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In Search of Authenticity

The world of tourism is a con­stantly evolving mechanism and what starts out small can grow into a major segment of the market. Right now, just such a thing is
05 Jan 2019 11:00
In Search of Authenticity

The world of tourism is a con­stantly evolving mechanism and what starts out small can grow into a major segment of the market.

Right now, just such a thing is hap­pening, not only in Fiji, but in many parts of the world and operators are carefully watching to see how ro­bust this trend is going to be.

There is a trend for tourists to want authentic experiences and to see and visit real living, working sites and there is a move away from ex­periences built as replicas of reality.

This includes such things as fake medieval castles and replicas of vil­lages, cowboy towns that are really theatre sets.

It also includes some experiences that are manufactured.

There is a move in accommodation to real homes in different countries where normal people live and work rather than hotels and resorts.

AIRBNB growth

AIRBNB has grown rapidly on the back of the desire to live and feel things as the locals do.

The tourist would rather go into a local market and find some interest­ing artefact than a souvenir store or outlets that are set up to flog off artefacts that are not necessarily made in the country although they are presented as such.

One operator has special tours to Iran that cater to this market and the growth they are achieving is outstanding.

They specialise in women’s groups and take them out of the main areas and into the suburbs.

They visit a local beauty salon where the locals have their hair done, have facials and all the other normal things that women do and from reports the tourists are fasci­nated by it.

They eat in local cafes and restau­rants, buy from the local market where tourists are seldom seen and learn a lot about a country that most people are too afraid to visit because of what they have heard.

They also do trips to Africa that take tourists to game parks that are off the beaten track.

One of these is in a Zulu controlled area and tourists stay in a normal hut in the village where they are guarded at night by Zulu warriors and are escorted to the bathroom which is some way from their ac­commodation.

They spend time on platforms built in trees watching the wild animals graze and move about freely below them.

What’s all this got to do with Fiji?

Fiji is no different to anywhere else and has things that will attract the people in this group.

The tourist to Fiji is largely the resort stay with some experiences outside thrown in to the mix.

They are well catered for and will continue to come to Fiji for the ex­cellent resort and island setup that are the backbone of the Fiji product.

But there are a number of things that could work for these new tour­ists. One group that came into Fiji with Rosie Holidays spent several days in a local village.

Certainly the bures were specially selected for them by the operator but they were traditional housing in a traditional village with all the usual things happening.

Nothing was staged for the visitors except for a meke but this was per­formed by the people in the village, whom they knew and lived with not a professional group.

They ate with families and did some of the things the village wom­en did such as washing clothes in the local river, collection dalo and other vegetables in the farm.

Also sitting watching kids at school and mingling with the men and women of the village for a small Kava session.

The response was excellent and all the tourists enjoyed seeing the real Fiji.

Volunteerism In Fiji

Volunteerism is also a part of this movement and is growing fast in Fiji.

It is difficult to establish how many new houses in Koropita were built by tourists as part of their vacation here, but the number would be sur­prising.

The tourists go and spend a few days working with the locals in the village and by all reports they have a great time.

This is now more often becoming part of conferences and incentive vacation packages for international companies as well and in many cas­es is the highlight of the trip.

Then there are the so called adven­ture experiences, man of which fall into the authentic category.

Leading these must be the new shark feeding experiences, of which there are a growing number.

This is a Fiji speciality, although available elsewhere in the world and features real sharks in the sea (not in an aquarium setting), in their own domain.

There are also a number of trips to villages to become involved in pot­tery making or weaving now being introduced.

Some excellent cross country treks are available but have not yet re­ceived the attention they deserve.

Hopefully, the new segment will make them more viable as an add-on to a traditional vacation break at some of the larger resorts.

The desire for authenticity is even experienced at the top end of the market.

For example, guests at Likuliku Island Resort used to go over to a de­serted known locally as Honeymoon Island for some exclusive time and to enjoy nature untouched by hu­mans.

So popular was this experience that Likuliku bought the island and made it an exclusive zone for guests only.

The island is called Mociu Island and is the beautiful cone shaped is­land in Liluliku Bay.

This is the extent some of the re­sorts are now going to for the added experiences for their guests.

In any case, Fiji business will be closely monitoring this trend to see if there is new, unsatisfied growth that can be leveraged.

There is no question that Fiji has the authentic products that will sat­isfy this market, but whether or not there are sufficient numbers in the market to make it viable.

Only time will answer that ques­tion.

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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