A bumper crowd of over 330 leading owners, investors, operators, suppliers and advisors were at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa this week (Jul 3-4) for the 2024 AHICE Fiji Islands Investment in Tourism Summit, where record performance numbers were the talk of the major conference.

If you thought Fiji was a hot destination for globally travellers, you’d definitely be right. Then again, it’s even hotter than you thought.

Compared to 2019, Fiji’s Average Daily Rate (ADR) is 71% higher than it was in 2019 at AU$461, according to STR’s Regional Director Matt Burke in his exclusive AHICE outlook, and that is resulting in record results for owners and operators across the nation.

That price puts Fiji only behind Hawaii (at AU$689) as the second highest ADR across Asia Pacific and is driving a record level of investment interest in the nation.

The latest STR data for May 2024, also shows ADR up almost 9% compared the same month in 2023, while occupancy has moderated somewhat.

There’s also no such thing as a low season anymore, with the lowest ADR at AU$417 in February 2024 and rising up to AU$658 in July 2023, which are nothing short of incredible numbers.

“We don’t have a low season in Fiji,” said Tourism Fiji CEO, Brent Hill. “We have a peak season and a shoulder season.”

Burke also looked at the global performance numbers, showing Australasia (3% growth) and Asia (4% growth) are well ahead of China and North America with limited growth.

A huge focus market for Accor, Fiji is now top of the list of the best performing markets across the region, according to the company’s Chief Operating Officer PME – Pacific, Adrian Williams.

“Fiji the top performing market for Accor,” he said. “Accor is proud to have a long-standing history in Fiji, with our commitment to this beautiful nation growing stronger every year.

“With some of the world’s friendliest people it’s no wonder it’s held close to the heart of travellers from Australia, New Zealand and the US.

“With our four hotels – Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa, Novotel Nadi, Mercure Nadi, and Novotel Suva – we are deeply committed to offering unparalleled hospitality experiences.

“Our recent and upcoming refurbishments, such as the transformation of Novotel Suva Lami Bay and the planned upgrade of Novotel Nadi later this year, highlight our dedication to enhancing the guest experience and creating unforgettable holiday moments,” he said.

Williams was also excited about the upcoming six-star Vatu Talei project located next to the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa.

“We are incredibly excited with the developments at Vatu Talei, which promises to bring a whole new level of hospitality to the country, and we look forward to building on our investment in Fiji,” he said.

Hill is also excited about what’s happening across the nation and was thrilled to see AHICE debut with such strong numbers.

“Tourism in Fiji is booming,” he said. “After the devastation of COVID, the recovery of the tourism industry in Fiji has been rapid and welcomed.

“With tourism accounting for 38% of Fiji’s economy, it is such a vital sector to our country. Since reopening, Fiji’s tourism sector has seen record volumes of visitor arrivals, in particular from our key source markets of Australia, NZ, North America and China.

“We have also seen incredible growth in yield (Average Daily Rate and RevPAR) and occupancy.

“This has led to our Deputy Prime Minister declaring Fiji needs 5000 new hotel beds to cater for demand.

“When factoring in the strong growth and profitability of the national carrier, Fiji Airways, and their desire to open more routes in 2024-25, the future for tourism is bright. Now is definitely the right time for investment in Fiji.

“The existing product set of resorts and boutique island resorts, enables Fiji to welcome close to 1 million tourists annually, but there is opportunity right across the spectrum – from large scale resorts, to boutique luxury and business and conference hotels.

“Demand is due to strong and consistent marketing by Tourism Fiji and Fiji Airways across the globe, coupled with increased airline capacity, and the accessibility of Fiji – just 3.5hrs from Sydney, and with brand new modern aircraft such as the four A350s of Fiji Airways’ fleet, connecting to 15 countries, delivering a consistent, premium product.

“Fiji continues to be loved the world over for the world class accommodation, great food and drink options, beautiful weather and classic sun, sand and surf.

“However, what really makes Fiji stand out is our people and our culture. Fijians are naturally hospitable and almost always on leaving, guests comment on the Fijian’s warmth and happiness. Which is why the slogan for tourism in Fiji is ‘where happiness comes naturally’.

“The low cost of labour, incredible locations and access to nature, provide opportunities for investors.

