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Fijian Tourism Expo 2016

PM: Tourism Industry Resilient and Growing Speech delivered by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama at the Fijian Tourism Expo opening yesterday Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
04 May 2016 12:36
Fijian Tourism Expo 2016
Tourism Fiji

PM: Tourism Industry Resilient and Growing
Speech delivered by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama at the Fijian Tourism Expo opening yesterday

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all. Tourism is our number one industry in Fiji and my Government attaches the highest importance to its health and well-being.

So I’m delighted to join you all in Denarau this morning as we bring together our industry partners in Fiji and overseas for the 2016 Fijian Tourism Expo. I want to offer a special welcome to our international guests on behalf of the Fijian people.

And tell you all how much we value and appreciate your presence here this week and your continuing commitment to Fiji.

The international support we are getting for this event has never been higher.

I’m told there are 153 buyers this year, along with 14 representatives of the foreign media.

And they’ll be interacting over the coming days with the 110 Fijian tourism operators who are exhibiting at this year’s event. Doing business.

Strengthening existing partnerships and forging new ones, all with a view to moving our industry forward and making Fiji the destination of choice for many more holidaymakers around the world.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the theme of this year’s event is the same slogan I have used before in a national context – Team Fiji.

The notion that by working more closely and effectively together as an industry, as well as a nation, we can all do better to improve Fiji’s ability to compete with other destinations in what has become a highly competitive global environment for tourism.

We have a great product – Brand Fiji. Or as our tourism slogan puts it, the place “Where Happiness Finds You”.

And it is built around the unique interaction between our visitors and the Fijian people.

As I’ve said before, there are many places in the world where you can find a nice beach and a cold drink. But there’s nowhere like Fiji and the emotional connection that our visitors invariably make with the friendliest people in the world.

A connection that often becomes an attachment and sees thousands of international visitors repeatedly coming back for more. True friends of Fiji who become our ambassadors throughout the world.

 

Dealing with setback

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have had a huge setback as a nation over the past ten weeks because of Tropical Cyclone Winston.

Apart from the deaths of 44 of our loved ones, up to 40,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, along with 229 schools and public buildings and infrastructure.

I want to make a special appeal to you all to promote our Adopt a School programme wherever and whenever you can.

Our children desperately need the assistance of the global community to get back into proper classrooms.

So if anyone asks you how they can best help Fiji recover from Winston, please suggest the Adopt a School programme and direct them to our website – www.adoptaschool.gov.fj

Whatever the extent of the current trauma, we still have much to be grateful for because Winston spared the vast majority of our tourism properties. Out of the 400 hotels and resorts throughout Fiji, only 9 per cent of them had to be closed because of the 300 kilometre-an-hour winds and flooding.

So this has enabled the vast majority of tourism operators to keep their doors open and play a key role in our national recovery.

To keeping our people in work and maintain the industry’s key contribution to the overall health of our national economy.

For all of Winston’s destruction, our economy has proved to be remarkably resilient. And I don’t think there’s any doubt that we are on track to grow our economy by up to 3 percent this year, in spite of the huge task ahead of us to rebuild Fiji.

 

Tourism industry significance

Tourism is leading the way, and I want to give you some excellent news today about our visitor arrival numbers, which have also proved to be remarkably resilient.

As many of you know, 2015 was the biggest year ever for Fijian tourism in terms of numbers and earnings.

And you might have expected us to be significantly down given the disruption of the past couple of months.

I’m very pleased and proud to report that this is not the case at all. In the first quarter of 2016, we received a total of 158,069 visitors, which is an increase of 10.2 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Our March visitor arrivals alone totaled 55,977, up 9.7 per cent from the same period last year. So far from being down in the wake of Cyclone Winston, our arrivals have actually gone up.

And we are set for another bumper year for tourism, both in numbers and earnings.

This is a remarkable achievement that I think deserves a round of collective applause. Vinaka vakalevu to you all!

Ladies and Gentlemen, this wonderful achievement is certainly testament to the success of the way the entire industry swung into action to minimise the impact of cyclone Winston on visitor numbers.

