Editorial comment – A positive landscape

Inosi Cabealawa (left) with Jone Raiyawa and Meli Tokalau greet Australian tourists Beverly Harrison and Kate Hewitt at the Port of Lautoka during the arrival of Pacific Explorer on Monday, August 15, 2022. Picture: SITERI SAUVAKACOLO

So figures for July have broken the record for this year, with 78,638 tourist arrivals into the country!

That’s when we compare the figure with the 62,130 in June.

In a release yesterday, the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport said this brings Fiji’s July 2019 pre-COVID tourism recovery to 81.6 per cent.

It noted the Australian market had recovered 100 per cent to July, 2019 levels, with 37,005 Australians coming to Fiji in July compared with 36,799 in July, 2019.

There were 25,237 New Zealanders and 9295 USA nationals who came to Fiji in July, bringing the year-to-date tourist arrival number to 284,167.

In June this year, Tourism Fiji chief executive officer Brent Hill forecast a strong month ahead in terms of tourist bookings.

He said it had been “incredibly challenging”, however, he was proud of the “collective effort of the Fijian industry to have achieved what we have done, and to be where we are today”.

“I think if you said to me we would battle a new variant – Omicron, a tropical cyclone and flooding, a neighbouring volcanic eruption that threw up an ash cloud affecting flights – I would have said there’s no way we can survive all that,” he was quoted saying.

At the time, the tourism sector, he said, looked strong with core markets – Australia, New Zealand the United States — already open.

More New Zealanders had started coming to Fiji, adding to the numbers from Australia and the US.

He predicted good numbers from May onwards.

Then in June, Tourism Fiji said it expected more than 150,000 visitors over the next three months.

Bookings were strong then.

Any rise in our numbers would be welcomed by stakeholders.

It sets in motion a number of positive roll-on effects.

People will talk about growth, employment opportunities, and a boost to the economy.

They will talk about positive vibes.

We are buoyed by the fact that we are still affected by a pandemic though.

We are still staring at a world that has been forced to embrace the new normal.

Then there are the issues faced by potential tourists in their own countries as the world continues to battle COVID-19.

We may look on with interest and hold those who give these figures up to scrutiny.

We also reflect on major issues faced by the tourism industry, especially when the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic struck us in April last year.

The industry was on its knees, and thousands of workers lost their jobs.

Now we see signs that it is slowly getting back on its feet.

That is good for the nation.

It is good for all those who rely on the industry to put food on the table, and for the businesses that ride on a vibrant landscape.

What matters now is how we embrace the rise in numbers, and how we ensure we are able to facilitate safety and security for our guests.

Fijians will want to see positive developments.

For many, it’s a bread and butter issue.

We note the figures, but we also note the work that must be done to live up to expectations and to also continue to attract tourists.

We hope there are equally strong systems in place in other countries where there are tourists planning to visit Fiji.

It is good to have positive vibes!

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