Agent awareness key for Fiji growth: Walton

Agent awareness key for Fiji growth: Walton

Fiji eyes growth from non-traditional markets to boost visitation. We chat to Tourism Fiji country manager Australia, Carlah Walton on future plans.

The lucrative MICE market and adventure tourism are key areas expected to come under focus this year for Fiji, as it attempts to encourage a wider and more diverse range of visitors to its shores.

Speaking to Travel Weekly, Tourism Fiji country manager, Carlah Walton said the board would take part in a variety of wedding expo’s across Australia for the first time next year, as well as incorporating new speciality modules in its Matai agent training programme to incorporate MICE and weddings, in a bid to increase growth from outer markets while keeping its main family segment afloat.

With a majority of bookings derived from trade partners, Walton said it was also increasingly important to educate agents about the differences between the various islands and resorts.

“Enjoying yourself in Fiji is making sure you’re staying at the right resort,” Walton said.

“We’re making sure agents are aware of the products by telling them there’s more than you may think.”

“Part of the education process is for the agent themselves. They’re the influencers, and they need to be confident so they know what they’re talking about,” Walton said.

In a bid to improve first-hand island knowledge, Walton said the annual Frontliners Famil will be going ahead in March next year, bringing some 100 Australian and 100 Kiwi “Matai” agents to explore various parts of Fiji.

In addition, the tourism board will be hosting for the third year a separate famil specifically designed for Flight Centre travel agents this November.

“We try to make it as relevant as possible for all parties,” Walton said.

In addition, Walton said advice was also returned back to Fijian suppliers to ensure a high level of service performance is respected.

“We give constant feed back to the industry. it’s really competitive out there and we tell them what they need to do to improve. Sometimes when you’ve been doing something for so long, you don’t look outside. Which is why we are their eyes and ears in our market.”

Australians represent 53% of the total tourism market to Fiji, with families and couples currently its core business, but Walton said competition wasn’t necessarily from neighbouring island regions, rather Bali, Hawaii and Thailand.

“Fiji is supportive of the region, we look at them as brothers, not competitors,” Walton said.

“We are not the cheapest destination, but we don’t pretend to be either. We look at the value proposition,” Walton said.

With 333 islands in Fiji, every island has its own characteristics but first time travellers or those with families are hard pressed to venture offshore according to Walton, mainly due to lack of knowledge about the ease of island hopping.

“I don’t think they understand how easy it is to go to the islands. People can help you and take you to domestic terminals and when people understand that, it’ll be a lot easier to sell,” Walton said.

With Australian arrivals sitting at 360,000 having grown by 10,000 in 2014, Walton expects further growth estimating 400,000 Aussies to Fiji by 2020.

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