SUNBIZ

Fiji Enters A Golden Age

The past weekend the whole country celebrated the stunning Gold Medal win in the Rio Olympics Rugby Sevens, a win that put Fiji on the world sporting map. Fiji had
27 Aug 2016 08:31
Fiji Enters A Golden Age
Fiji Rugby 7s team coach, Ben Ryan, during the celebrations at the ANZ National Stadium on Monday.

The past weekend the whole country celebrated the stunning Gold Medal win in the Rio Olympics Rugby Sevens, a win that put Fiji on the world sporting map.

Fiji had won the 7s World Championship each of the past two years but the Olympics provided a vast audience internationally and our boys played with such style, precision and joy that they stamped themselves in rugby history forever.

That’s great for Fijian Rugby, for the team and for Fiji and they deserve all the accolades they received.

And this brought many people, both here and internationally, to look at where Fiji stands and where we are going.

Back in 2006, about six weeks after the Bainimarama Government had been formed, I was asked by a business associate what I thought about the future.

“In 1959, Singapore and Fiji were equal on almost every measure of a country’s economy,” I replied.

“Look at the position now, Singapore is one of the leading developed nations. What made the difference?

“A benign dictator, Lee Kuan Yew was elected and his government implemented policies that were aimed at taking the economy forward and improving the lives of every citizen. Maybe this man is our Lee Kuan Yew”.

There is no question, 10 years later that I was right.

The amazing Rugby Sevens result that delivered the first ever Olympic Gold Medals for Fiji was the result, in great measure, to the enlightened policies that government put in place.

Amid all the excitement and pride we feel for the Rio Gold, it is easy to overlook a number of other “Gold Medals” the policies made possible over the past few years.

Tourism industry gold

Ten years ago Fiji had a good tourism industry, but it was one of a number of destinations in the region that offered very similar product to tourists.

It was a sun and sand product built on resorts on the mainland and some Yasawa and Mamanuca Islands.

Now our industry is world class and in many cases world leading.

Denarau is one of the largest tourism locations (and about to get a lot bigger and better).

We have island resorts so beautiful that they win the respected international travel awards every year with one recently being awarded the second best island resort in the world.

We offer tourist experiences second to none with the shark feeding dives and the Sigatoka Safari achieving world status, and many more resorts under construction.

Fiji’s tourism distribution system has expanded rapidly, driven by world class operations such as the Rosie Group and the ever growing Fiji Airways.

In the past 10 years, tourism has addressed the niche markets with world class product.

The Super Yacht and Cruising Yacht segment is now firmly on the world map, surfing is to world competition standard with excellent infrastructure.

The world class Natadola Golf Course has many of the best golfers in the world competing for Championship prize money.

The Auckland to Port Denarau international yacht race has joined the world classis offshore races and the weddings, conventions and meetings product is booming.

Another change over the last few years has been the shift in ownership of many of the tourism plant, the resorts and infrastructure away from foreign ownership and into the hands of local investors.

This is a change that adds even more strength to the Fijian economy.

All this is possible because of government policy support, and all this adds dramatically to the strength of the Fiji economy and to the standard of living of all Fijians.

 

Manufacturing sector gold

In the past 10 years, the manufacturing industry in Fiji has enjoyed rapid and sustained growth.

The great marketing companies, who cut their teeth in the Fijian market, have become world class operations.

Not only is this reflected in the range and quality of the goods offered to consumers, but they have aggressively and successfully entered into the international markets that were once suppliers of goods to Fiji.

They have penetrated a number of markets with Fijian made goods.

FMF Foods has moved into Australia and New Zealand, particularly with their biscuit brands, but are also making inroads with other products.

CJ Patel is strongly into Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and PNG as well as Australia (where they are a large supplier of replacement car batteries made in Fiji) and New Zealand.

There are many other manufacturing operations who are now concentrating on overseas markets.

The clothing and footwear manufacturers are finding strong demand in many new overseas markets while their traditional markets continue to grow.

 

Gold in retail sector

In the past 10 years, there has also been a significant change in the retail sector in Fiji.

Food retail has attained world class standards in a number of brands with store layouts and product stocking selectively introducing sections such as fresh produce, wine and alcohol, bakery and delicatessen that have been developing internationally.

They are experimenting with health foods and lifestyle products.

Hardware retailers have also followed the lead of their overseas counterparts and the shopping experience is now, for the most part, easy and accessible and even the payment process is now at international standard in most brands.

The products being offered are of international quality and range has generally expanded.

High quality speciality retail shops are opening and they are finding strong consumer support.

The international coffee culture has certainly had a big impact on the lifestyle of the younger people and the industry is introducing some specifically local twists to the product range.

This and the growing wine culture have done a lot to change the lifestyles of the younger generation in Fiji.

 

Regional hub

Fiji has developed as the centre of the South Pacific, particularly in the area of politics, international business and transport.

Many countries now have embassy facilities located in Fiji, generally Suva and most of the important international agencies such as the EU and UN have regional headquarters for the South Pacific in Fiji.

Fiji has also become a hub for transport in the South Pacific, where international goods are off loaded in Fiji and transferred to smaller vessels for onward shipment.

The Nadi International Airport has developed into a hub for air transport in the region.  Fiji’s relationship with our traditional partners Australia and New Zealand are stronger than ever.

Another very significant change has been the political standing of Fiji internationally.

Fiji has recently been respected and represented at the highest level in international political meetings and is about the have our representative as the President of the UN General Assembly.

Fiji was an influential voice in the Paris Climate talks and the first country to sign the Agreement.

Fiji has a strong voice in UN affairs and close political relationships throughout Europe and SE Asia.

 

Best example though

Rio Gold is the most recent and certainly the most dramatic demonstration of what can be achieved if the right policies are in place and there is solid and reliable government support.

Every sector of life in Fiji has undergone a dramatic change in the last ten years, most of which can be directly attributed to the environment created by government policy.


John Ross is a Nadi-based marketing and advertising specialist with a long background in tourism. For feedback on this article, please email him: johnrossfiji@gmail.com

 

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