A shorter version published in Canadian Traveller Magazine
The BFTE was ideally held at the Sheraton & Weston Denarau Island Resorts and Denarau Golf & Raquet Club in Nadi on the main island of Viti Levu, 25 minutes from the Nadi International Airport. BFTE Planning Chairman David J. Voss kicked off the event with a Bula Vinaka welcome to 602 delegates comprised of 155 Buyers and 8 media from around the world that had come to meet 420 Sellers/19 sponsors from Fiji and the Pacific Islands to increase tourist arrivals to these tropical paradises. My agenda was to find out “what’s new” in Fiji’s vast array of resort & site offerings to draw Canadian tourists to the islands.
The Attorney General and Minister for Justice and Tourism, the Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum (left) and CEO Tourism Fiji, Josefa Tuamoto in a press briefing held at Denarau’s Sofitel were positive about the results to date in 2009, although figures show the total of 100,340 international arrivals recorded January-March 2009 are down from 131,576 for the same period in 2008.
“Obviously coming off a very strong 2008 performance we would have liked to have seen a bigger result,” the Minister said, “but when you consider the impact the January floods had on the first few weeks of the year and the ongoing global economic crisis, we are pleased to see the 2009 figures surpass the 2007 results for January to March, which was a record breaking year for Fiji.”
“New developments are catalyst in Fiji’s retaining its critical visitor arrival base,” his Honour added. On this note, there have been several recent impressive sites launched or near completion.
May of 2009 the Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa at Natadola Beach opened its doors to luxury. Alongside a spectacular beach and originally designed Vijay Singh golf course, its 271 spacious rooms, suites & villas, spa, 5 restaurants/bars, 4 swimming pools, conference facilities, and Planet Trekkers Kid’s Club are the ultimate in modernity. The Loloma wedding chapel features live video feed to capture precious moments. A second phase of 55 deluxe hilltop villas is slated for completion September 2009 and will form Club International.
New developments are underway in Savusavu; one of which, the boutique Savasi Island Resort was launched at the BFTE. Savasi Island is a small private island reached by a one hour inter-island flight from Nadi to Savusavu Airport, then a 10 minute ride over a private bridge. Savasi Island Resort is made up of two plantation style villas amid rainforests, waterfalls, and pristine reefs. It’s a Robinson Crusoe experience with luxury which can be booked for 2-12 people, or individual bookings of two or more. A great escape for couples, wedding destination, family or small group.
Lomaiviti is another fast developing area of Fiji. Dere Bay Resort and Koro Beach Resort both opened in 2009. Dere Bay is an intimate beachfront resort with a pool and 3 large bures on sand, a restaurant, bar and dive shop. Koro is a beachfront resort with 6 small bures on sand, and a restaurant. “Koro is truly untouched”, says Joe Soecker, Taveuni Development Co., “wild horses roam, flocks of wild parrots, and there’s a 300-year-old Balinese home to visit.”
More from Lomaiviti: Gavin Logan, Creative Director reports, “Natauloa Beach Resort is very close to opening. It will be marketed as a “colonial experience”. Nuku Fiji Resort is a few months away from completion, and will be pitched at the upper price bracket as a very private wilderness lodge.”
Although the major markets are Australia, New Zealand and the US, Josefa Tuamoto related that in 2008, of the 582,000 visitors 25,000 were Canadians, and he expressed their desire to increase Canadian travellers to Fiji.
Conducive to realizing this goal, Air Pacific’s new codeshare agreement and expanded frequent-flyer partnership with Alaska Airlines will add to the travel ease of Fiji-bound Canadians. Marie Yalenkatian, National Sales Manager from Air Pacific says, “It will be a boon for Canadian travellers to now be able to through-check luggage to Fiji, and connections will be simpler with Air Pacific and Alaska Airlines operating from adjoining terminals in Los Angeles.”
Air Pacific is delighted that in May 2009 America’s Forbes.com rated Fiji among the ‘top 15 best value destinations for North American travellers’, at the time when their marketing campaigns are focused on stimulating this market.
My post-BFTE week of relishing the incredible assets of surf, sand, sun, and lush jungle left me convinced there is hardly a more alluringly beautiful place in the world than Fiji – a superb destination for Canadian winter-escapes, conferences, nuptials, and anytime vacations for all ages. This natural wealth coupled with the advertising campaigns and the activity the Fiji government is undertaking to further encourage tourism infrastructure developments across the entire archipelago are positive measures for upturns in the visitor numbers.