Fiji where more than 10 per cent of its total population works in the tourism industry, is proposing to join the proposed trans-Tasman travel bubble being worked up by Australia and New Zealand. Fiji’s proposal ‘Bula Bubble’came from Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama over the weekend as he sought to see the return of much-needed Australian/New Zealander visitors to the Pacific island nation.
Of Fiji’s 900,000 people, more thanb 100,000 work in the tourism sector. With Australia and New Zealand being Fiji’s two biggest sources of international visitors, it will be an immense help to the Fiji’s economy if the proposed Bula Bubble becomes a reality and the Island nation starts to see Aussies and Kiwis allowed into the country albeit under strict conditions.
Fiji, not surprisingly, has had just 18 cases of coronavirus with no deaths recorded because of it.
Although the proposed bubble makes a perfect sense, there are strict restrictions and self-quarantine requirements proposed on both sides of travel which is a bit of bother for the traveller.
Before flying into Fiji
Under the proposed Bula Bubble, travellers can go through a two-week self-quarantine at home and record a negative COVID-19 test prior to flying into Fiji. Or they could serve a two-week quarantine soon as they land in Fiji at an approved hotel or resort in Fiji.
“This Bula Bubble will allow Aussies and Kiwis to once again enjoy the best of Fiji while remaining separate from any other travellers and the general public,” Mr Bainimarama said.
“To be clear, any tourists who come to Fiji on these terms still won’t be able to move freely around the country.”
It is a delicate task for Bainimarama as on one hand Fiji desperately needs international tourists while on the other Fiji wants to keep COVID-19 out of Fiji as much as possible for tourists to continue.
“By slowly and safely bringing back vital tourism revenue to Fiji we will be in fact saving lives,” he said over the weekend.
“The long-term cost of complete closures and unemployment would risk doing immense harm to Fijians mental and physical health”.
For Fiji tourism is the most important industry employing more than 11% of itce working population and producing more than 33% of its GDP. Thus there is no other industry that can take its place.
Thus the operators in Fiji’s tourism industry would like to see some further relaxation of restrictions for the international traveller to make it more palatable and attractive. At the moment, tourists coming into Fiji will have to stick to an approved hotel/resort and do not have the freedom to freely move out to go and stay elsewhere.
“Having said that we still feel that there should be a little bit more freedom provided to holidaymakers … so that you can choose to stay in a couple of different places if that’s the way you are inclined”, said Fantasha Lockington, chief executive of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association.
Australia’s travel restrictions will need to be eased
Australia tourism operators are also doing it extremely tough with most of their business dependent on international travel. With travel bubbles being discussed, there may be some opportunities opening up but commonsense has to prevail, some travel agents feel.
Currently all international travellers arriving in Australia have to be isolated for two weeks. Imagine if one was planning a 10 day Family holiday in Fiji or New Zealand and when arriving back in Australia, the whole family has to go through a second two-week quarantine period. Their 10 day holiday suddenly requires 40 days’ time off work, which is only discouraging and de-incentivising.
is relaxed, Mr Manwaring does not think many people will take up the opportunity to holiday abroad.
Aussie holiday makers are really after sunshine, the ocean, sand, nice food, and great people. Fiji, in addition to New Zealand can be really attractive close locations in the Pacific.
According to a spokesman for the Department of Health the Australian government is closely monitoring developments in our region and beyond and is fully cognizant of the economic benefits that a phased resumption of international travel could bring.