As we can see, the close collaboration has already yielded a good result for Team Fiji.

And it shows us what we can do if we can pool our resources and our brainpower to confront any challenge, however daunting.

In the space of a few days, we came together as a team –the Government, Tourism Fiji and Fiji Airways – to take an urgent message to the world. That while much of Fiji was reeling from the impact of Cyclone Winston, the impact on the industry as a whole was minimal. Fiji was open for business.

And the best way for our friends in the world to assist us was to come and visit us. In an act of solidarity for our people and our industry.

It worked. Indeed, our comprehensive social media campaign, the attractive Fiji Airways packages and our meetings with wholesalers has been a textbook example of the benefits of teamwork in a crisis.

And by working closely together as a team, we have turned a potential loss for the industry into a significant victory.

I couldn’t be more proud of the industry as Prime Minister under the circumstances.

And on behalf of the nation, I want to warmly thank each and every one of you for the hard work that I know has gone into achieving this wonderful result.

 

The plan now

As our Expo theme suggests, we want to harness that spirit of teamwork this week to do even better.  We’ve set a target of five years to achieve our vision of making Fijian tourism a $2-billion a year industry.

But we now think we can do so much sooner if we can capitalise on the effectiveness of our response to Winston and keep the momentum going.

Let me briefly remind you of just some of the things we have going for us in 2016 that are giving us a much stronger base to move forward. We have increased our reach in the world with the new Fiji Airways route to Singapore, which is opening up all sorts of possibilities with better connections to Asia, the subcontinent, the Middle East and Europe.  Fiji Airways will also be flying soon direct to San Francisco, giving us a second US city with a direct link to Nadi. More flights. More opportunities.

Fiji is now directly linked to every continent around the Pacific Rim, apart from South America. And this offers us new opportunities to attract affluent and adventurous holiday makers from further afield than our traditional mass markets in Australia and New Zealand.

We are developing and strengthening strong niche markets, including conventions, weddings and sporting tourism.

As you know, Fiji has been part of the Australian tour of the PGA golf competition since 2014. But this year, we extend our reach even further by becoming part of the European tour.

One of the most prestigious golfing events that will showcase Fiji to millions more viewers and attract more of the world’s top golfers to Fiji.

We are investing heavily in improving our infrastructure to enhance the visitor experience. You’ll have all noticed the significant upgrade being undertaken at Nadi International Airport. Work is well advanced on the new road from the Airport to Denarau to reduce congestion and travel times and cement this island’s place as Fiji’s top tourist destination. Good news abounds throughout the industry.

 

Our greatest asset

But I want to close by paying tribute to the greatest thing we have going for us as an industry, our greatest asset. And that is the Fijian people.

For all its destruction, Tropical Cyclone Winston failed to wipe the smiles off the faces of the Fijian people. I have been so proud to lead the nation during one of the most challenging times in its history because of the example set by our people.

And I ask you all to keep taking that message to the world. That not only is Fiji very much open for business, it is still and always will be – because of our people – the place where happiness truly finds you.

If anything, Winston has made us stronger and more united. It has cemented our existing ties with the rest of the world and made us new friends. Because people the world over have witnessed the quality of our island life.

The way Team Fiji has pulled together to confront this challenge with courage, determination and a genuine sense of caring, of leaving no-one behind.

The Fijian spirit is alive and well. And I ask you all – whether you are from Fiji or overseas – to harness that spirit this week and the teamwork that produced it to also make our industry stronger.

This Expo is not just about securing numbers. It is about forging new relationships and strengthening existing ones between the Fijian industry and international buyers.

All with a view to moving forward together and strengthening Fiji’s overall position as a tourist destination.

I’ve said before that every Fijian has been humble and grateful in the wake of Winston to find that we have so many loyal friends in the world.

And we especially value the friendship of those of you who are with us here today – the men and women who take Fiji to the world and bring the world to Fiji.

A warm welcome to Nadi and to Denarau to each and every one of you.

And I wish you all an enjoyable and productive week as valued members of Team Fiji.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

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