Island News

Pushing ahead with tourism in Fiji

Written By : SUN FIJI NEWSROOM. Such was the atmosphere at the Denarau Island Golf and Racquet Club for three days. The BFTE is a registered trust with the sole
06 Jun 2009 12:00

image Written By : SUN FIJI NEWSROOM. Such was the atmosphere at the Denarau Island Golf and Racquet Club for three days.
The BFTE is a registered trust with the sole beneficiary being the tourism industry. It does not receive aid from the government however it has, over the past few years, contributed more than $300,000 to the tourism industry.
The man behind the scenes is David Voss, who has held the position of BFTE chairman for the past fourteen years, and members of the BFTE organising committee.
“We used to have a three-day tourism convention; that was fourteen years ago. On one occasion, I was asked to chair the following year’s convention and I refused. I told them I would only accept on the condition that the format of the convention was changed,” said Mr Voss.
Mr Voss suggested that a trade show be held for regional and international stakeholders and a forum follow where they were given the opportunity to air their concerns and grievances to authorities. BFTE came into being the year after.
“The first year the show was organised there were 60 sellers and an equal amount of buyers. There were a total number of 142 registrations and this figure has grown a lot over the years. The show has become a focal point on the calendar,” he said.
With the introduction of the new format also came criticisms but Mr Voss and his team remained determined that given time, the BFTE would gain recognition and popularity. It did.
“In two years, the very people who criticised the show and said it would be a failure came and apologised. They realised the new concept was worth it. We normally open our website for registration in October and by December, the show is completely booked and sold out too,” he said.
Six years ago, the BFTE decided to open up the show to regional companies that also provided service to Pacific tourism.
“Consider the Northern Hemisphere countries. They have four-week holidays. And we can’t actively keep a person occupied for four weeks in Fiji so by inviting regional neighbours, we’ve allowed visitors to have the option of staying in Fiji for a few days then traveling by a local airline to another country where they continue their holiday,” he explained.
Mr Voss said some had thought Fiji was being diluted as a tourist destination however he said there was a need to consider the interests of tourists and how they could be dissuaded from losing interest during their long stay.
Mr Voss said there had been a slight decline in the number of registrations this year.
“Some people might think it’s because of the political problems but think of the number of companies that have closed down. There are no political problems here,” he said.
In an effort to portray this image to overseas buyers and sellers at the BFTE, Mr Voss said the military jazz band had been hired to entertain visitors and assure them that Fiji is still a safe place to holiday.
Mr Voss said despite the competition between various business at the BFTE, business rivals remained friends. He also highlighted the need to improve the delivery of services at resorts and hotels around the country.
“We need to seriously look at ourselves and the type of service we deliver and try to improve. This is a continuous thing. There are a whole range of things that need to be looked at in the forum,” he said.
Following the BFTE every year is a forum organised by Tourism Fiji. The forum provides an opportunity for stakeholders to air their concerns to the proper authorities.
Mr Voss said with each new year, they had tried to introduce new ideas for the BFTE.
During the registration period, appointments are made between various business houses contributing service to the tourism industry. The BFTE allows the parties to have face to face contact and deals are made in advance for implementation the following year.
“If it wasn’t for the BFTE, I don’t think the tourism industry would be where it is today,” said Mr Voss.
The host of the show is determined through the placing of a tender every year and the BFTE weighs the contribution of companies and how it can express it’s appreciation in return.
Karen Varndell, co-owner of Dive Vavau’u in Tonga said the show had proved very successful for their business.
“It has been very good and positive. We’ve been able to meet travel agents personally instead of over the internet or on the phone. And there has been an increase in business since we first registered last year,” she said.
Ms Varndell said despite the economic issues, she noticed the event was well attended in all aspects of the tourism industry.
“We’ve also attended other shows in the United States and United Kingdom but those are more travel and manufacturing based instead of an exchange as such. I’ve seen that the more you come, the more people come and it’s easier to convey information to them,” she said.
She expressed hopes to introduce the idea of a similar show, but on a smaller scale, in Tonga.
Ezi World Holidays Travel is also based in Tonga and into its second year since being part of BFTE.
Manning the booth was Hepisipa Feiloaki who said they didn’t find the first year as being very good because they were beginners. However she remains confident that this year will be better than the last.
“By the end of the programme this Friday, I should be able to know how we fared. We have about more than 20 appointments for the duration of the show and even though we are also affected by the global economic crisis, we will continue to be part of the show and hope things get better,” she said.

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