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Fijian Tourism Exchange wraps after three joyful days of reconnection in paradise

After a two year hiatus, the Fijian Tourism Expo (FTE) has wrapped for 2022 and has been declared a 'resounding success' thanks to three days of emotional reconnection and celebration on Fiji's Denarau Island from May 11-13, 2022.

After a two year hiatus, the Fijian Tourism Expo (FTE) has wrapped for 2022 and has been declared a ‘resounding success’ thanks to three days of emotional reconnection and celebration on Fiji’s Denarau Island from May 11-13, 2022.

The highly anticipated three-day event held at the newly renovated Sheraton Fiji Golf and Beach Resort on Denarau Island brought together 83 exhibiting companies, 86 international travel and tourism buyers and media from Australia (including Karryon) New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

The Expo began on Wednesday, 11 May, with an opening night spectacle featuring local talents; the Nawaka Dance Group welcomed delegates ahead of speeches and formalities from Tourism Fiji’s Chairman, Andre Viljoen, the Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Hon. Faiyaz Siddiq Koya and chief guest, the President of Fiji, His Excellency Ratu Williame Maivalili Katonivere.

Kicking off the happy news was Fiji Airways CEO Andre Viljoen who announced in his address that direct FJ flights would begin from Adelaide to Nadi in July to add more connectivity from Australia.

Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Hon. Faiyaz Siddiq Koya and chief guest, the President of Fiji, His Excellency Ratu Williame Maivalili Katonivere

In what was a poignant Opening Ceremony, the President of Fiji, His Excellency Ratu Williame Maivalili Katonivere explained in his address how deeply the pandemic had affected Fijian livelihoods.

“The streets here on Denarau, where we are today, were quiet; rooms were empty, tour operators shut down.

“Hardworking people who devoted their careers to this industry were anxious about their future and those who indirectly benefited from this sector, including farmers, taxi drivers, market vendors, restaurant owners, and thousands of other Fijians were hit hard as well.

“For their sake, we persevered. We showed the full measure of our strength and resilience to make Fiji safe again and bring this industry back.”

As such, FTE was a pertinent reminder that tourism will always be about people, places and the protection of the environments we share.

Our positive or negative actions in all three elements and what we do now are what will make the difference to everyone’s future in tourism and beyond.

Thursday 12th of May saw the official proceedings get underway and the vibrant show floor spring into action with countless meetings and reunions taking place over both Thursday and Friday days while a full Media Program ran in tandem, highlighting the latest insights and updates from Fiji.

Tourism Fiji CEO Brent Hill unveiled Fiji’s two-year plan with the vision of ‘Inspiring the world to come and experience Fiji, where happiness finds you.’

Before the pandemic began, Hill said that tourism in Fiji represented 38 per cent of the economy and 36.5 per cent of all employment totalling 118,000 jobs.

The Fijian visitor economy was worth FJ$3 billion in 2019 due to around 960,000 international arrivals.

By March 2020, those numbers were decimated.

FTE’s opening night event at The Sheraton Spa and Golf Resort

Fast forward to May-2022 and the dawning of a new post-pandemic era in travel and Tourism Fiji’s goal is to rebuild the visitor economy to a lofty FJ$3.37 billion, attracting 1 million international visitors by 2024.

You can read Fiji’s entire six-point plan here.

Sustainability was also a major focus of FTE’s entire agenda and delivered as a critical ingredient that will form the foundation of Fiji’s strategic plan.

Local tourism initiatives, including Uto Ni Yalo, Matanivusi Beach Eco Resort, The Duavata Sustainable Tourism Collective, Namosi Eco Retreat, Nukubati Private Island and Bula Coffee Fiji all presented their remarkable stories and products to the media.

Uto Ni Yalo

In concluding his presentation, Tourism Fiji CEO Brent Hill said, “I firmly believe that Fiji is exactly what the world needs as we emerge out of the pandemic into this whole new world. We’ve got what the world is looking for, and we have a relatively uncluttered space to work in.”

“The tourism trade plays such a critical role for us around these priorities and getting to these numbers, and we wouldn’t be anything without you,” he said.

Bula team Tourism Fiji!

The Port at Denarau played host to ‘A Night On The Marina’ on Thursday evening which featured a festival of DJs, dancers, bands, boat parties and a reminder of the depth of food, beverage and transport experiences based at the Port from which to bounce out to the islands or simply enjoy an evening out.

FTE 2022 wrapped on Friday 13th May with a closing (and late!) night event at the Koro Lawn at Hilton Fiji Resort & Spa on Denarau Island.

Given Fiji has already been such a success story for Australian trade and travellers since it reopened its borders on 1 December 2021, the message to take away was that the 333 island Republic is well and truly “Open for Happiness.”

Judging from the universal beaming smiles I saw everywhere, that happiness will only become more infectious throughout the world as time goes on.

You can read my exclusive interview with Tourism Fiji’s CEO Brent Hill on ‘Fijian life lessons, FTE and the future’ here.

For the latest Fijian travel updates, head to www.fiji.travel