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Revenge Travel Plots the Return of Island Haven Fiji



Tourism Fiji’s CMO Emma Campbell tells LBB’s Esther Faith Lew why the pandemic has showcased the destination in its best light

Revenge Travel Plots the Return of Island Haven Fiji

The return of Asia Pacific tourism is well underway, boosted by revenge travel trends shining a bright light on the recovery of destinations such as Fiji, which was already enjoying pre-pandemic record arrivals of nearly 900,000 visitors in 2019. From January to August this year, the destination welcomed 354,277 visitors, which were higher than forecasted. The past few months have averaged about 75% to 80% of 2019's numbers, and a full rebound to 2019 levels is expected in 2024. 

The Covid-induced quarantines and varying levels of shut-downs across the region have created pent up demand, with e-commerce platforms registering record highs during the past two years. With the reopening of international borders, travel spend is now seeing a resurgence, with consumers wanting to travel further and for a longer duration for quality experiences. This bodes well for destinations rebooting their marketing efforts. 

Asia Pacific’s travel industry has reported a 377% year-on-year increase in volume of air bookings and a 235% increase in airline site traffic, according to Criteo’s Travel Commerce Insights Report. The numbers by the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA) similarly reflect a strong acceleration by growth markets in July this year, registering 43 million international passengers in the first seven months of the year, according to reported comments by AAPA director general Subhas Menon.

Meeting High Tourism Demand

Fiji, being a destination that lends itself well to the appeal of revenge travel, has seen a strong post-pandemic resumption in demand from its key markets Australia, New Zealand and the US, says Tourism Fiji CMO Emma Campbell. She elaborates that pre-pandemic travellers comprised about 41% from Australia, 23% from New Zealand and 11% from the US, with an average stay duration of eight nights. The European and Asian markets make up the rest of the minority markets.

Campbell adds, “Our partner Fiji Airways has recently announced new routes to Vancouver, which will kick-start in November with twice-weekly flights. We have seen huge demand, with our website traffic spiking when the announcement went out. The Canadian market is certainly looking very strong as well.”

With the rest of the world reporting problems with flight capacity and ground handling at airports, Fiji has faced none of those issues. “We've felt very lucky as a destination that we're not really facing those same issues. Fiji Airways is very responsive in terms of responding to shifts in passenger demand. A good example being their quick switch of night-time Melbourne flights to the day time as there was high demand from families. As a member of the Oneworld Alliance, they are also well supported in terms of future route expansion as demand rises. Nadi International Airport has also been operating very smoothly, supported by ample manpower on the ground.”

When Fiji reopened its doors to international travellers in December last year, it was with an island-wide state of preparedness in managing post-pandemic tourism. About 90% of Fijian adults were fully vaccinated then, bolstered by its Care Fiji Commitment plan to ensure best practices in health and safety measures, including the assurance that all travel and tourism operators are staffed by fully vaccinated employees. The destination’s efforts were recognised by the World Travel and Tourism Council, which declared Fiji as a “Safe Travels” destination.

“What’s special about Fiji is the fact that there's this strong sense of community and a strong sense of sharing, which is a big part of our DNA. When the pandemic hit, tourism came to a halt, but the spirit of collaboration was just unbelievable… We were able to gain the confidence of our Ministry of Health that the tourism industry was ready to reopen again and do everything to keep visitors and local people safe. We've had a really strong reopening,” says Emma.

Its Care Fiji Commitment plan was especially tailored to small businesses, which were the ones more vulnerable in terms of being prepared. Tourism Fiji rolled out a robust training programme across the tourism industry, leading to accreditation as a criteria for the reopening of business. 

Says Emma, “ The groundwork has given them the confidence to reopen again. We've also seen activity providers having a really great rebound. I don’t have the actual statistics; this observation is purely anecdotal, but they're actually seeing higher demand now than pre-pandemic. We're seeing a trend where visitors are keen to do lots of things here. They're going out on day trips; they're doing activities and having adventures. It’s really helping a lot of smaller tour operators to rebound and get their businesses back on track again.”

According to statistics by hotel commerce platform, hotel bookings surged tremendously following the announcement of Fiji’s reopening. It went from 23% of 2019 levels to 67% within a short period. Bookings for hotels and resorts are filling up well into 2023, with peak periods during Christmas and New Year celebrations. 

Looking at a Brand Shift

On the marketing front, Tourism Fiji is focusing on placing Fijian culture and people at the forefront of everything. “That's really going to be how the brand shifts. We see that culture and people are important for visitors. And we also know that in Fiji, that's something that we just do so spectacularly well in. So that's our focus,” says Emma. 

Tourism Fiji has had the same brand tagline for the past 12 years, and that’s “Fiji – where happiness finds you”. “If you think about Fiji, the first thing that comes to mind is your own happiness and the happiness of those around you and whom you interact with in Fiji. So, happiness is something that we will definitely be sticking with as a brand proposition,” says Emma.

However, Tourism Fiji is poised for a change and a brand new campaign, which will roll out shortly. Shares Emma, “We do know there have been shifts in consumer behaviour. There have also been shifts in how people perceive Fiji. Through the pandemic, Fiji has proven how resilient and resourceful it can be and how we can all work together to make amazing things happen. So we felt it’s time to work on a bit of a shift to our brand.”

There has not been much of a focus on the Fiji brand in the last three years or so, mainly due to the pandemic. But its most recent reopening campaign “Open for Happiness” was a huge hit that drew a lot of attention thanks to actress Rebel Wilson who starred in the TVC. “We were looking to tell the world that Fiji was open in a really big way, and we achieved that through that particular campaign. Now that we have reopened, we will soon be rolling out  a new brand platform that we feel will be in place for the next couple of years. We’re taking a content-led approach in which we want to drive people to our website to learn more about our destination and to create leads for our tourism operators and airlines,” explains Emma.

The new campaign will be led by newly-appointed Havas Village Sydney following a tender process. The agency will be working on the creative and digital aspects of the campaign as well as media spend. Emma shared that it will be a brand campaign to show Fiji is more than just an island destination, and that there’s a rich cultural experience to be discovered, as well as a diversity of offerings that appeals to a wide range of travellers.

Fiji is commonly perceived as a family and luxury destination, but with new traveller psychographics emerging in the post-pandemic era, Emma admits that they are seeing a broader range of visitors, and they want to ensure they are crafting the right stories to appeal to new travellers. 

“What we don't want is to have Fiji perceived as a destination that's exclusive, expensive and one that you only come to once in a lifetime as a bucket list. We want people to come here, enjoy their experiences, and discover there's so much more to Fiji that they want to come back again,” says Emma.

Currently at 95% of its population fully vaccinated, and with a clear communication plan that engages the Ministry of Health, Tourism Fiji is moving ahead with a focused direction on how it wants to bring back its visitors and what its destination messages should entail. Aligned with this direction is Fiji’s strong position on sustainable tourism, and with a new sustainability officer, ​​Sunishma Singh, on board, Tourism Fiji will work on attracting the world lens of discerning travellers who only want to engage in responsible travel experiences. 

Tourism Fiji’s CMO Emma Campbell

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Host/Havas, Wed, 28 Sep 2022 03:47:42 GMT