Rosie Holidays, Fiji Airways And The Growing China Partnership

I n 2015, for the Chinese New Year period, Rosie Holidays developed special charters for tourists from Shanghai to Fiji. This was the first time such a product was marketed
17 Oct 2015 10:07
Rosie Holidays, Fiji Airways And The Growing China Partnership
The Fijian Delegation at the Rosie Holidays Charter Launch in Beijing. From Left First Secretary, Fiji Embassy Apolosi Lewaqai, Charter Executive, Fiji Airways Mitieli Vodonaivalu, Fiji’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China Ioane Naivalurua, Managing Director Rosie Holidays Tony Whitton, General Manager Rosie Holidays Eroni Puamau.

n 2015, for the Chinese New Year period, Rosie Holidays developed special charters for tourists from Shanghai to Fiji.
This was the first time such a product was marketed in mainland China and it proved to be an outstanding success.
Not only were the flights fully sold out, the Chinese tourists sent home a constant stream of photos and comments on their social media, such as Facebook, that spread the word about what a beautiful destination Fiji was and how friendly it was to the Chinese.
One of the things the Chinese tourists found amazing was that there was a very significant Chinese population living in Fiji and prospering very well.
The tourists felt very comfortable in Fiji and were surprised they had a wide choice of Chinese cuisine, something they hadn’t expected. They raised the profile of Fiji dramatically in China.
The charters had been something of an experiment to test the appeal of Fiji as a holiday destination in China.
Rosie Holidays was so pleased with the result that they immediately began planning to do the same thing in 2016.

Appealing factor
One of the things that appeals to Rosie Holidays, Fiji’s largest inbound tour operator and the owner of two quality resorts in the Mamanucas, is that the New Year falls in February, typically a very low tourism period in Fiji.
In fact, almost every hotel and resort in Fiji concentrates to contain losses during that period.
At this time, many staff are either laid off or put on reduced hours, further impacting the Fijian economy due to the reduced domestic spending from employees in the tourism industry.
Because this was an opportunity to gain business in a slow period, Rosie believed that it was important to build on the initial success.
So Eroni Paumau, Rosie general manager, working closely with Fiji Airways, the country’s international carrier, started work on putting together an even better programme for 2016.
Mr Puamau thought big and Fiji Airways did too.

New Charter programme
Following on the heels of Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’ visit to China recently, the 2016 Fiji New Year Charter programme was launched at Beijing’s prestigious W Bejing-Chang’an Hotel this week.
The Chief Guest was Fiji’s Ambassador to China Ioane Naivalurua who said the Fijian Government was totally supporting Rosie Holidays in their work in building the awareness of Fiji as a desirable destination in the China market.
Rosie have been working in China for a number of years, have offices in three of the largest cities and have strong relationships with many of the wholesalers.
The presentation to the 60 key Chinese tour operators and online travel agents, Chinese media and government officials who attended the launch was full of surprises.
The Rosie Holidays programme had doubled in size to a total of four charter flights.
And the cities from which the charters departed had doubled and now covered Shanghai, the China business capital, and Beijing, the national capital and political heart of China.
The famous Vou Dance Group entertained at the launch, blending vibrant traditional and contemporary dance and music from Fiji’s past and present.
Also attending the evening were local Rosie staff members from their offices in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Beijing.

The Chinese market
China is the world’s largest outbound tourist market with just over 114 million Chinese tourists leaving the country in 2014. Their spending is estimated at over US$128 billion.
This means that if Fiji could get half of one per cent of their tourists (and it will never happen simply because Fiji doesn’t have anywhere enough infrastructure to handle a number of that magnitude) the number would be 570,000.
The growth was up 26 per cent for 2014 and similar increases are expected for this year as well, so the China market is the fastest growing in the world.
The peak China travel season is during Fiji’s low season so they would be a very attractive to Fiji’s tourism industry.
This growth is driven by increasing demand, welcoming visa policies from many countries, including Fiji, and an ever increasing number of flights out of many of the larger Chinese cities by both Chinese airlines and those from other countries.
The Chinese holiday habits are changing. There is a huge number of people who are, according to Mr Naivalurua: “affluent and eager to spend and experience a new and beautiful South Pacific destination like Fiji.”
They are also becoming experienced travelers who are looking for new experiences but at the same time they prefer to be able to eat Chinese food, venturing to try new local tastes a limited number of times.
They are increasingly moving to organising their own travel through internet bookings. The Oceania region accounted for over 838,000 Chinese tourists in the latest year of record, 2013.

