Fiji tourism smashes 2022 targets

"You may have a beautiful hotel, but it's the people that actually make it happen."

One of the hallmarks of Fiji's tourism industry is the world-class hospitality of the Fijian people.

Thanks to this kind of dedication from Fijian hospitality staff like Asenaca Nitayaqa - who you will meet properly a little later - the industry is on track to smash all its expectations for a recovery in 2022.

Fiji Tourism chief executive Brent Hill said at the start of the year they had set a goal to try and achieve visitor numbers of around 400,000.

They are now on track to almost doubling that number.

"We definitely will hit over 600,000 through the end of December. And the really good news is when you look at the people that are travelling for holiday reasons - so they indicate on the cards, that's now exceeding 2019 levels. So that's the thing that we're really excited about," he said.

"We've had amazing numbers of Australians, Kiwis, Americans, and we're just starting to see a little bit of that sort of medium long-haul flights coming back as well. So yeah, it's really exciting heading into 2023. And, you know, to think that we've been able to recover that much that quickly is an incredible testament to the tourism industry."

However, it has not all been sunshine and rainbows.

Like the rest of the world many tourism businesses in Fiji - even quite large ones - were forced to close by the pandemic.

One such business the Novotel Suva Lami Bay is about 10 minutes out from the city centre.

A serene waterfront hotel overlooking Suva Harbour was closed in 2020 and has just reopened this month.

Its new manager Mareile Jerosch-Hoehn - who is in the process of moving her family from New Zealand after taking up the job - said they were stoked to be able to get back up on their feet again.

"We only reopened on the ninth of December, just before Christmas and just before the election hit. So, it's a progressive refurbishment for us," Jerosch-Hoehn said.

She said they started slowly, with 40 rooms and have now got another 22 online. Once at full capacity, they will have 108.

Jerosch-Hoehn said they were looking forward to reopening their gym, spa and conference facilities next year as they try to build up their business over the summer period having been closed now for three years.

"You know, that was a long time to jump back into the market. Fiji is you know, doing really, really well tourism-wise at the moment. And we're just trying to hop on board with that as well and open this beautiful Lami Bay to the public again," she said.

Brent Hill said when Fiji reopened to the world on 1 December last year only about two-thirds of its tourism properties were open.

And while most have now reopened there are still a few projects to come through next year.

"It is really good to see some of those resorts like Lami Bay - which is well loved. It's, you know, an incredible spot, just near Suva - and it's good to see them, reopening and beginning their progressive rollout," Hill said.