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As a South Pacific island nation with unique culture and natural beauty, Fiji appreciates the contribution Chinese tourists have made to its tourism over the past years, and Chinese tourists are warmly welcome to enjoy the tropical paradise after the COVID-19 pandemic, a Fijian resort's general manager said.
“Chinese guests are incredibly important not only to Nanuku, but to Fiji as a tourist destination. All visitors to the resort are immediately part of our 'Nanuku tribe' and we greatly value the support from China which we have seen progressively grow over the past five years,” Logan Miller, general manager of Fiji's landscaped Nanuku Auberge Resort, said in an interview with Xinhua.
Nanuku Auberge Resort, an all-villa boutique resort along the beautiful coastline of Fiji's main island of Viti Levu, used to receive a lot of foreign tourists, including Chinese visitors who prefered to come during October and the Spring Festival season, but after the COVID-19 outbreak and the border restrictions this year, the resort's business has been badly affected.
“Fiji's appeal and tropical weather brings masses of ever-increasing inbound arrivals year-on-year. In 2019, we welcomed more tourists than our current population (894,389 arrivals vs 863,000 locals). When you consider tourism accounts for approximately 35 percent of Fiji's total GDP, it is no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of catastrophic for travel and tourism operators,” Logan said.
Located in the heart of the South Pacific region, Fiji is blessed with 333 tropical islands. The tourism industry employs about 150,000 people directly and indirectly. In recent years, Fiji has received more than 800,000 visitors per year. The Fijian government has set a goal of developing tourism to a FJD$2.2-billion (US$1-billion) industry by 2021.
Currently, China is Fiji's fourth largest tourist market, with nearly 50,000 Chinese visitors each year and tourism earnings from the Chinese market accounting for about 5 percent of the country's total tourism earnings. In January alone this year, Fiji received 4,469 Chinese visitors, an increase of 12.7 percent from the corresponding period of 2019.
But this year's visitor arrivals to Fiji are forecast to decline by 75 percent with the flow-on effects bringing tourism dependent sectors to a standstill. This has culminated in a spike in unemployment as many businesses including a lot of beautiful resorts across the nation have scaled back or shut down operations. The tourism industry, which has already laid off more than 40,000 people, has been at a grinding halt for the past months, and more layoffs are likely before things improve this year.
Logan said that like all other luxury resorts in Fiji, Nanuku has felt the detrimental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its occupancy dropped sharply once borders were closed and it had to temporally shut its doors for months.
“We think this is the best time for us to improve our hardware and software. Upskilling and reskilling have been our focus throughout the downtime. We have continued our extensive team training, as well as deep cleaning, renovating and landscaping the resort,” he said.
“It has been a unique opportunity for our staff to come together and understand all aspects of the resort's operations which has been very positive.”
In response to the Fijian government's efforts to restart the struggling tourism, the newly renovated resort, with a total of 162 staff with reduced working hours from Thursday until Sunday every week, has opened to welcome local Fijians.
A traditional warrior welcome marked the re-opening in July as the resort hosted local Fijians for a weekend of much needed rest and relaxation. Visitors enjoyed the resort's all villa accommodation, cultural activities, traditional cooking demonstrations and a wide-range of water sports.
“With open arms, we welcomed our first guests in over three months, hosting residents from the local Fijian community. It has been so inspiring to see the resort humming again and watching our team do what they do best, looking after our valued guests,” he said.
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, Logan said the resort will do its best to adjust to the new normal and warmly welcomes visitors including friendly Chinese guests.
Regardless of the devastating impact they have experienced from loss of guest arrivals, it has not deterred the Fijian spirit nor their determination to revive and surpass their previous visitor numbers, he said, adding that Nanuku welcomes guests from far and wide and wants their prospective guests to know they will be in safe hands and their experience will be “completely personalised, incredibly enriching and memorable.”
Born and raised in Fiji, Logan visited China and loves Chinese culture and food. He believes that China's development has a great potential and more Chinese will visit Fiji to enjoy the tropical paradise in the years to come.
“We have immensely enjoyed showcasing the wonders of Fiji with tourists arriving from China. Our culture is unique, and we love sharing the Fijian heritage with all our guests through story-telling and traditions," said Logan with a smile on his face.
“It is always so heart-warming to see our guests' smiling faces as they experience something new for the first time, like our kava welcoming ceremony for example, or traditional Fijian earth cooking, planting their own baby coral at Nanuku reef, experiencing Nanuku island or a sandbank day trip, or even watching our customary Fijian singing and dance performances,” he said.
“We trust Fiji's positive relationship with China will continue well after the current global pandemic and look forward to welcoming our Chinese guests back to Nanuku again very soon. We want to say from the bottom of our hearts to our Chinese guests: Bula, welcome to Nanuku and welcome home,” he said.
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