The South Pacific archipelago of more than 300 islands is becoming a larger blip
on the radar of MICE organisers
Picture by nigelspiers/123RF.com
A dedicated convention bureau is now in place to take the country‚Äôs growing MICE market to the next level, writes Rebecca Elliott
After many years of political instability, Fiji is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance, with tourism and the MICE sector coming out on top.
According to Fiji‚Äôs inbound operators, 2015 has been the best year they‚Äôve had to date in terms MICE business. And with the advent of the Fiji Convention Bureau this year, there‚Äôs no sign of the South Pacific destination slowing down.
At the helm of the bureau is director of events, Sally Cooper, who has been with Tourism Fiji since 2013. Prior to this, she spent more than 10 years working with an inbound operator on conferences, incentives and events in the country.
Speaking exclusively to TTGmice at the Pacific Area Incentives & Conferences Expo (PAICE) in Auckland in November, Cooper explained that with more than 500 convention bureaus worldwide, it was time Fiji had a much stronger voice in the MICE market.
‚ÄúMost of the service providers had been driving the market, the inbound tour operators, as well as the large properties that can accommodate large conferences,‚ÄĚ she said.
‚ÄúTourism Fiji always represented the market, but we didn‚Äôt have a dedicated person that actually managed this side of it.‚ÄĚ
Cooper said following the democratic election in September 2014 there had been a great ‚Äúboom‚ÄĚ in investment with the likes of AccorHotels and Starwood building new properties, coupled with organisations having the confidence to bring their corporate programmes back to Fiji.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a lot of positive growth and much of it is focused on the conference and incentive market, so we have to be there to drive it and fill those hotels.‚ÄĚ
The bureau is funded by Tourism Fiji and prides itself on being a ‚Äúneutral and unbiased‚ÄĚ information portal. It represents the entire destination rather than a membership base.
Cooper said: ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre presenting multiple options to professional conference organisers and they‚Äôre getting the option to choose something that caters entirely to their programmes, their group, their individual needs rather than just hearing about the bigger players that have the marketing dollars to represent themselves internationally.‚ÄĚ
Also speaking to TTGmice at PAICE, director of sales and marketing of the Sofitel Fiji Beach Resort and Spa, Michael Bell, said the new Fiji Convention Bureau was working very well for the hotel.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve seen a 30 per cent lift in conference business from last year to this year,‚ÄĚ he said.
‚ÄúWhen you look at shows like this you know you‚Äôre not just competing with other hotels in Fiji, but also with other destinations around the world, and I think it‚Äôs important that we have a professional body that understands the MICE market.‚ÄĚ
Cooper said Asia was one of the bureau‚Äôs focus markets going into 2016. Early in the new year, they‚Äôre expecting a number of charter flights from China ‚Äď mainland Chinese visitors don‚Äôt require a visa to visit Fiji. While in April, Fiji Airways will begin twice-weekly direct flights between Singapore and Nadi International Airport.
‚ÄúThe biggest attraction for the Asian market is the people of Fiji. It‚Äôs a very friendly, laid-back and warm culture. When people come to Fiji they‚Äôre welcomed as if they‚Äôre coming back home, they‚Äôre family, not visitors to the country, and I feel that has a great deal of appeal.‚ÄĚ
Tony Whitton, managing director of Rosie Holidays
Tony Whitton, managing director of Rosie Holidays, proposes three Fijian must-dos
For the benefit of others
Make a connection with the Fijian community, whether through a corporate social responsibility event or through some of the wonderful interactive Fijian village experiences Rosie Holidays can offer.
Be marooned for a day
Take over a deserted island for the day for an exclusive ‚ÄúFiji Postcard‚ÄĚ island experience. This can either be fully indulgent with beach cabanas and massages, or action-packed with jet skis and snorkelling safaris.
A night of merrymaking
Experience one of our dinner events ‚Äď fabulously formal or a fun Fijian theme. The event can be on a beach under stars or in the jungle next to a cascading waterfall and be complemented by uniquely Fijian entertainment. Think marching bands, traditional dance troupes and a Pacific fire show extravaganza.
A dignified dame‚Äôs lofty ambitions
Affectionately referred to as the ‚Äėgrand old lady‚Äô of the Pacific, The Grand Pacific Hotel, located in Fiji‚Äôs capital of Suva, is the newest five-star hotel to open in the country.
With a history dating back to 1908, the original building, which once hosted Queen Elizabeth II, closed its doors in 1990.
In 2011, its resurrection was announced in a joint venture between Fiji National Provident Fund, Papua New Guinea Superannuation Fund and Lamana Development PNG. The Fiji National Trust was an advisor to the project to ensure the new build remained true to its colonial heritage.
The property reopened in May 2014 and is blessed with beach frontage. The hotel features 103 rooms across four room types, and 10 suites including six, one-of-a-kind designs. In addition, it offers 1,250m2 of function space across six rooms. The biggest space is the Britannia Ballroom, the largest pillarless ballroom in Suva, which can cater for up to 420 people for banquet dinners or 500 cocktail-style.
Gordon Rigamoto, director of sales and marketing, said: ‚ÄúThe hotel is currently rated Best Hotel in Suva on TripAdvisor and Expedia ratings. The property has great potential for sole use or buyout for medium to large programmes that want a true Fijian experience.‚ÄĚ
Since opening, the hotel has hosted high calibre international events like the African Caribbean Pacific-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, as well as regional conferences such as the Pacific Island Development Forum.
Facilities in the hotel include three restaurants, two bars and the Swiss Bakery, which holds the record of the longest Swiss roll ever baked. There is also a business centre, day spa, swim and fitness centre, a tour desk and free Wi-Fi.
Rigamoto said the hotel has received more enquiries from Asia for MICE events.
As such, he said: ‚ÄúWe plan to explore opportunities in Asia, mainly in Hong Kong due to the direct flight access to Fiji. China, South Korea and Singapore are also markets that we are looking to target in 2016.‚ÄĚ