“Sustainability remains at our core – our natural resources remain pristine, and we want to preserve this for generations to come,” he said.

Hill said AHICE was the ideal event to bring together investors and operators to help boost tourism in the nation.

“AHICE Fiji provides an opportunity for investors, brands, landowners and the broader industry to meet and hear more of the incentives, ease-of-doing-business initiatives and appeal of setting up in Fiji.

“In a world where tourists are increasingly seeking authentic, meaningful travel, with easy access, Fiji continues to tick the box,” he said.

Fiji Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Hon. Viliame Gavoka, said he was thrilled AHICE was being held in Fiji in his keynote opening address.

“This year’s summit is not just a forum for discussion, it is a call to action,” he said. “And we invite investors, both local and international, to join us in unlocking the full potential of our tourism industry.

“Our national airline Fiji Airways just weeks after joining the OneWorld alliance as a full-fledged member, will adopt American Airlines’ AAdvantage program as its official frequent flyer scheme.

“We are also looking at new direct routes to the US, which ultimately means more visitors to Fiji. So there are great things happening.

“As demand surges, so does the need for new investments, particularly in hotel capacity. Whether they are 5-star brands, smaller boutiques, or those based in communities. This is where we welcome domestic and international investments,” Gavoka said.

The Minister made an important Government commitment too – making investments possible.

“In the upcoming budget, we are extending the Short Life Investment Package tax holiday to investors who acquire existing hotels and undertake renovations and refurbishments of more than FJ$50 million,” he said.

“We have increased our marketing budget through Tourism Fiji and will continue to strategically drive reforms to make it easier for you, our investors, to invest in Fiji and the Fijian brand.”

Gavoka also reaffirmed the Government’s national sustainable tourism framework.

“In recent years, we have witnessed remarkable transformations within our tourism industry,” he said.

“From the development of world-class resorts and eco-tourism projects to the enhancement of our cultural and historical sites, our commitment to elevating the tourism experience is evident.

“These advancements are not just about attracting visitors; they are about creating lasting impressions that turn tourists into lifelong ambassadors of our country.

“However, to sustain and expand this growth, strategic investments are crucial.

“Last month, we launched Fiji’s National Sustainable Tourism Framework which charts our course toward responsible growth.

“So, we invite investments that harmonize with our environment, our people and our cultures,” he said.

Gavoka also told the 330-strong audience the Government was committed to investing in Fiji’s second largest island of Vanua Levu.

“We are seeing some major investments in and around Viti Levu – which is great. But there is also Vanua Levu, our second largest island, that has enormous potential,” he said.

Crowne Plaza Fiji Nadi Bay Resort & Spa -
Crowne Plaza Fiji Nadi Bay Resort & Spa

“Government is making an initial investment of US$200 million over the next 10 years. This will go directly on improving essential services and infrastructure that will pave the way for private sector investments.

“It is my hope that one day soon, we will be hosting you all in Vanua Levu for this Summit.”

Gavoka parting words were also powerful ones for the many investors in the room.

“I invite you to seize this moment. Now’s a good time as any to invest in Fiji’s thriving tourism sector,” he said.

On the tourism outlook panel, a lot of talk was about the growth of Fiji Airways, South Sea Cruises and demand from key markets like Australia and New Zealand.

Fiji Airways’ Senior Manager Tourism and Customer Operations, James Pridgeon, said the carrier was looking at new United States destinations to further grow the North American market, while services from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong were all performing well.

There was also excitement about Fiji Airways joining the award-winning American Airlines AAdvantage travel rewards program in the coming year, which will offer members a host of benefits as well as earning and redemption capabilities when traveling on either airline.

Pridgeon said the loyalty partnership marks a significant milestone, bringing together two renowned carriers to offer new benefits to millions of travellers.

The collaboration with American Airlines follows another major milestone for Fiji Airways, with the announcement it will become the 15th full member of the oneworld alliance in 2025.

In a popular fireside chat, Pridgeon also spoke about Fiji Airways’ global awards, key Australian routes, sports sponsorships and changes to the Nadi Airport offering.

Air New Zealand’s General Manager of Global Sales, Tim Swan talked about the carrier’s massive July school holiday airlift, with 760,000 customers travelling domestically and internationally over the period.