Combating competition
Without the support of the big wholesalers in China, no market anywhere will be fully developed, and they have so many destinations to sell that Fiji needs to offer something different.
One major island resort destination out of China is the Maldives, very similar in many ways to Fiji, adding strength to the argument that it should be possible to attract large numbers from the China market to Fiji.
In 2013, over a million tourists visited the Maldives, a tiny group of islands in the Arabian Gulf and China was their largest source market.
The destination is severely constrained now as there is little space left to build new resorts.
The Chinese tourist looks for brands they know and are prepared to spend to get what they want.
They are also good shoppers (although that aspect of their holiday experience in Fiji is generally disappointing) and they will pay top dollar for special experiences.
Many of them love the shark feeding, something they do not get anywhere else in the world.
Rosie has a well-trained team of Chinese speaking guides to help make their time in Fiji even easier.
They prefer to go to short haul destinations so Fiji needs to have a special attraction to encourage them.
The special things they enjoy here are the beautiful environment, clean clear water, natural fresh food, (especially seafood, fruit and vegetables) and most of all the friendliness and happiness of the Fijian people.
While they are not “sun and sand lovers” they do love the snorkeling and diving in Fiji.
It is generally expected that Fiji will get tourists who have already done some of the traditional destinations (London Paris, New York) and are now ready for some of the more unusual experiences.

The flights
For the flights to Fiji in February this year, Fiji Airways will use their newest Airbus 330-300 aircraft for the Beijing flights and their A330-200 aircraft for the Shanghai service.
The two aircraft will carry a total of 1100 new Chinese visitors; more than double the 500 tourists who visited Fiji in the 2015 programme.
Fiji Airways has a long history of working with Rosie Holidays on innovative product development.
Otto Gergye, Fiji Airways General Manager, Sales and Marketing said: “When Rosie initiated the inaugural charter services out of Shanghai to Nadi in February this year, it was an interesting experiment.
“We were delighted that both flights were sold out and were very happy to support their desire to do it again in 2016 in an even bigger way.
“Beijing is a long flight and we will be using our brand new Airbus A330-300, which will be delivered in December. And with the new, bigger aircraft it should be a very easy flight.”

Industry pleased
The tourism industry in Fiji is also pleased with the Rosie Holidays initiative and especially excited as it has the potential to provide significant numbers of tourists in the traditionally difficult Fiji low season.
Dixon Seeto, President of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association, said the industry was fully supportive of what Rosie was doing and they would always support development in the emerging markets.
“We have seen Tony have seen do this sort of thing before. I watched him in the UK/Europe market where he entered early and had developed it over a number of years,” he said.
“Rosie is now strong there and I believe that the same will happen in China. The Association believes that China will be an important market, they are affluent, prepared to spend, for quality and they fit into our product.
“They are experienced travelers and do not need us to change to provide good experiences for them. If Fiji can get direct flights from Chinese cities we will attract the tourists.”
Mr Whitton, managing director of Rosie Holidays, said: “Fiji recently celebrated 160 years of the Chinese community living in Fiji and their contribution to Fiji’s economy.
“This partnership continues with our involvement in China and with our charters bringing more mainland Chinese visitors to Fiji.
“More Chinese visitors means more trade, more jobs, more foreign exchange earnings, more diversification to ensure our tourism industry has a good spread.”
And with Rosie Holidays and Fiji Airways working together it is certain that the programme will be a success.

Who are Rosie Group?
The Rosie Group is Fiji’s leading travel company, operating many award winning brands including Rosie Holidays, Thrifty Car Rentals, and Ahura Resorts, which operates the famous Malolo Island Resort and Likuliku Lagoon Resorts in the Mamanucas.
The company also operates a diverse portfolio of tourism investments, including transportation, inbound tourism, retail travel, overseas wholesaling, and hotel resort ownership and development.
The company is 100% Fijian owned (and proud of it) and employs in excess of 600 people.

John Ross is a Nadi-based marketing and advertising specialist with a long background in tourism.

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