Fiji is readying to open to Australian travellers before the end of 2021 and the South Pacific nation will be ready, thanks to high vaccination rates across the country, particularly amongst staff at leading resorts.
As exclusively revealed on HM’s sister publication Wayfarer earlier today, rapid testing and other key measures will be in place for the wellbeing of visitors and locals alike.
The South Pacific nation is high on the list of destinations that Aussies will be able to travel to when borders open under the Australian Government’s 80% two-shot vaccination threshold re-opening plan, which is expected to be as early as November for New South Wales residents.
“When we hit the 80% double-dose number, which we anticipate will be in November, New South Wales looks forward to having our citizens enjoy international travel,” New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, revealed this week (Sep 1).
Fiji Airways this week (Sep 1) revealed the company will be ready to resume quarantine-free flights when the border opening is given the green light, while Qantas has also flagged a return to the South Pacific nation in December.
“Our flight schedules will be released immediately following an official announcement by the Government which outlines border requirements and travel framework,” said Fiji Airways’ Managing Director and CEO, Andre Viljoen.
“One of these will undoubtedly be that visitors must be fully vaccinated, a position Fiji Airways strongly supports.
“With the processes and procedures we have put in place to ensure safe travel, there’s no reason we can’t realise that dream sooner rather than later,” he said.
Speaking exclusively to Wayfarer and HM, Tourism Fiji’s Chief Executive Officer, Brent Hill, said the announcements from Fiji Airways and Qantas were “incredibly exciting” for the nation’s hotels and tour operators who were ready to welcome back Australians with the renowned Bula spirit.
Hill said the safety of locals and visitors alike was paramount and as such, hotels, attractions and operators would have 100% of staff fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and the businesses would be fully certified by the Government.
The plan at this stage, Hill said, was vaccinated Australians and their young children, who would not need to be vaccinated as long as their parents were, would be allowed to travel to Fiji and they were expected to have a test prior to departure and on arrival, as well as potentially ahead of returning to Australia, depending on Government regulations.
While the testing format hasn’t been revealed for travel from Australia or Fiji, measures are in place globally for rapid pre-travel testing, particularly at airports in the United States and thanks to partnerships like United Airlines has with ‘XpresCheck’, which offer results in just 30 minutes.
It is expected that Governments will make the travel process as seamless as possible for business travellers and families alike, such as what’s on offer in the United States and Europe at present.
Hill said the re-opening of Fiji will see some of the best travel deals ever offered to the South Pacific nation and operators were excited to have Australians return soon.
“You are going to see amazing, all-inclusive packages where you get return flights, five-nights accommodation in a 5-star hotel and all meals for under AU$1000 per person,” he told Wayfarer and HM.
“Fiji is going to be very competitive and the product on offer right now at hotels and resorts across the nation is phenomenal.”
Hill said over 30 resorts in Fiji already have 100% of staff vaccinated, while Fiji Airways revealed yesterday that 97% of staff are fully vaccinated, with the company to be 100% complete by October.
One of the operators ready for the opening is Outrigger Hospitality Group, which HM and Wayfarer can reveal now has 100% of its staff vaccinated at both Castaway Island, Fiji and Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort.
Outrigger Hospitality Group’s Area Director of Sales and Marketing – Fiji Islands, Ben Johnson, said as a result, the hotels could proudly display Tourism Fiji’s ‘Care Fiji Commitment’ seal of approval
“When you are ready to travel, we will be ready to welcome you home, the Bula Spirit at the Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort and Castaway Island, Fiji shines bright as we fine tune our health protocols to ensure all of our Australian Vuvale (family) feel 100% safe when they return to the tropical waters of the Fiji Islands,” he told Wayfarer and HM.
He said Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort and Castaway Island, Fiji staff have undergone extensive training in COVID awareness protocols underpinned by Outrigger’s Clean Commitment.
“The clean commitment is founded on The Outrigger Way; caring for our guests, our hosts and the places we reside,” Johnson said.
“Outrigger’s Clean Commitment re-defines the guest experience from Arrival, Public Spaces, Restaurants, Housekeeping, Spa, Kids Clubs and MeiMei (nanny) service, activities through to departure to ensure we comply with all Ministry of Health directives to keep you safe.
“Further to Outrigger’s Clean Commitment, both resorts have also undergone accreditation with the Fiji Government and are certified under the Care Fiji Commitment.
“The Care Fiji Commitment was developed by the Tourism Recovery Team to reassure travellers that Fiji is a safe and secure destination to visit for their next holiday.
“The Care Fiji Commitment is essentially our commitment to the health, and safety of travellers to Fiji and their commitment to us to travel responsibly in Fiji,” he said.
Johnson said as part of the Care Fiji Commitment, Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort and Castaway Island, Fiji have nominated ‘Wellness Ambassadors’ at both resorts.
“The ambassadors are responsible for delivering the Care Fiji Commitment,” he said. “They are a contact point with the Ministry of Health and Medical Services and are active facilitators of COVID-19 mitigation programs and controls on property.
“In fulfilling this capacity, they are trained in coordinating the response to suspected COVID-19 cases.”
In addition, Johnson said both resorts have also employed a full-time Area Hygiene Manager to oversee both resorts protocols, adding a further layer of confidence and communication with the Ministry of Health.
“The Outrigger Fiji Beach Resort for over 20 years and Castaway Island, Fiji for over 50 years have looked towards Australia and Australians as our extended vuvale, with both resorts resonating with the family and wedding markets, and also increasingly with the couples and adventure getaways,” he said.
“Australia has supported our resorts for decades and generations; in return we have proudly provided genuine hospitality, a sense of family and the brightest Bula spirit.
“When the borders open and you are ready to travel our staff will be shining with pride ready to welcome you home,” Johnson said.
The re-opening of Fiji comes at an exciting time for the South Pacific nation as Fiji Airways marks its 70th anniversary this week (Sep 1).
Having travellers get back onboard and head to Fiji will be one of the greatest birthday presents ever.
“As we celebrate our 70th birthday, the best present we could receive is the knowledge that in the near future we’ll welcome our Australian guests back onboard our aircraft with a big Fijian Bula,” Viljoen said.
“While we are not celebrating our 70th anniversary, or FJ 70 as we call it, with fanfare, we are commemorating the occasion quietly to recognise how far we have come as an airline.
“Our grit and determination to survive and thrive, as we have done for 70 years, is the foundation on which our airline will return to the skies post-pandemic.”
Fiji Airways’ major investor Qantas, which holds a 46% stake in the carrier, recently announced its intentions to resume flights in December, or sooner if borders open quicker.