Fiji welcomed close to 51,000 visitors last summer as the South Pacific island nation continued to embrace the return of tourists from around the globe.
Having reopened its international borders on 1 December 2021 after a near 20-month COVID closure, Fiji capitalised on pent-up demand for tropical island getaways – primarily from Australia – over the summer school holiday period.
Provisional data released by the Fiji Bureau of Statistics indicates there were 23,226 visitor arrivals during December ’21, followed by 16,502 in January ’22. Of those numbers, 17,896 (77%) and 14,075 (85%) respectively were from Australia. US travellers accounted for 3,502 (15%) and 1,310 (8%) of the monthly tallies, with the rest shared between the Pacific Islands, Canada, Europe, China, New Zealand, the UK and a mix of other markets.
Those numbers would likely have been considerably higher had the outbreak of the Omicron variant of COVID in late November 2021 not caused hesitant travellers to balk and postpone their trips.
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According to the visitor arrival data, there were 11,014 arrivals for the month of February 2022, roughly 10 times higher than the level set 12-months prior during the peak of the COVID pandemic, but less than one-quarter of the number achieved in February 2020 (46,343).
Of the 50,742 total visitors during the past season, 83% indicated the purpose of their trip was a holiday and 9% was VFR traffic.
The total number of Australians visiting Fiji last summer was 39,882 – up from 166 over the corresponding season in 2020/21 – but less than half the 81,477 that headed to the country between 1 December 2019 and 29 February 2020.
Tourism Fiji CEO Brent Hill says the country is on track to welcome 65,000 international travellers by the end of March 2022 (since reopening) as additional nations are added to Fiji’s Travel Partner Country list, and coinciding with increased airlift and multiple hotel reopenings in recent weeks, including the fully upgraded Sheraton Fiji Golf and Beach Resort on Denarau, the adults-only Tokoriki Island Resort, and ultra-luxury Six Senses Fiji which will welcome back guests from next week.
Tourism Fiji will also welcome back travel partners from around the globe in May, with the return of the Fijian Tourism Expo now confirmed for 11-13 May at the Denarau Island Convention Centre.
Overnight, the Fijian Government revealed it would scrap its Travel Partner system, effective 7 April, while also eliminating its three-night stay for people entering the country from the same date.
“From 7 April, fully-vaccinated visitors, residents and citizens will only need to conduct a rapid antigen COVID-19 test within 24 hours of arrival in the country at an approved testing facility,” the government announced as part of its 2021/22 National Budget.
“After weeks of establishing private testing facilities nationwide, we are ready to remove the three-night stay requirement upon entry into Fiji….So instead of visitors being beholden to a hotel, they have the option of going to a nearby pharmacy that’s been approved to get their test done,” the government added.
Acknowledging the latest visitor data in the Budget, Fiji highlighted that there had been 27,516 arrivals over the two months ending February 2022, 12 times the same period in the previous year, but was cautious, adding that “visitor arrivals are not projected to fully return to pre-pandemic levels until at least 2024”.
The nation has forecast to welcome 447,000 visitors in 2022, generating FJ$998 million to the local economy, and nearly doubling both those figures in two years’ time.