Fiji makes a date with UAE industry


FIJI’S minister for labour, industrial relations, tourism and environment, Bernadette Rounds-Ganilau, was in Dubai earlier this year to meet with high-level stake-holders in the industry with a view to building awareness and consequently, tourism to the South Pacific country.

This week, she will visit Dubai again to further those aims with a participation in the Dubai Summer Surprises.
KEITH J FERNANDEZ caught up over the email for a quick chat. Excerpts:

What reactions have you had to your last trip?
The feedback locally has been great and it was an absolute boost for us when we were invited to take part in the DSS Heritage Surprises promotion. We are coming over with a very dynamic group of young entertainers, and that should be an excellent start for Fiji.

What do you expect this trip will achieve?
We’re building bridges here apart from marketing Fiji – we need new allies as our old ones have given up on us so to speak and we hope that travellers from this side of the world will get an insight into who we are, where we come from and that our civilization is almost as old as theirs.

Last time around you spoke of building awareness of Fiji. Have you started working with the travel trade yet?
We certainly have and will be bringing a team from the Fiji Visitors Bureau also. I also managed to encourage our Minister for Commerce and Investment to come along and he will also come with a delegation for talks with investors and interested parties for business. The travel industry is excited about any potential link with Dubai and UAE so this trip next week means a lot to us.

The Fiji Times reported hotel rooms are empty in Fiji – what steps are you taking to remedy that? How are you working towards eliminating travel advisories?
We have asked for more finance for funds to market ourselves more overseas and be more visible – this was slashed drastically in the budget earlier this year and we are really feeling it now as this is our high season and we don’t have the numbers. I also started another campaign called “Before you see the world, see Fiji first!” and we’re hoping to mobilize a certain percentage of the community who can move around Fiji and live in hotels etc.

In the light of the current political situation, how are flights to Fiji affected?
We are down in numbers by 15 to 20 per cent depending on the season. That is a big drop – because of the discounted fares, visiting friends and relatives are making up the bulk of the returnees so they don’t sleep in the hotels or spend as much but we hope that this injection of finance for marketing will see a change. A snap promotion last month proved to us that there is a need to be in the face of the market to remind them Fiji is still open for business.