Big China Breakthrough

The country’s major tourism operator, Rosie Holidays, has secured two charter flights bringing tourists from the vast Chinese market direct into Fiji. The breakthrough charters using the new Fiji Airbus
15 Nov 2014 00:08
Big China Breakthrough
Rosie Holidays general manager Eroni Puamau (second from left) during the launch in Shanghai of the charters by Rosie Holidays using Fiji Airways Airbus A330s.

The country’s major tourism operator, Rosie Holidays, has secured two charter flights bringing tourists from the vast Chinese market direct into Fiji.

The breakthrough charters using the new Fiji Airbus A330 aircraft will bring hundreds of Chinese here to celebrate the Chinese New Year in February.

This would also be the first time a Fiji-designated national carrier is flying into mainland China.

The flights will arrive in Nadi February 14 and 21 from Shanghai and tourists will stay in Fiji for a week.

Rosie has been working on this product for about a year and a half, trying to arrange the charters last year, but the logistics just couldn’t be organised in time.

Chinese market entry

Rosie first entered the China market in a serious way seven years ago and in that time has slowly built the number of tourists coming to Fiji.

But the time had come where they believe that something significant needed to be done to assure the big wholesalers there that there was great potential for good numbers.

A group of Fijians has gone to China to establish a new and exciting product.

While this is limited to a two week period, it is seen as the perfect way to tap into the vast Chinese out-bound tourism market and to establish Fiji as a major destination.

After long negotiations, Rosie Holidays can offer the charters providing a one-week stay in Fiji.

Programmes are being set up with stays in Denarau, Mamanucas, Coral Coast, Yasawas, Pacific Harbour and the North.

Rosie will also provide packages with tours and other experiences while the tourists are in Fiji. They are bringing 20 specialist Chinese tour guides to Fiji shortly for training so they can handle the tourists over the two weeks.

It is expected that over 1500 Chinese will come over this two weeks period, which will also include the

current services that Fiji Airways operates out of Hong Kong.

Chinese potential

China is a vast tourism market, growing fast. It is estimated that the number of Chinese travelling overseas in 2014 will be over 114 million, spending US$838 million.

Over 83 per cent travel to nearby countries and over 883 million travelled to Oceania.

Currently about 24,000 Chinese visit Fiji with the majority arriving on the Fiji Airways Hong Kong services. This number represents about five per cent of the total tourism arrivals into Fiji.

Without the support of the big wholesalers in China, no market anywhere will be fully developed, and they have so many destinations to choose to sell, that Fiji needs to offer something different.

Major destination

One major island resort destination for Chinese tourists is the Maldives, very similar in most ways to Fiji, adding strength to the argument that it should be possible to attract large numbers from the China market for Fiji.

In 2011 over 900.000 tourists visited the Maldives, a tiny group of islands in the Indian Ocean, China was their biggest source market. The destination is severely constrained now as there is little space left to build new resorts.

The Maldives offer little more than a “sun, sand and sea experience”. So popular is the destination that Mega Air Maldives has considered offering services to Fiji to grow their volume.

The leader from Rosie

From the start of the marketing push by Rosie Tours into China, the leader was the Rosie general manager, Eroni Paumau and his team.

In the following years, he has built up a close relationship with the wholesale operators.

Mr Paumau is the “Face of Fiji in China”, with a constant smile and an easy going manner and he has been nick-named in China “The Fiji Panda”.

From the Chinese this is a great compliment and the relationship that he has built for Rosie is one of the many reasons the wholesalers are prepared to consider listing Fiji. Rosie now has three dedicated offices in China, staffed by Chinese travel experts.

The headquarters is in Beijing and two strategically placed in other large centres. These have been operating for some time and most of the staff have visited Fiji for specialist training.

Mr Paumau said: “This is a milestone for Fiji, with our national airline flying into Mainland China. Chinese have every major sea and sand destination pitching to them.  Be it Maldives, Seychelles, Tahiti or Asia.

“But over and over again. When clients come to Fiji, they fall in love with our people. This is what sets us apart from our competitors.

“The natural warmth of the Fijian people.  Also, they can enjoy high quality Chinese cuisine readily available here, which is on par with anything they can get at home, especially the fresh seafood.

“They are intrigued to learn of second and third generation Chinese already living in the country.

“We are excited about China, the Hong Kong service and the charter flights into Shanghai.

“An interesting sidelight that appeals to the Chinese is that people in Fiji will be the first in the world to welcome the Chinese New Year, a very important occasion for Chinese people”.

Building close ties

The close relationship with the Bainimarama government has also been effective in building close relationships with China, and Fiji is now listed as an Approved Destination Status (AD 3).

This makes it easy for Chinese tourists as they do not need to worry about visas. Fiji also has the “must have” attributes demanded by Chinese tourists.

The country is pristine with beautiful oceans and scenery, no dangerous diseases, nothing on land that can harm clean, abundant water, and a well developed Chinese cuisine throughout Fiji.

Language is an issue but with tourist numbers growing, the resorts can employ staff with Chinese qualifications.

The Chinese tourists are very affluent and are prepared to spend money on their vacation.

China is now the largest outbound tourism market in the world, and expanding rapidly, with 18 per cent growth to June the last year alone, and the growth rate is predicted to increase over the next few years.

All the factors are now in place for a successful campaign to create growth.

Motivating factor

Another important factor, and the one directly motivating Rosie Holidays managing director, Tony Whitton, is that China’s peak travel period is in the Northern Winter, from December to March.

This falls very nicely into the low season in Fiji, from mid January to the end of March.

The fact that the Chinese New Year, a very important time for the Chinese and a huge volume driver for the Chinese tourists is usually in mid February, is also a big bonus for the destination, Mr Whitton said.

“February is traditionally the month of lowest occupancy for Fiji hotels, with hotel occupancies below 50 per cent,” he said.

“Our main markets, Australia and New Zealand, have gone back to work and their families back to school.  So, very quiet in Fiji.

“In February, hotels report big losses.  And many staff are laid off.  But February is a time when Chinese love to travel.

“Imagine if we could add another 10 per cent points to hotels occupancies over this period?  Imagine jobs and positive cash flows, and money entering the economy.

“This is why China is exciting and with the current Hong Kong services and the additional Shanghai service, it is an exciting milestone for Fiji Tourism and everyone in Fiji should be proud of this achievement”.

Unique Fijian experience

And Fiji has a unique benefit for the Chinese at that time of the year, one that will be a big attraction that no other destination can offer.

People in Fiji will be the first people in the world to enter the New Year, the first to be able to enjoy the celebrations and the first to be exposed to the gifts the year brings. It is very rare that a destination has a truly unique emotional benefit.

So now is the time for Fiji to create a whole new presence in China, to build on the past seven years work by Rosie Holidays marketing efforts.

Also the great work done by the government, Fiji Tourism, and resort partners, in creating close bonds politically, and to use the country’s unique position to provide an exciting spiritual experience for the Chinese.

And to also start attacking the huge losses every tourism operator has had to endure during the low season in Fiji.


– John Ross is a prominent Nadi-based advertising and marketing specialist.


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