Tourism Fiji has suspended a number of Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) approved travel partners who failed to meet requirements of the program.
The move comes after Fiji’s health and safety protocols garnered mainstream negative publicity from an Australian tourist who said she had been locked in her hotel room for days having tested positive for COVID-19.
Jacqueline Hoy told Channel Seven’s Sunrise her family holiday to Fiji had been an “absolute nightmare” having been placed in self-isolation for 10-days after contracting COVID within days of arriving at The Naviti.
Among Hoy’s claims was that there was no signage or hand sanitizer and that phone calls to the hotel’s reception and emergency phone lines were not being answered.
Brent Hill, CEO of Tourism Fiji, is standing by the Care Fiji Commitment which aligns with the Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Transport and Tourism guidelines as a minimum standard.
Fiji introduced the CFC as a safeguard for incoming visitors. Several hundred Fijian hospitality and transport operators have already qualified as program partners. Those members pledged to have a COVID-19 Action Plan in place to minimise the risks associated with the disease, which include social distancing, the use of face-coverings, screening and management of people with symptoms and enhanced surface sanitisation. Perhaps most importantly is maintaining contract tracing information and mandatory guest use of the careFIJI app.
Since re-opening its borders to international tourists on 1 December 2021, Fiji has welcomed around 40,000 visitors, primarily from Australia. Of that number about 95% have “come and gone with no issue and not testing positive to COVID,” Hill told LATTE while in Sydney this week.
“From an overall perspective, I’m really happy with how things have gone over the past six weeks.”
“Our positivity rate is still relatively low in the whole scheme of things,” Hill said, adding, “when there have been issues we’ve been able to address those pretty quickly”.
“For example, we increased our testing capability. Things like Omicron tested everybody around the world and put pressure on testing systems, and we were the same in Fiji. But we’ve been able to respond promptly.
“Largely, the feedback has been really good and when there have been issues we’ve jumped on them quickly and resolved the matter.”
Hill confirmed to LATTE that some hotel CFC partners had been booted from the program, and others had received warnings.
“Of course, there’s been a few exaggerated claims that have popped up,” Hill noted. “We remain really committed to the CFC program. Unfortunately, there’s been one or two hotels that we have had to suspend from the program.”
Hill said suspending those members showed how stringent the Care Fiji Commitment program is, and how Tourism Fiji is working very closely with those hotels. “Occasionally you have to put the foot down if something goes wrong, and we’ve done that quickly where it’s needed.”
The tourism chief said some claims made by one guest regarding The Naviti were “very exaggerated”, however, coupled with other issues made about the same Coral Coast-based resort required action.
Hill said issues regarding hotel food quality and lack of toilet rolls were not within the scope of the CFC, nor is staffing levels which is a common challenge globally at the moment due to the pandemic.
“The CFC is focused around the way the protocols are followed.”
The full list of Tourism Fiji’s current Care Fiji Commitment certified partners can be accessed here.
Fiji’s tourism boss also confirmed COVID-19 isolation period requirements in Fiji had been reduced from 14 to 7 days based on the latest data of the Omicron variant which suggests the infectious period is much shorter and people are recovering quicker.
Additionally, Fiji has opened a third COVID testing clinic in Nadi near the airport, capable of processing up to 4,000 people a day. Hill said the new facility is a “game-changer” especially for departing visitors who had not received their test results before departing their hotel bound for the airport.