Fiji has a very strong India connection with a large Indian diaspora, a legacy of the British colonial era when indentured labourers were brought to the islands by colonial rulers between 1879 and 1916 to work on Fiji’s sugar plantations. Today, Fijians of Indian origin account for approximately one-third of the total population. TTJ spoke with Kathy Koyamaibole, Regional Director- Asia, Tourism Fiji, who was on a visit to India to learn more about the island nation’s plans to woo the Indian traveller post the COVID-19 reopening of its borders.
– Gurjit Singh Ahuja
Fiji was no exception like the rest of the world when it sealed its borders to international travellers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that a major chunk of the global populace is double inoculated and a large number of global savvy Indian travellers have already taken their third vaccination shot. Fiji is all set to welcome back the Indian traveller.
Kathy explains, “Tourism is important for Fiji, and as per pre-pandemic 2019 figures, tourism generated three billion US dollars’ worth of revenue from about one million visitors. A major chunk of the whole business comes from neighbors. Australia and New Zealand are the closest strategic markets, followed by North America, primarily the USA and Canada, followed by the UK, Europe, and China.”
With 6000 visitors, India is among Fiji’s top ten inbound leisure markets. India is a long-haul and high-yield market for Fiji. With China still not opening its borders, the inflow of tourists is frozen from that market, further enhancing the importance of a well-vaccinated and mature travel market like India. “We aim to achieve our 2019 figures by 2024. Travel to Fiji is now quite easy. Indians get a visa on arrival in Fiji. Fully vaccinated travellers older than 16 must show proof of vaccination at the airport check-in prior to departure for Fiji. They have to carry travel insurance and undergo a pre-booked RAT test when they arrive in Fiji. The RAT test must be pre-booked on entrytestfiji.com and conducted between 48-72 hours of their arrival in Fiji.
“Currently, the idea is to work the grassroots again with the agents and get demand up to the 2019 levels. Leisure and family travel segment remains our strong focus, but surprisingly a lot of players evinced interest in FIJI for their high-end MICE movement,” elaborates Kathy.
Flight connectivity is still a concern, as there are no direct flights from India to Fiji; however, connections do exist out of Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand. As flights open up, seats to Fiji will increase.
To increase product knowledge and awareness among industry stakeholders, Tourism Fiji launched its revamped Matai Specialist Program in May 2022 in the India market. The program has received a great response across global markets and in the India market within a short span has achieved 500 plus registrations and 180 qualified Matai specialists to serve the Indian traveller. The newly introduced Matai is a three-tier program with the Bronze level taking just two hours to complete. The silver takes approximately two and half hours to complete. The lucky Matai specialists completing the programme before July 31, 2022, also hold an opportunity to win a free trip to Fiji. These lucky winners will get an opportunity to feel and experience the country and all it has to offer.
The Indian film industry, like Bollywood, Kollywood, and Sandalwood, has shown interest in Fiji for its picturesque locations. Hindi movie Table 21 was filmed in Fiji, as were a couple of Kannada and Telugu movies. Movies create a lot of aspirational value for a destination and are a great way to take a destination to the masses.
Fiji offers great golfing opportunities for avid golfers, world-renowned, champion Golfer Vijay Singh is a Fijian. Fiji boasts of five championship golf courses. Two of the golf courses are on private island resorts. The focus is on golf tourism, and Kathy reports that a group of 50 female golfers from Chennai who primarily visited Fiji to experience the golfing delights the country has to offer.
Lying at the crossroads of Polynesia, Fiji has a strong Polynesian influence, a fact visible in its people, food, and clothing. Fiji offers vacationers the sun, sea, and sand combined with tropical forests and mountains. Kathy suggests that if someone is coming to Fiji from India, a six to seven-night vacation spread over the sea and mountains is a must. Fiji offers true value for money and top luxury offerings for the discerning traveller. The best time to visit Fiji is June to October, making it a perfect fit for Indian summer school vacations and the Dussehra holidays, with temperatures ranging between 16-32 degrees Celsius. This period is Fijian winters.
For the active holiday seekers, Fiji offers scuba diving, hiking, turtle tagging, manta ray tagging, quad biking, zip lines, and whale watching, not to miss out on the authentic Fijian Rum, both the white ones and the dark ones. So, with great value offers, Fiji should again be on the radar of the Indian vacationer.