Covid 19 Coronavirus: Should Fiji and Vanuatu join NZ’s tourism bubble?

The island groups, largely untouched by covid-19, want and need Kiwis to return, writes Stephanie Holmes

While we’ve been fighting Covid-19 at home in New Zealand, the impact on our own tourism industry has played heavy on our minds. But what about other countries around the world whose economies rely heavily on travel and tourism?

We’ve talked to some industry experts to get an insight into how coronavirus has affected popular destinations for Kiwi tourists. This week, we look at our Pacific Island neighbours, Fiji and Vanuatu.


“Tourism is one of the most important economic drivers for Fiji, making up nearly 40 per cent of the nation’s GDP,” says Tourism Fiji CEO Matthew Stoeckel, who also notes an estimated one-third of job opportunities are in some way related to tourism.

In 2019, visitor numbers outstripped population — with more than 894,000 inbound tourists, compared to around 880,000 residents.

Kiwis have always been a huge contributor to the tourism industry, Stoeckel says. “New Zealand makes up 23 per cent of total inbound visitor arrivals.” Last year, Fiji was the third most popular destination in the world for Kiwi travellers, behind only Australia and America.

Thanks to early border closures, Fiji has seen effective containment of the spread of the virus. As at April 30, there were only 18 recorded cases — 12 of which had recovered — and no deaths.

However, international travel restrictions in response to the virus have resulted in essentially a temporary shutdown of the international tourism industry.
Stoeckel says the industry is coming together to focus on the future.

“Fiji is world-renowned for its ‘Bula Spirit’,” he says. “The tourism industry is working together to turn things around wherever they can, including supporting local communities. For example, Ecotrax is using their electric bicycles to deliver essential goods to remote villages and The Pearl Hotel is providing accommodation to essential service workers who need to remain isolated from their family.”

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