SUNBIZ

Whiting: Concern Over Peak Season Survival

A leading tourism personality and Pacific Bedbank Limited managing director, Bill Whiting has warned that people should have already started tightening their belts to brace for a massive hit for the industry.
15 Mar 2020 14:15
Whiting: Concern Over Peak Season Survival
A leading tourism personality and Pacific Bedbank Limited managing director, Bill Whiting, (inset), says strong rebound resuilts are expected once coronavirus has passed.

One of the tourism industry’s greatest concerns at present is whether Fiji’s traditional peak season will attract enough visitors as the coronavirus continues to strangle traditional markets.

A leading tourism personality and Pacific Bedbank Limited managing director, Bill Whiting has warned that people should have already started tightening their belts to brace for a massive hit for the industry.

His warning and outlook was shared by two other tourism leaders and major inbound tour operators, Rosie Holidays managing director Tony Whitton and Pacific Destination managing director James Sowane.

A leading tourism personality and Pacific Bedbank Limited managing director, Bill Whiting.

A leading tourism personality and Pacific Bedbank Limited managing director, Bill Whiting.

A good start

“For January, we were looking at a good year and it was very positive and in terms of Pacific Bedbank we were 0.03 per cent ahead of the same month last year which was very good,” Mr Whiting said.

“Things began to decline in February.

“The Chinese market was decimated, but we were still looking quite strong.

“As we began to roll through, bookings began to decline from other markets.

“Towards the end of the month, this decline was almost in free fall.

“As a result, we are looking at declines of around 40 per cent for the traditional peak months of the year but that might reverse at some stage.

“Nobody can predict when and this is the challenge.

“It is impossible to predict how long and how severe the downturn.

“There is strong indications that is going to continue for a while.”

Air New Zealand cuts back

Mr Whiting said Air New Zealand would be cutting their evening services to Nadi from March 30.

The airline presently has two daily flights to Fiji, so the cut would mean around 80 per cent drop.

Mr Whiting said this would be reviewed around the end of April.

He said the cut in services would mean over the Easter period too and before the Easter school holidays.

“We are now looking at a situation where the industry is tightening its belt.”

Staff in some businesses are being asked to work reduced hours, therefore reduced pay, Mr Whiting said.

“We have staff also being asked to take unpaid leave.

“The great concern is we have managed through the off season, although it has not been the best for many resorts and hotels.”

Peak season

“It is the peak season that we have got to be concerned about.

“If we have a soft peak season, people are not going to be able to make their recovery of what they have lost during their off peak season.”

The season starts building up from Easter onwards following the low months of February, March and after Easter.

The peak season begins with an upward incline through early April, Ma and early June.

Mr Whiting said by the third week of June, private schools overseas started breaking up for their vacation, which was when Fiji hit the peak, which runs from the end of June, July, and August which is a strong shoulder month while it peaks again from September to mid-October.

Following this the season starts its decline from November and is the routine every year.

Government intervention

“The tourism industry is delighted to see that the Government is taking the threat seriously.

“It is great that testing for coronavirus is now being done in Fiji.”

Mr Whiting said some special pricing put into the market.

“But the reality in the loss of business is not a pricing issue.

“It is a personal safety issue.”

Mr Whiting said once the pandemic had passed, the tourism sector could expect a strong rebound in travel.

“Fiji is a great destination.

“We have a good product that is not being damaged in any way and which does work well for our recovery.

“We have some very good people leading our industry at the moment, and they are doing a very great job under very challenging circumstances.”

Feedback: charles.chambers@fijisun.com.fj

Fijisun E-edition
Total Excellium
Subscribe-to-Newspaper
Fiji Sun Instagram
Subscribe-to-Newspaper