Fiji Moves Forward

Travel agents and consumers can expect to see Fiji in the news this year, as the country seeks to build visitation from the United States. The Fiji Islands Visitors Bureau will continue to focus its resources in the U.S. on markets with promise, says Ili Matatolu, who was posted to Los Angeles earlier this year as regional director, the Americas, for the bureau. Effects thus far in the U.S. following last year's political situation have been very minimal, Matatolu notes. "Having said that, we have a lot of work to do to make sure new bookings as well as future travel continue."

In the U.S. this means a focus on the key WestCoast market, and selective work in the East Coast and other markets. Retailers can expect to benefit from continued outreach by the bureau. "We need to make sure generation of leads is developed a lot further," Matatolu says. "We want to make sure our program is relevant to agents' needs, both home-based and frontline."

The South Pacific island nation of Fiji

The bureau's Matai destination-specialist program for retailers is continuing, and agents can look forward to a revised, revamped web site by the end of the month. Matatolu is a veteran with the bureau, with previous postings in both Australia and Fiji. She shared targets and outlooks in a wide-ranging conversation with Travel Agent.

This year, the bureau is seeking to grow spending by U.S. travelers to F$120 million, up from F$100 million last year—$60 million and $50 million U.S., respectively. Also contributing to the country's tourism efforts is the Tourism Action Group, which was reactivated by Viliame (Bill) Gavoka, chief executive of the bureau. The group's goals include restoring confidence in the tourism industry and in Fiji as a destination, starting recovery efforts, increasing arrivals and speaking in a united voice.

Marketing is proceeding in three phases, Matatolu explains. The first concentrated on Fiji's top two inbound markets, Australia and New Zealand; both were strongly affected. The second phase adds such long-haul markets as the U.S., the U.K., Europe, Japan and South Korea. And the third phase, which is anticipated by the arrival of June and peak travel season, is a return to as normal a year as possible. The government has budgeted an additional F$3.6 million.

Among the programs on tap is the Fiji Islands Visitors Bureau's new "Fiji Me" global marketing campaign launching in North America this month. The campaign combines messaging to consumers with free DVDs for retailers.

Also helping build the buzz is the debut earlier this month of "Survivor Fiji"; the reality-TV show spent three months in Fiji filming the show's 14th season. Also hitting the marketplace is a slate of "Fiji Better Than Ever" packages and promotions developed by a number of the country's resorts.

Other news of interest to agents include the start in April of a codeshare pact between Air Pacific and Air New Zealand and an ongoing increase in lodging that will raise inventory past the 8,300 rooms available in 2006 to more than 10,200 that will be available by the end of this year. Agent liaison is Jese Naka, regional coordinator of the Fiji Matai Specialist Program. Contact him at 310-568-1616 or jnaka@bulafiji-americas.com. Visit www.fijime.com.