After 20 months without any overseas tourists, Fiji will historically reopen its international borders on Wednesday, 1 December. Thanks to a remarkable effort in getting more than 90% of the nation’s eligible population vaccinated, the archipelago of sunshine smiles is ready to safely welcome visitors (aka family) home with a pent-up abundance of its famous Bula spirit.
I’m sitting in an eighth-floor hotel room at Sydney International Airport, gazing out over a relatively quiet international terminal and runway on what is a miserably grey and gloomy spring Tuesday afternoon.
It’s hard to imagine that by eleven-thirty local Fijian time tomorrow morning at Nadi International Airport, I’ll be touching down in paradise to celebrate the nation’s reopening after zipping across the Pacific on Fiji Airways first commercial flight from Australia for 20 months.
Cue the sweet music that cracks open your heart on arrival, the immediate slowdown and the rare feeling of instantly being far, far away from the stresses and strains of everyday Australian life. They don’t call it paradise for nothing.
Wednesday, 1 December will be a massive milestone moment for so many reasons and so many people scattered across the paradise isles and I’m feeling very privileged to have been invited to be part of it.
Tourism makes up around 35 to 40 per cent of Fiji’s GDP and employs around 150,000 people, with 120,000 of those estimated to have lost their jobs through the pandemic. While Fiji’s COVID numbers and fatalities have been low, to say that Fijians have suffered economically would be an understatement.
So I’m ready for the loud and proud welcome, for the tears (including my own, no doubt) and for the sheer unadulterated joy of witnessing a nation of people who don’t just depend on tourism for their livelihoods, but who live for it, get back to doing what they love most – welcoming visitors from all over the world to their home and creating happiness and lifelong memories for visitors to take home with them.
As one of Australia’s favourite holiday destinations, it’s not surprising that Fiji has seen a massive amount of bookings for the Christmas Holidays and beyond since the 1 December reopening date was announced.
Coupled with Australia’s International borders reopening in early November, demand for travel to the Fijian islands saw an incredible 66% of all international outbound flights from Australia in October being booked directly to Fiji and accounting for 29% of all flights being made, second only to domestic travel.
Many resorts are booked out, and according to one of Australia’s largest online travel agencies, 39% of all bookings made to Fiji have been made for December, and 29% of all bookings made to Fiji have been made for January, with 2022 quickly filling as well.
Surprised? We probably shouldn’t be, particularly when you think core destinations such as Bali, Japan and New Zealand are all still off-limits for Australian travellers.
Interestingly, a trend that has changed drastically since the pandemic is the length of stay. In 2019, travellers stayed in Fiji for an average of five nights; now, since bookings have been swarming through, the average length of stay has increased to nine nights.
Brent Hill, Tourism Fiji’s CEO, urged customers to make an overseas trip to the idyllic shores in 2022 to start looking now as they’re expecting 40,000 customers in December and January.
“The trends we’ve seen in Australia have been more than we could have hoped, and it’s getting everyone really excited in Fiji.
“However, with this demand, comes bookings and Fiji favourites are booking up quickly; we want to ensure that everyone is able to experience that Bula spirit for which Fiji is so well known once again as soon as they can,” Hill said.
Last week, the media jumped onto news of a forthcoming Tourism Fiji campaign featuring none other than Aussie star Rebel Wilson as the nation’s new global ambassador.
During her recent ‘workcation’ in paradise, Wilson posted dreamy images of tropical photoshoots on her Insta feed highlighting the beauty of Fiji in a Tourism Fiji campaign soon to be launched to significant markets, including Australia the U.S. and the U.K.
Hill says the tourism board is really excited to be partnering with Rebel Wilson, as she resonates really well with both Australia and the U.S.
In preparation for tomorrow, the first teaser for the new campaign (below) went live today.
“The campaign is called ‘Open for Happiness’ and reflects exactly what Fiji does like nowhere else in the world – welcome our guests with a genuine warmth and Bula spirit that will leave you in love with Fiji and its people,” says Hill.
Come tomorrow, Fiji will officially be open for happiness once more, and I, for one, can’t wait to feel the smile appear on my face as soon as I board the plane.
As Tourism Fiji’s new campaign says, “Is happiness something you can actually ever find? Imagine if there was a place where happiness finds you…”
I have a distinct feeling that happiness will find me pretty quickly tomorrow.
Matt will be staying in Fiji courtesy of the Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa in partnership with Tourism Fiji and Fiji Airways and will be reporting back on the new travel protocols while sharing the celebratory stories of the nation reopening to International tourism. Got a question you’d like to ask or know? Email him at [email protected]
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