Opening Address at the Fijian Tourism Expo 2017
May 3, 2017 Sofitel Fiji Resort, Nadi
The Minister for Industry, Trade, Tourism, Lands and Mineral Resources Honourable Faiyaz Siddiq Koya,
Na Momo na Tui Nadi – Ratu Vuniyani Navuniuci,
The Permanent Secretary for Industry, Trade and Tourism - Mr. Shaheen Ali,
Chairman of the Tourism Fiji Board - Mr. Andre Viljoen,
Valued members of the Fijian Tourism Industry
Valued international buyers and members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Ni sa bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.
It is such a pleasure and honour to be here this evening and to officially open the Fijian Tourism Expo 2017.
For the last four years, the Fijian Tourism Expo has established and created long-term relations within the Industry for both exhibitors and international buyers. We expect this year’s Fijian Tourism Expo to be an even more exciting, but more importantly, successful event for Fiji’s Tourism Industry.
I warmly welcome our visitors and friends, the 160 international travel buyers and members of the international media from across the globe who are attending this year’s event. Ni sa Bula Vinaka and welcome to Fiji. Similarly, also a Bula Vinaka to those of you who are gracing our shores again. It is such a pleasure to have you back.
I have been informed that some of the buyers who are present here today have travelled from countries such as Germany, the United Kingdom and America, and closer to home from our traditional neighbours and friends from Australia and New Zealand. On behalf of the Government and all Fijians, may I take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for supporting our Tourism Industry in attending this week-long event.
I would also like to thank all the members of our very own Fijian Tourism Industry who have done such a marvellous job in using this platform to showcase the diverse and exquisite products and services we have to offer our visitors.
Strengthening existing partnerships and creating new ones is an essential goal for the Fijian Tourism Expo, and in view of this, we have retained the theme, considered it prudent to “Team Fiji” for this year’s Expo
This theme is also considered timely and apt in identifying the Tourism Ministry in playing a lead role as part of our National team with other stakeholders who have been most helpful in our collective effort in moving Tourism Fiji forward together.
I have been informed that our 2016 Rio Olympic Gold Medal winning Fijian Sevens team will be making an appearance at the Expo, to play a game of touch rugby with attendees.
Ladies and gentlemen, our Seven’s team is a perfect example of great teamwork. They continue to be a source of inspiration for us all - to work together, to achieve our goals as individuals, organisations and as a nation. It is a brand which we hope to utilise to further promote Fiji’s Tourism Industry.
Ladies and gentlemen, It was the team spirit of the tourism industry that ensured the industry was able to turnaround and maintain a healthy trajectory status for 2016, despite the devastating effects of Tropical Cyclone Winston on the nation. Fiji recorded the highest number of visitor arrivals of 792,320, which was a five percent increase compared to 2015. Furthermore, total earnings also increased by 2.7 percent to $1.6 billion.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the 2018 outlook for the travel and tourism sector remains positive and strong as the Fijian Government and our destination marketing arm - Tourism Fiji - remain committed to supporting this growth. Our national airline Fiji Airways’ plans to upgrade five of its Boeing 737s to Max 8 aircrafts should greatly contribute towards enhanced visitor comfort for travellers who come to Fiji from the West coast of America, the East of Australia and the Island State of Singapore.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Fijian Government wants the Tourism Industry to continue to improve its income generating capacity, therefore it has embarked on mapping out strategies that would better consolidate and coordinate efforts towards enhancing the growth of the industry.
In this regard, the Fijian Government begun work on the Tourism Development Plan or “Fijian Tourism 2021” to set the platform that should elevate Tourism to a $2.2 billion industry by the end of 2021.
Fijian Tourism 2021 is a whole-of-government and industry long-term strategy to build the resilience and competitiveness of the Fijian tourism industry and grow its economic contribution.
It focuses on improving the industry’s performance and competitiveness by pursuing new opportunities for growth and addressing supply-side factors.
The objectives of the Plan are to:
1.Expand visitor expenditure and tourism yield;
2.Create a conducive environment for sustainable increase in visitor arrivals; and,
3.Support development of a sustainable and inclusive tourism sector.
In a nutshell, the Fijian Tourism 2021 is a comprehensive plan that aims to address the fundamental issues for the continued development of the Fijian tourism industry. This includes, among other considerations, environmental sustainability to complement the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It also includes caring for our Oceans. The tourism industry could play a lead role in this area of sustainable development.
You will already note that Fiji’s Prime Minister Honourable Voreqe Bainimarama is calling on the world to help address climate change, which is already becoming the most significant challenge for humanity.
Fiji intends to play its part not only through co-chairing with Sweden the United Nations Oceans Conference in New York in June this year, and presiding over the 23rd session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or COP23 in November, but also in considering practical measures that will further reduce its carbon footprint from an already negligible level.
Fiji will also work towards championing the interests of all Pacific Islands Countries and other low-lying and vulnerable nations and peoples around the world.
As President and Head of State, I would like to challenge the tourism industry and all its stakeholders to come together as “Team Fiji” and work with Government through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism to ensure that Fijian Tourism 2021 is a success.
We want everyone to take ownership of this Plan – it is your Plan and not just a Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism Plan. Therefore, everyone from the relevant government agencies and the industry should work together to achieve the targeted outcomes and goals set therein.
The Ministry has undertaken extensive consultations on the draft plan over the past few months and is continuing to receive favourable comments from stakeholders.
If we do not work together as a team, we will not be able to achieve the vision set for the industry. Hence, as “Team Fiji” we need to build on our strengths and find solutions to positively resolve our challenges and overcome our weaknesses. We will not be able to achieve the desired results if we keep dwelling on the past and not live and plan for the future. The strategies identified in the Fijian Tourism 2021 are the avenues for a bigger, better and more sustainable future for the tourism industry in Fiji.
In summary, the plan focuses on building a resilient and productive industry that is focused on quality. This will be achieved by rigorous marketing of the Fijian brand, investment in infrastructure that lead to increased investment in tourism and related activities, focus on sustainable development, providing support for small and medium enterprises, building capacity within the industry, to name a few.
Ladies and Gentlemen, In conclusion, I wish to reiterate that effective partnership is vital for the growth of the tourism sector and to achieving the goals set for the sector. I call on the industry to support the Fijian Tourism 2021, and effectively contribute to the consultation process.
We look forward to the continued support from you, our travel partners and tourism operators, because I believe that together, we can achieve anything.
With those words, I wish you all a productive and an enjoyable time at the Fiji Tourism Expo 2017. As we say, Fiji is Where Happiness Finds You.
Vinaka Vakalevu, Thank you and may God Bless You all.