TOURISM Fiji had plenty of reasons to celebrate during last month’s annual Fiji Tourism Expo (FTE), with record numbers of buyers and exhibitors in attendance as the country marked new highs in inbound visitor numbers during 2018. While the Australian market is still by far Fiji’s main source of tourists, concerted efforts by Tourism Fiji CEO Matt Stoeckel to broaden the arrivals base are paying off, with significant growth out of the USA, Canada, Japan and Greater China.
Stoeckel, who has been in the role for about three years, has also presided over the ongoing expansion of Fiji’s tourism product, with ongoing stability and consistent airlift seeing lots of investment in new and upgraded resorts, activities and other innovations. Examples detailed during FTE included the FJ$45 million upgrade of the Sofitel Denarau Resort & Spa, as well as FJ$3.5 million being spent on an 80-passenger luxury catamaran for the newly established South Sea Sailing operation run by South Sea Cruises. Ground operator Tourism Transport Fiji is also boosting its fleet of coaches, mini-buses and other vehicles, including the addition of new dedicated 13-seat luxury transfer vans as well as vehicles able to carry wheelchair-bound passengers.
Fiji Airways CEO Andrew Viljoen, who is also Chair of Tourism Fiji, highlighted the much-anticipated arrival later this year of two Airbus A350-900XWB aircraft with lie-flat business class seats, wi-fi and the latest inflight entertainment systems. These aircraft will operate daily flights to Nadi from Sydney, as well as six times per week from Los Angeles — and in turn facilitate the deployment of other wide-bodied aircraft into a new charter division which will target emerging markets such as Vancouver and Shanghai.
More than 170 international buyers and media attended FTE, conducting thousands of pre-scheduled appointments with just over 100 exhibitors, alongside other key industry partners. A key marketing message was Tourism Fiji’s ‘Bulanaires’ concept, celebrating the true wealth of the country in the tagline “where happiness finds you” through relationships with key influencers such as US Survivor host, Jeff Probst. “We want to make the intangible tangible by showing and shining the light on stories of Fijian hospitality,” Stoeckel told travelBulletin.
The luxury sector is one of several key targets for Tourism Fiji going forward, following the opening of new properties such as Six Senses Fiji, Kokomo, Momi Bay and upgrades at Vomo Island and many others. “I feel there’s really been a step change in our product,” Stoeckel concluded.