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‘We are ready’: Fiji ready to welcome tourists nearly two years after border closure

Fiji says it is experiencing a surge in demand for quarantine-free travel for visitors from select countries, nearly two years after it announced this week that it closed its borders due to the covid-19 pandemic .

“Our website data is well off – we are seeing a real increase in interest. It is exciting, and we want to encourage people to come to Fiji and spend Christmas and New Years together,” said Brent, Chief Executive of Tourism Fiji Hill said.

“Our tourism industry has been waiting for this for a long time. While not everyone will be able to open on December 1, the overwhelming majority of our industry and a significant number of workers are very much behind the announcement, and ready to open our borders safely to the world once again.

“We have seven more weeks to really fine-tune our preparations, but we have all been working overtime since the beginning of the year to get our industry back to the world again. We are ready.”

fiji will reopen its borders Travelers to countries including the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and most Pacific Island countries to be fully vaccinated from 11 November, although the official reopening will take place on 1 December, when the country’s first flight on the national carrier, Fiji Airways There will be a scheduled tourist flight. To come.

Visitors must have a negative Covid test three days prior to their arrival and also undergo a rapid test upon arrival. Tourists and returning residents will still have to undergo two or three days of hotel confinement, respectively.

Fiji is allowing quarantine-free travel from select countries after launching an aggressive Covid vaccination campaign that has seen more than 96%-18 receiving the first dose so far. Photograph: Rob Rickman / The Guardian

Prime Minister Voreke Bainimarama said the country was “completely confident in our ability to manage the risk associated with quarantine-free travel.”

“Our planes are ready. Our airports are customized. Every Fiji hotel and tour operator in Fiji will be certified under the CARE Fiji Commitment Certification Program, which will require all hotels and excursions to meet the highest standards of comfort, health and safety.

Bainimarama said hotels must guarantee comfortable, well-supplied isolation facilities and access to medical care such as testing, regular staff-swabing and escalation protocols in case positive cases are detected.

‘No job, no job’

Travel restrictions and quarantine requirements have been eased after the government launched an aggressive vaccination campaign; Of the target population 18 years and older, 96.6% received their first dose, while 80.3% received both doses.

Government’s “No Job, No Job” strategy for civil servants and employees in the private sector, announced in July, forcing many Fijians to get vaccinated.

Fantasha Lockington, head of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association, said months of preparation had gone into reopening plans.

“The industry is looking at our core markets of Australia and New Zealand and its own management of vaccination and border management, as the reopening of Fiji should eventually coincide with those of countries that allow their citizens to travel here, ” He said.

An aerial view of Fiji's coral coast
An aerial view of Fiji’s coral coast. Before the pandemic, tourism made up about 40% of Fiji’s economy. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

“Tourism operators that have remained open are prepared with necessary health protocols, even if these openings are at low capacity or only intermittent.

“But they are nonetheless ready and able to survive on limited local demand as well as a small but fairly lucrative influx of visitors through our Blue (sailing) and VIP Lane initiatives.”

Lockington said it was extremely difficult for smaller operators to even curb local tourism, with many operators requiring confirmation of their major markets to plan their respective reopenings.

“From a resort standpoint they have to factor in the cost of a closed resort to maintain their operations with a skeleton staff once they become fully operational with high overheads and on deck and restaurants and bars. Open with fully stocked. Again, but still without any revenue until everything except your guests arrive,” she said.

Before the pandemic, tourism Contributed to about 40% of Fiji’s GDP – approximately FJ$2bn (AU$1.4bn) – and directly or indirectly employed more than 150,000 people. But as visitor arrivals fell by 87%, the economy declined by 19% in 2020.

“Even if economists keep saying otherwise, Fiji may surprise everyone with a gradual recovery to begin with,” Lockington said.

“Fiji expatriates around the world are really looking forward to seeing family and friends and have shown massive support with the interest in booking ahead of the announcement. They plan to vacation here knowing that they can get their jobs done Will support more Fiji people to get back.”

Fiji’s highest growth markets in the past five years were India, South Korea, China and New Zealand. Australia remains Fiji’s largest market, with Australian visitors growing at an average rate of 2%. Since 2013, tourist arrivals in Fiji have increased by an average of 5%.

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