The Vision Of Rosie’s Lead Into China

Roy Whitton, who started Rosie Holidays with his wife Rose while he was the airport manager for Qantas at the international airport in Nadi, really understood the Fijian tourist market,
31 Oct 2015 10:50
The Vision Of Rosie’s Lead Into China
Local VOU Group artists dressed as a Fijian warrior (right) and in traditional iTaukei attire.

Roy Whitton, who started Rosie Holidays with his wife Rose while he was the airport manager for Qantas at the international airport in Nadi, really understood the Fijian tourist market, which at the time was not really a tourist market at all.

Most of the flights from the USA had to make a technical stop in Fiji to refuel, and some people got off and spent a couple of days in Fiji.

This was long before there were any tourist hotels and the people regarded Fiji pretty much as an adventure. But Roy talked to them and he could see the future.

He was the first person to computerise Fiji accommodation and tours (on a PC), so the international travel agents could book and confirm Fiji online.

His son, Tony Whitton, inherited that insight. Whenever you talk to tourism insiders about Tony, they talk about his vision.

They also talk about the way he goes into undeveloped markets and works them up into a good source market for Fiji. China is an example.


The Chinese market

When Rosie went into China in 2005, they were the only Fijian operation to be active there.

Most of the Fiji industry regarded China as a waste of time because the Chinese were not experienced travelers and the market was tiny.

Now 117 million Chinese travel each year, they are experienced travelers, and spend a lot of money when they travel.

How’s that for vision? Of course, over the years Rosie has been joined in China by a number of other Fijian companies, but they still lead

The Rosie China story really starts in 2005, when Rosie appointed a China Manager, a Chinese national, making Rosie the first Fiji tour operator to have a dedicated office.

They serviced the first group of 14 from China Travel International, a major China Travel operator.

The following year Fiji was awarded Approved Destination Status, making it easy for Chinese tourists to come to Fiji.

Rosie held their first 10 day sales mission to China (the first mission of its kind) training all major Tour Operators.

A tour of 126 Chinese nationals was handled by Rosie and they opened their office in Beijing and, in partnership with the Pacific Islands Trade Forum Office in Beijing, hosted six major tour operations to BFTE, the first ever China trade delegation to do so.


The initial years

In 2007, the first Chinese familiarisation was arranged covering the Coral Coast, outer islands and Denarau.

Rosie finalised contracts with the four largest Chinese tour operators and invited eight new tour operators to attend Bula Fiji Tourism Exchange.

In September, the Fijian government removed all visa requirements for Chinese leisure visitors as a result of Rosie lobbying, and Chinese tourist numbers rose to 303.

In 2008, Air Pacific invited Rosie to be part of the strategy planning team to set up the Nadi-Hong Kong route, which opened late that year.

In conjunction with Korean Air, Rosie invited eight China tour operators to BFTE.

In 2008 Cathay Pacific, after an extensive study of all Fiji tour operators, appointed Rosie to service their passengers from Hong Kong and Mainland China.

Rosie, working with Air Pacific, launched the Bula China campaign and in one month alone Rosie moved 250 passengers.

In 2010, Rosie, with Korean Air and Air Pacific launched “Fiji Summer Delights” and passenger numbers rose to 2,147 for the year.

Air Pacific asked if Rosie could support a third service to Hong Kong and on Rosie agreeing, the service was introduced.

Rosie bought the first large incentive group from China, the “Chrysler Corporation”, staying on the Coral Coast.


More progress

2011 was another year of progress in the China market with Rosie developing partnerships with over 48 of the major Chinese tour operators based in the five performing regions of Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

These are added to 26 of the largest tour operators in Hong Kong and three from Taiwan to provide Rosie with veryb strong agent support on the ground.

In 2012 Rosie targeted 3.500 visitors from China and to help achieve this Rosie launched their own road show covering 12 cities in China and then moving on to Taipei, Hong Kong and Korea.

Rosie also started to concentrate on the development of high end accounts.

In 2013, Rosie started to use social media to deliver their messages.

More frequency was added out of Hong Kong and Rosie bought forty travel agents to Fiji to help them understand what the market offered.

As well, Rosie participated in ten consumer and trade shows across China.

In 2014, Rosie participated in two large road show trips with the resort partners, national airline and National Tourism Office.

Rosie now had offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, staffed by Chinese nationals.

Rosie launched the Rosie Charter Holidays to capitalise on Chinese New Year travel in February, traditionally Fiji’s low season and put in a lot of work in the niche markets of diving, MICE and Golf.


What’s happening now

In 2015, launched an expanded Charter Holidays programme adding Beijing to the original port of Shanghai and 12 different media visits which produced a great number of editorials about Fiji holidays.

Rosie also launched an online booking service to allow agents to check availabilities, get quotes and book travel, making selling Fiji easier for them. And, of course Rosie has even bigger plans for 2016.

So, in Tony, Roy Whitton’s pioneering tourism spirit lives on.

Rosie’s general manager, Eroni Paumau, has put a great deal of work into the development of the China market and is well-known there as “the Fiji Panda”.

It should be noted that Pandas are highly regarded in China.

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


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