Tourism Fiji appoints Acting Chief Executive Officer

Robert Thompson tapped as Virtual Fijian Tourism Expo delivers key message

Tourism Fiji‘s Board of Directors have named Robert Thompson (pictured) as its stand-in Chief Executive Officer to fill the role that will be vacated by Matthew Stoeckel when his contract winds up in late December.

A thorough and transparent recruitment process is now underway with the assistance of PwC to source the replacement CEO Tourism Fiji said the position would be filled “strictly on merit”.

“We are looking for a new CEO that can hit the ground running and navigate the organisation through the current disruption caused by COVID19, as well as the recovery once border restrictions ease up,” Tourism Fiji Chairman, Andre Viljoen said.

“A passion for tourism is essential along with excellent leadership and communication skills and experience, as well as the ability to work effectively and pragmatically with all level of stakeholders.”

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Jason Sacriz, Tourism Fiji

Fijian-born Thompson is currently Tourism Fiji’s Regional Manager, Australia. He joined Fiji’s national tourism board in 2019 after 18 years with Tahiti Tourisme.

Thompson will step into the Acting CEO role on 22 December 2020 until the CEO position is filled on a permanent basis. He has temporarily relocated to Tourism Fiji’s headquarters in Nadi where he is undergoing a transition process with Stoeckel ahead of assuming responsibility.

The internal shake-up will see Tourism Fiji’s Trade Partner Manager Australia, Jason Sacriz, take on responsibilities for the management of the Australia Office. He will be Acting Regional Manager, Australia during the period Thompson is seconded to the tourist bureau’s head office.

After 4.5 years as CEO at Tourism Fiji, Stoeckel is taking on the CEO role at Visit Sunshine Coast, a position he will commence in early 2021.

Virtual Tourism Fiji Expo delivers key message to buyers

Meanwhile, Tourism Fiji hosted its first-ever Virtual Fijian Tourism Expo this week with buyers, primarily from Australia as well as New Zealand, hooking up online with a group of suppliers, including nearly 20 in the luxury space.

Speaking exclusively with LATTE one day after the virtual event, Stoeckel said the platform gave Tourism Fiji a chance to connect with the trade to share the message that once pandemic-enforced travel restrictions come down, “we’re ready” to welcome back tourists.

“We emphasised our Care Fiji Commitment – Fiji’s response to COVID19 – and giving operators the tools, training and the resources they need to implement the Fiji Government’s COVID safe guidelines. 

“We’ve been doing that on the ground and starting to brief trade so everyone can understand what products and experiences look like in the ‘COVID world’ and the expectations of what’s expected of consumers coming across to Fiji when borders do open,” Stoeckel said.

The virtual show also provided an opportunity to tell international buyers about Tourism Fiji’s re-entry campaign, including the strategy, creative and activations planned for when the international border finally opens.

Some of the Buyers participating in the Virtual Fijian Tourism Expo

“Every Australian will know they can travel to Fiji,” Stoeckel said.

The campaign will focus on creating urgency and a desire to book immediately and it will reassure travellers that the South Pacific is a safe destination or their next holiday.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence that we are ready,” he said.

The Virtual Fijian Tourism Expo had been in the pipeline for around six-months, following the cancellation of the physical event earlier in the year due to COVID-19.

A decision on whether or not the physical 2021 Fijian Tourism Expo will go ahead is yet to be decided.

“We run the event seamlessly, and we can pull it together in a pretty effective time period, so we are not at the point of no return for a decision, but we’ll continue to monitor and assess the situation, border policy and at the appropriate time make a decision,” Stoeckel said.

“That could be if it will be held or not, or try and defer it to another time of the year. Still yet to be determined. Stay tuned.”

Lead image: Robert Thompson, Tourism Fiji’s Acting CEO, effective late December 2020

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