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The 2017 Fiji International Golf Tournament Dinner

August 15, 2017       InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa, Natadola

The CEO PGA of Australia, Mr. Gavin Kirkman
The Managing Director Sports Entertainment Limited, Mr. Bassil Scaffidi;
Honourable Ministers;
Our Distinguished Golf Professionals;
Invited guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

Ni sa bula vinaka and greetings to you all.

It is my sincere pleasure to be here this evening to welcome you all to the 2017 Fiji International Golf Tournament for the very first time as the Fijian Head of State.

Year after year, we have seen this event grow even bigger and better, garnering greater international attention and strengthening Fiji’s position as the hub of sporting competition in the Pacific. And we Fijians are very proud to again host this tournament, now in its fourth year, and again showcase Fiji as a world-class golfing destination.

Tourism is one of the major pillars of the Fijian economy, with direct and indirect contributions that have made up 30 per cent of our GDP over the past seven years. And it is a major source of employment for our people, with one in three Fijians employed in our tourism sector.   We have got plenty to celebrate for the industry, as we saw a record number of tourists visit our shores last year, and we are on pace to do very well this year as well.

As we look to the future, we want to keep this industry thriving by developing new and innovative niche markets in Fiji, such as sports tourism – including golf. So I was very glad to see that we have reached another milestone for this tournament with the new tri-sanctioning agreement reached between the PGA Tour of Australasia, the European Tour and now, the Asian Tour. 

I would like to congratulate the organisers of this event for making that happen, and for widening the reach and broadcast of the competition to many more golf fans around the world – including in the Asian, North American and Australian markets – who will also have the chance to see the beauty and splendour of our islands on live broadcast.

Ladies and gentlemen, We have a total of 132 players competing in this year’s Fiji International, and for the first time, we are welcoming three former Masters Champions to this tournament. Of course, I must acknowledge Fiji’s greatest ambassador for golf, Mr Vijay Singh, who is returning to compete on our newly redeveloped Natadola Championship Golf Course.

Thank you, Vijay, for your help in revamping this course and for all you do for Fiji in the golfing world.

Since this tournament was first held in 2014, it has given audiences all around the world a front-row seat to premier golfing competition, and to all of the things that make Fiji such a special place to visit: our world-famous hospitality, our stunning beaches and courses, and our resorts – especially these beautiful facilities in Natadola, all put on full display for golf fans everywhere – and for anyone looking for an idyllic vacation destination.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Fiji International body for their initiatives to help develop golf as a sport in Fiji.  Your roadshows, clinics and competitions have increased interest of golf and I am grateful for your contributions to the development of the sport in Fiji.  I am also pleased to know of the increasing number of local volunteers and companies that are providing support services for this tournament.  Local engagement is always important to make any event in Fiji a true success.

Ladies and gentlemen, this evening, I would like to welcome former All Black half-back Justin Marshall who has signed on as our newest ambassador for the 2017 Fiji International. Mr Marshall will join former Australian Wallabies captain George Gregan, Vodafone Fiji’s 7’s head coach, Mr.Gareth Baber, and three of our sevens team players, Kalioni Nasoko, Nacanieli Labalaba and Banuve Tabakaucoro, as ambassadors for this tournament.

For the first time ever we have done away with entry fees to the tournament, as part of our efforts to give ordinary Fijians the chance to better access the action of this competition. And our fans will also have the chance to meet our brand ambassadors, take pictures and get some autographs while also enjoying the competition out on the course. I encourage everyone who can make it to come down to Natadola and experience what an international golfing tournament is all about.  To all of our sponsors, thank you for your support for the Fiji International.

Many of you have been with us since we first launched this tournament, and I would like to thank you for your confidence in our Government’s vision – stretching all the way back to when we first partnered with the PGA Australia.

There will also be a Fijian Crafted Village that will display a selection of certified Fijian Made goods from some of our finest artisans in Fiji – and I encourage all of our visitors to take back some reminders of the time you have spent with us in our islands.

I wish our players every success on the course, and thank all of our spectators, volunteers and organisers for supporting this tournament in its fourth year.

For all of those visiting Fiji for the first time, welcome to our home and we hope you have a wonderful time among our people here in our islands. And for those who have been with us before – welcome again, it is a privilege to have you back.

Now it is my pleasure to officially declare the 2017 Fiji International, open.

Vinaka vakalevu and I wish you all an enjoyable evening.