He said a further 274,000 Air New Zealand travellers are jetting off overseas over the period, with the Australian cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane emerging as the most popular international school holiday destinations, with Singapore and Fiji also proving to be popular destinations.

In a highly informative outlook session, JLL New Zealand Hotels and Hospitality Director, Nick Thompson, said Fiji was generating a significant amount of global attention thanks to the phenomenal performance numbers.

“When compared with most other markets, Fiji’s investment fundamentals remain highly attractive in the current environment,” he said.

“With an extremely low interest rate environment, low inflation, yields still relatively low, and generally high liquidity in the market (through growing offshore remittances), Fiji is primed for further local and offshore capital.

InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa

“Traditionally, Fiji has attracted substantial investment from Japan, China, and the United States, while also maintaining a strong local investor presence, and this is expected to expand given the growing interest from new regions, especially from investors out of Australia and New Zealand.”

Marriott International Vice President – Hotel Development, Australia, NZ, and Pacific, Richard Crawford, also revealed the company was in talks to add over 1,000 rooms in Fiji over the coming years.

“As the largest hotel operator in Fiji, Marriott International is committed to maximizing the performance of our existing assets, whilst expanding our footprint with new brands and new locations across the country,” he said.

“It is undeniably an exciting moment in time for Fiji’s tourism industry, due to a whole-of-industry commitment to growth and excellence, meaningful incentives and support from government, and a surge in traveller appetite for the destination.

“These forces are generating unprecedented investor confidence in Fiji’s tourism industry and have been the catalyst for multiple negotiations that Marriott is currently engaged in with hotel developers.

“We expect to make a number of exciting announcements in the coming months, which we are confident will be welcome news for all Fijians and for our 200 million Marriott Bonvoy members who are seeking more choice and unforgettable experiences,” Crawford said.

Another popular fireside chat was with Outrigger Hospitality Group President and CEO, Jeff Wagoner, who flew in from Hawaii for AHICE Fiji.

“Fiji is a truly amazing place; its natural beauty and the warmth of its people make it a favourite vacation destination, contributing to consistently high occupancy rates,” he said.

“Additionally, the country’s strategic location, close to both Hawai‘i and Australia, enhances its appeal for Outrigger.

“With two thriving Outrigger resorts in Fiji, we remain open to exploring new opportunities, confident in the promising future of this vibrant destination.

“Our commitment to the Fijian community is unwavering, as evidenced by our initiatives in ocean conservation, coral planting and partnerships with local schools and non-profit organisations,” Wagoner said.

Hilton has several projects coming online soon and the chain’s Regional Director – Development, Australasia, Tushar Raniga is excited about bringing more brands into the market.

“AHICE Fiji’s arrival presents an exceptional opportunity for Hilton, as we eagerly join industry leaders from across the Asia Pacific to foster collaboration and celebrate Fiji’s vibrant hospitality sector,” he said.

“These gatherings truly showcase the essence of our industry’s spirit.

“Looking ahead, our development plans include the anticipated opening of Hilton Garden Inn Suva in Q3 2025, a significant waterfront project in partnership with Carpenters Properties.

“This venture reflects our commitment to expanding our footprint in Fiji, offering 178 guest rooms, dining options, and extensive amenities.

“Additionally, we are enthusiastic about exploring luxury segments, potentially introducing Waldorf Astoria or Conrad hotels to Fiji, aiming to enhance our presence in this dynamic market,” Raniga said.

The AHICE Fiji Islands Investment in Tourism Summit kicked off with networking events at the new Crowne Plaza Fiji Nadi Bay Resort and Spa and popular Sheraton Fiji Golf Resort and Spa which attracted most of the 330-strong crowd along.

Across the program, there were also panel sessions spanning operations, investment, food and beverage, sustainability, development, design, build and more.

The AHICE Fiji Islands Investment in Tourism Summit was Presented by Fiji Airways, Hosted by HM magazine, Co-Hosted by Tourism Fiji and Investment Fiji, alongside Principal Partners Accor, IHG Hotels & Resorts, Marriott International, Tappoo and Travel + Leisure.

Looking to next year, the 2025 AHICE Fiji Islands Investment in Tourism Summit will be held on June 24-25, 2025.

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management