SUVA, 30 APRIL 2020 (FBC NEWS)—Around 40,000 people have been directly affected by the impact COVID-19 on tourism, while its broader flow-on effect spreads to over 150,000 Fijians.

These workers are either on reduced hours, reduced salaries, or rotational shifts.

Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association Chief Executive Officer, Fantasha Lockington said the visitor arrivals between January and March 2019 reached 60,000 but this year, there’s only been about 28,000.

“Last year from January to June we brought in over 400,000 visitors and in that six months they spend here in Fiji around one billion dollars and so in the six months comparison, we have just gone through three months. If you look at our last years six months, we have a lot of filling up to do.”

According to Lockington, there are vulnerable groups within the sector who are among the hardest hit.

“This can include anything from tour operators, dive businesses, transport providers, the boat transfers if you are food manufacture or food provider, restaurants, bars, spas all these activities would have dried up now and these people have either shut down their business or close to the point to sustain their livelihood or just trying to survive and many of these workers have been sent home.”

Around 900,000 tourists came to Fiji last year.

The industry had projected a three percent growth this year, expecting 937,000 arrivals.

Meanwhile, Fiji’s Minister for Commerce and Trade Faiyaz Koya held a meeting with both New Zealand and Australian High Commissioners Wednesday.

He met with Australian  High Commissioner, John Feakes, and New Zealand High Commissioner, Jonathan Curr, to discuss areas where the three nations can cooperate to jump-start the regional economy.

Koya said the Ministry is working on a number of recovery strategies that look at new and innovative industries, as well as reviving those that are crucial for the Fijian economy.

He said the Ministry is exploring options in securing market access for crucial products, outsourcing businesses, as well as tourism and investment opportunities in key markets, commencing with Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island Countries.

Minister Koya also said that continuous dialogue with Fiji’s two key trading partners is critical as collaboration can create more business, investment, and jobs in this challenging environment.

The meeting further discussed how the three nations could work together to ensure continuity of trade and economic relations.

Australia and New Zealand are amongst Fiji’s top five trading destinations and on average, account for 70 percent of visitors to Fijian shores.

There was general consensus on the need to start developing strategies, protocols, and rules around cross border movement of people and trade so they are able to capitalise on the opportunities in Fiji key industries.

The meeting discussed and exchanged economic policies and strategies that each Government was engaging in to ensure continuity of business in their respective jurisdictions……PACNEWS