Editorial comment – Making it happen in Suva

General view of the Suva CBD. Picture: FT FILE

It is encouraging that the Suva Retailers Association is in talks with the Suva City Council on new initiatives to encourage the return of tourists to the Capital City.

We say this in the wake of the cruise liner visit to Suva at the weekend. With international travel restrictions lifted, tourists are slowly returning to Fiji.

Remember we received 70,110 visitors in August. Tourism Fiji chief executive Brent Hill said the numbers coming were a testament to the hard work of the collective industry.

The message, he said, was getting out, that Fiji is the perfect place as we emerge out of COVID, to holiday in. Occupancy, he said, continued to be very strong.

He said the local tourism sector was now tracking above 2019 levels which he labelled as “unbelievably good”.

Now back to plans in Suva, the association said business activity in the Capital City was recovering well since the COVID-19 pandemic and the return of tourism should help improve it further.

The cruise liner, Carnival Splendor, was the first to dock in Suva since the closing of international borders at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago.

Tourism Fiji chief operations officer Leigh Howard said the arrival of the cruise liner was a huge boost to the economy.

More than 2000 tourists from the ship signalled new hope for Suva retailers. Suva Retailers Association president Jitesh Patel was glad to see them returning.

He expects business activity in Suva to continue to rise in the coming months.

The association, he said, hoped to make further improvements and take on new initiatives in collaboration with the Suva City Council to ensure tourism in Suva returned to pre-COVID levels.

They hope to implement changes before the next few scheduled cruise ships arrived in the coming months.

Any growth in tourism numbers means positive returns for many people. It means employment opportunities, and growth in associated industries.

You can rope in transport providers, farm produce providers, handicraft sellers, market vendors, and opportunities for holiday destinations and tours.

Thousands of Fijians will benefit, directly and indirectly. With that in mind, we hope the city fathers will relook at the dynamics within the city for starters.

That should include appropriately dealing with people sitting on strategic street corners, begging for money in the Capital City.

Any action taken to deal with this major issue must be followed through though.

It can be disconcerting for many people when they are faced with youths begging or asking for money daily. Then there is the bit about giving our visitors reason to value their trip to the city.

It means addressing development works quickly around the city, at Sukuna Park and the sea front along Muanikau for instance, giving visitors a memorable holiday, even if they are here for just a few hours. It will also mean adhering to health safety advice.

Our challenge now is to stay focused as a nation, and maintain the status quo.

We are encouraged by the number of tourists visiting our country and now this focus on cruise liner visits. We should be focused on encouraging that number to grow.

Many families depend on the rest of us doing the right thing. We need visitors to come.

They will come if they feel safe and the processes are in place to ensure they enjoy their holiday here.

They must be motivated to come across. We hope discussions are fruitful and will work in favour of returning the Capital City to one worthy of leaving an indelible impression on the minds of tourists.

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