Can A Fijian Lead Tourism Fiji?

The contract of outgoing chief executive officer, Australian Matthew Stoeckel, contract ends on December 21. He has said he is leaving. The successful incumbent would be reporting to the Tourism Fiji board.
15 Nov 2020 11:36
Can A Fijian Lead Tourism Fiji?
Some of the potential candidates for the Fiji Tourism CEO post: From left Petero Manufolau, Jo Tuamoto, Ilisapeci Matatolu and Paresh Pant.

Can a local lead Tourism Fiji?

The obvious answer is yes.

The Tourism Fiji CEO position has been advertised.

The contract of outgoing chief executive officer, Australian Matthew Stoeckel, contract ends on December 21. He has said he is leaving. The successful incumbent would be reporting to the Tourism Fiji board.

The board members are Andre Viljoen (chair), Shaheen Ali, Neeraj Chadha, Petaia Tuimanu, Ajay Raniga, Josephine Smith-Moffat, Loretta St Julian-Ooms and Tammie Tam.

In the advert, it says: “Tourism Fiji is seeking a highly capable individual who can hit the ground running in managing the organisation through the current disruption caused by the COVID-19 to get the destination back on track and ensure the world knows Fiji is the place where happiness finds you.

“An attractive remuneration package commensurate with qualifications and experience will be negotiated with the successful candidate.

“Applications for this position should include a current resume and an outline of your proven experience to carry out the role and how you meet the criteria.”

SunBiz spoke to distinguished tourism leaders Bill Whiting and James Sowane, who shared similar sentiments that locals are capable of leading Tourism Fiji.

Mr Whiting, a former marketing director at the Fiji Visitors Bureau (now Tourism Fiji) was the main brain behind the development of the Graduate Training Programme in the early 1990s at the organisation.

The programme meant localising regional director positions in Fiji’s key tourism source markets.

Under the watchful eye of Mr Whiting, the tourism industry saw a new direction.

“With the support of then Fiji Visitors Bureau CEO Isimeli Bainimara, I introduced the Graduate trainee programme in the 1990’s to develop local talented Fijians to become future tourism leaders.”


Mr Whiting highlighted some leaders whom he developed and SunBiz understands could be potential candidates for the Tourism Fiji CEO post:

James Sowane now Managing Director of Pacific Destinations Previously Regional Director New Zealand for Fiji Visitors Bureau now Tourism Fiji

Eroni Puamau now Group General Manager of Rosie Holidays

Josaia Rayawa now Head of Sales BSP Life previously Regional Director in Fiji, NZ, Australia, & North America markets for Fiji Visitors Bureau, (now Tourism Fiji). Served with Air Pacific as Manager Advertising and Promotions, 2009-2010. From 2010-2014 served as Regional GM Sales, Fiji and Pacific for Fiji Airways.

Josefa Tuamoto now CEO Solomon Islands Tourism. Deputy Chairman of the Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) Board.

Previously CEO Tourism Fiji, Director of Marketing and Regional Director Australia and North America. His replacement in Fiji by an expatriate caused some surprise.

Paresh Pant now a lecturer at Griffith University Gold Coast Australia. Previously Regional director Fiji Visitors Bureau now Tourism Fiji, NZ and Australia

Ilisapeci Matatolu now lecturer at USP previously Regional Director Fiji Visitors Bureau now Tourism Fiji in Los Angeles and Sydney Australia

Ilisoni Vuidreketi Tourism Consultant previously CEO South Pacific Tourism Organisation, Fiji Trade Commissioner Los Angeles and Regional Director FVB now Tourism Fiji in North America

All seven of these executives went on to hold various positions in Fiji Visitors Bureau before being appointed as regional directors.

Several went on to successfully serve more than one regional director positions in the Fiji Visitors Bureau before moving on to have successful careers post Fiji Visitors Bureau /Tourism Fiji.

Petero Manufolau

Meanwhile, another potential candidate could also be the current Tourism Authority of Kiribati, CEO, Petero Manufolau.

In an interview with Mr Manufolau, he said: “Matt Stoeckel did a fantastic job elevating Tourism Fiji to the organisation it is today.

“I wish him all the best on his new appointment,” he said.

Mr Manufolau has over 20 years of experience in the tourism sector.

He is the former Marketing Manager at SPTO.

He also previously worked as a sales and marketing manager at Shangri-La’s Fijian Resort and Spa, Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort and the Warwick Fiji.

Competitive environment

Mr Whiting in an interview said: Tourism is very competitive and post COVID-19 will be even more so as destinations chase a smaller market of travellers.

“Tourism is vital to the Fijian economy and the Tourism Fiji CEO and Director Marketing Manager can make a real difference by maximising the brand value of Fiji globally with a significant flow on contribution to the Fijian economy.

“The job of running Tourism Fiji and marketing Fiji globally is too big for one person.”

Below are excerpts of an interview Mr Whiting:

Do you think a local would be able to lead Tourism Fiji and market Fiji to the world?

Yes. But it is not as straight forward as that.

It is vital that two separate positions of CEO and Director of Marketing are retained and the very best available persons appointed.

The job is too big for one person.

I appreciate that the Director of Marketing position is currently occupied, and the incumbent may be an exceptional marketer.

But in the interests of the Fijian tourism industry, the board need to consider the Director of Marketing position either be thrown open and the incumbent invited to re-apply.

Or the first task of the incoming CEO is to assess this position.

From your experience as a tourism leader, what abilities should the candidate possess?

It is essential that the CEO has very strong communication and administration skills and be able to maintain the confidence of all the key stakeholders.

Experience in marketing and the tourism industry would be very useful, but is not essential if you also have a highly qualified Director of Marketing.

The CEO ideally should be a local, or an expat who has a strong affinity for Fiji.

The Director of Marketing is ideally someone with exceptional marketing skills, who has significant success in international brand marketing, ideally in a service industry, not necessarily tourism.

There are a small number of locals with the skills and experience who could fill the role, but if they are not interested it would then be necessary to look at a suitable expat.

Who would you see as a likely fit for the Tourism Fiji CEO?

I can think of at least four local persons and one expat (who has close links to Fiji), all who would do an excellent job for our country as Tourism Fiji’s CEO.

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