Minster for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had said we could expect up to 447,000 visitors in 2022.

He spoke during the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry business session that month.

Visitor numbers, he noted, were about 897,000, tourism arrivals in 2019, which plummeted to 147,000 in 2020 and last year we recorded 32,000 visitors to Fiji. Obviously any rise in our numbers would be welcomed by stakeholders. It sets in motion many roll-on effects.

In fact people will talk about the positive impact. They will talk about growth, employment opportunities, and a boost to the economy.

They will talk about positive vibes.

President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere, at the end of last month, referred to tourism as “one of the major drivers of Fiji’s economic growth and the country’s largest reserves of foreign exchange and earnings”.

He spoke about optimism looking to the future. In saying that though, we are buoyed by the fact that we are still affected by a pandemic.

We are still staring at a world that has been forced to embrace the new normal. We must also factor in issues faced by potential tourists in their own countries as the world continues to battle COVID-19.

Fijians will no doubt look on with interest and hold those who give these figures accountable. At the end of the day though, Fijians will want to see positive developments.

For many it’s a bread and butter issue.

What matters is being able to put food on the table. We note the figures, but we also note the work that must be done to live up to the expectations, and to also attract tourists.

There will also be consideration for the systems in place in other countries where there are tourists planning to visit Fiji. It is really not all that simple after all! But we live with hope!

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