Opinion

Pursuing Spirit Of Excellence

  Bula vinaka and good evening to you all. It is truly one of my great joys to come to this annual event and bear witness to the excellent work
21 Feb 2016 12:44
Pursuing Spirit Of Excellence
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

 

Bula vinaka and good evening to you all.

It is truly one of my great joys to come to this annual event and bear witness to the excellent work our Fijian businesses and Fijians are doing in tourism.

Tourism is a key engine of our economy, and it grows in importance each year. And when I say that, I am not just talking about money. World tourism is a very competitive industry, and tourism has raised standards throughout Fiji. It has made us a more sophisticated country because we have set out to attract discerning consumers—travellers who have limited time to spend on vacation, who work hard all year, and who look for the best in accommodations, cuisine, shopping, natural beauty and adventure. And we are giving them more than they expect.

That raises our own expectations as well. It drives us to be better, more efficient, more modern and more self-critical. We must pursue this spirit of excellence as individuals, as a society, as an economy – in our retail commerce, our service industry – and our government.

Today, our country enjoys unprecedented sustained economic growth. I have remarked many times about the optimism and confidence that I see in the country. That optimism is matched by increased investor confidence—both foreign and domestic. The Fijian people believe in their future. They believe they can build something, here in Fiji, for themselves and their children.

I would never say that we owe all of that to the tourism industry, but I think it is very fair to say that we would be a very different country today if it wasn’t for tourism. We all have moulded Fiji into a world class product, an aspirational destination. That has made all the difference.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my Government is here and will continue to provide true stability based on a focussed and tangible vision. My Government will continue to provide consistency and innovation in policies and transparent rules to create a modern and just society in which there is prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to say that 2015 was a record year for tourism both in number of visitors and earnings. There were 754,835 visitor arrivals in 2015, a remarkable nine percent increase over 2014. And we continued to increase our penetration or hold our own in our traditional markets while seeing some encouraging growth in new markets.

Our three largest markets—Australia, New Zealand and the United States—all grew from five to ten percent, while for the first time, China became our fourth-largest market. And there was no significant decrease in arrivals from any market, with slight increases from throughout Asia and the Pacific Islands. Income for the first three quarters was 12 per cent higher than in 2014, at more than 1.15 billion dollars.

But the figures only reflect the reality: that our tourism industry—the people in this room —have developed more than a fine product. They have developed an experience that people around the world want to have, many of them over and over again. You have created experiences for luxury travellers, environmental travellers, and even young people.

 

Government’s ambition

As you know, my government’s philosophy is to encourage business by establishing rational and equitable economic policies, removing unnecessary barriers, creating a level playing field, investing in infrastructure, and making strategic investments that we believe will promote growth and yield big dividends.

That is why we have chosen to increase the grant to Tourism Fiji from $23 million to $30 million this year. This is why we together with FNPF will continue to invest in the Fiji International. This is why we will host on 1 July the Super Fifteens match between the Crusaders and the Chiefs. This is why we are upgrading Nadi International Airport and have plans to upgrade and extend the runway at Nausori airport. This is why you have the 4 lane road project in Nadi. This is why we have a 18 million dollar partnership with Fiji Airways in the new Nadi to Singapore service to begin on 5 April – Singapore is one of the world’s great aviation hubs, and it can be a gateway to Fiji from South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and even Europe.

 

Importance of brand

Ladies and gentlemen, our tourism brand is very much supported by perceptions overseas of who we are. We are a welcoming and hospitable people and a country with a pristine environment and natural beauty.  These qualities however need to be maintained and complimented by an adherence to international benchmarks, labour and environmental standards and creation of ancillary activities.

Complementing our brand Fiji is also our Constitution which amongst other things prohibits unfair discrimination on the basis of race, culture, ethnic or social origin, colour, place of origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, birth, primary language, economic or social or health status, disability, age, religion, conscience, marital status or pregnancy, or beliefs. This means that we treat all alike and with equal rights, which means we welcome all to Fiji without the fear of being discriminated.

Fiji’s national brand is also one of international cooperation and collaboration. I am proud of our record in international peacekeeping and of the sacrifices our disciplined forces have made for peace in faraway places. I am also proud of our policy of embracing a wide variety of mutually beneficial relationships with as many nations as possible, even though we may not always share their view of the world or agree with their system of government. We will always guard Fiji’s interests and hold fast to our own principles of democracy and mutual respect. Such a foreign relations policy together with our legal provisions for equality means more and more citizens of the world get attracted to and know about Fiji.

All of this uplifts, supports and reinforces the brand you are building for Fiji as a tourist destination, the brand we are honouring tonight with these awards.

 

Awards growth

The Excellence in Tourism Awards have evolved over the years. They have grown as our tourism industry has broadened and become more sophisticated and organised, and they recognise excellence in all our tourism products across a range of sectors and market segments.

This year there were 145 applications for the 13 categories, which is strong evidence of the high standards that people value throughout the industry. I fully expect that there will be more applications next year.

And I must say I am delighted to see the introduction of three categories of individual awards—Fiji Pride, Emerging Tourism Leader and Tourism Leader.  This gives overdue recognition to the many individuals who, day in and day out, year in and year out, excel at delivering  the friendly, Fijian service for which we are so famous and delivering on the promise we make when we invite people to come here:  Fiji! Where Happiness finds you.

As we recognise the accomplishments of so many companies, it is important to remember that tourism is very much a people industry. And there are hundreds and hundreds of people who make our reputation, who provide the wonderful experience, who treat visitors with the Fijian warmth and hospitality and with professionalism, who keep the resorts and the restaurants and the sporting activities running smoothly, who show every day that they enjoy the service profession that they have chosen.

One of those is Mr. Navneet Singh of FRCA, who is the 2015 Fijian Host of the Year. I am singling this award out for mention because it shows just how important people are to our tourism industry, and because Fijian Hosts is a way that government workers at Nadi International Airport have come together to make the visitor experience a memorable one once a visitor arrives. Employees of the eight airport agencies—FRCA, Immigration, Health, Evergreen International, Biosecurity, AFL, ATS and Border Police—greet and assist visitors as they arrive and help them get oriented, solve problems or find their way. Fiji Hosts has trained approximately 450 front-liners, a truly remarkable achievement.

Ladies and gentlemen, I congratulate you all—for the high standards you maintain, for your innovation and fine attention to market trends, for the good will you generate for Fiji, and for the fine industry you have built and continue to refine. I also want to thank all the sponsors for supporting these awards.

Fiji will face many challenges as we go forward: the challenge of climate change, the challenge of raising living standards throughout Fiji, the challenge of keeping in sync with changing technology, the challenge of creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and good jobs for workers, and the challenge of competition from other tourist destinations.

We will meet those challenges, and just as tourism has brought us to where we are today, we will – all with a focus on professionalism and a vision, help build the tomorrow the Fijian people deserve.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

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