Collaboration with Stakeholders

By 4 October 2021People, Sustainability

Collaboration with Stakeholders

By Julie King

Interview with Matt Stoeckel

In this third blog, Matt Stoeckel, CEO of Fiji Tourism, discusses collaboration with local stakeholders and international partners from the onset of the pandemic until now.

Matt, in terms of collaboration, we know that the way forward is moving from silo to integrated and collaborating much more and uniting with the industry to overcome other global crises we may face in future. How has Fiji Tourism worked with local industry stakeholders across the whole ecosystem, from the onset of the pandemic until now? And are there any best practice examples, or perhaps new partnerships or groups that have been formed to tackle the impact of the pandemic?

The first thing to understand about Fiji is the industry calls itself the Fiji Family. We’re all in it together, and Duavata is a local word that describes that togetherness and how we approach this crisis. The work we do is all destination led. That’s all industry together with our trade partners and government, ensuring that we’ve got the approach that works best for the destination.

The first thing we needed to do when the pandemic hit was to collaborate and have a strategy. And the irony is, in January, I had just presented our three-year strategic plan for Fiji’s tourism industry. And of course, in March that went in the wastepaper bin, and where to next?

We quickly came up with a new strategy. It’s very simple. It’s just one matrix or one diagram for our four stages of market re-entry. We mapped out all the scenarios that could occur for each specific source market from where we were at the height of the pandemic to where we needed to be.

Then within all those twelve scenarios, we grouped them into four separate stages. We have a different consumer message at each stage, a different trade engagement programme, communications schedule, marketing and promotional activities plan, and levels of investment. On this matrix, we map each of our source markets, according to which stage they’re at, and have a specific approach for, for those in stage one to stage two, etc.

For your revision of your planning – what process did you use to bring the whole industry together? Did you conduct virtual focus groups to get this done?

Communication was key to have the latest information in order to make really tough decisions like whether to stay open or shut. And what to do with staff, advise their trade partners and future bookings, so crisis communications became first and foremost, our priority.

And at the core of that was a simple thing such as daily EDM that went out across all our trade and industry partners, and we have webinars. We share all the outcomes of our strategic planning with our industry to ensure they’re aligned. But before that, we’ve done a lot of consultation.

Several task forces and committees were set up here, such as a Tourism Response Team and a COVID-19 Risk Management Task Force. Another group came together with senior representatives from government and industry to align views and strategies to move forward. We quickly came up with the plan and needed all of our industry to be aligned with it. There’s no point in having a strategy unless everyone’s aligned with it.

Our message for Stage One was Sota Tale, saying stay safe, and we’ll see you soon. Our industry adopted that messaging, and we aligned the publicity and social media response with it. Then once our local industry was reopened to domestic tourism, we moved to Stage Two, a Bula Spirit awaits you. Sharing a more optimistic message with our markets is to build anticipation that you can dream and even plan a trip to Fiji, and all our industry adopted it.

In Stage Three, when our border announcements are made, we’ll tell everyone out there that Fiji’s finally open before moving on to Stage Four, where we will be almost back to normal, or perhaps a new normal.

“Everything is done with industry, and we’re fortunate that we are a small, very engaged industry and have been able to get fantastic alignment across the destination.”

We’re seeing with the impact of the pandemic that budgets are very limited in many destinations moving forward.

I know you collaborate anyway with stakeholders but do you see a lot more partnership with stakeholders to maximise those budgets and even perhaps regions and countries working together in this new era, to support the fact that this pandemic has decimated the industry?

The first point is, is we never look at any country as a competitor, particularly in the South Pacific. They’re our neighbours, our partners, and we’re all advocates for the South Pacific brand and that iconic paradise vacation. We work, you know, in tandem with the same messaging and the same outcomes that they’re working towards.

With Australia and New Zealand, our closer neighbours, a lot of the travel is long haul. Traditionally, much of it is sold as a dual destination. Fiji is an add-on to an Australian or New Zealand vacation, whether that’s someone coming from Europe, Asia or the Americas. So we work closely with trade partners in those locations, but historically, I don’t think we have had a partnership specific to other tourism boards. It’s a great question you’ve raised and probably something we should think further about.

My question also applies to travel trade partners who have had no funds coming in for the last six months and are only processing cancellations and refunds with no forward bookings coming in. When travel starts to open up, and they begin to re-market to destinations, that will be challenging for them because the marketing budgets will not be there. Is that something that Fiji Tourism has considered with your plans; to support the global travel trade?

Here in Fiji, historically, we are a packaged destination which gives us some incredible value. It’s a huge convenience, and we have very close relationships with our trade partners.

We feel for them through this time, and we have discussed that we are in it together. And we are certainly there to work with them to reopen and re-enter the markets, with these attractive packages that will be available through the government’s rebate to help us try to bounce back when borders reopen.

The trade will always remain a pivotal part of Fiji’s tourism industry. We’re coming together in a virtual Fiji Tourism Expo for our Australian and New Zealand trade partners because we anticipate that perhaps, Australia and New Zealand will be the first to open to the destination under a bubble scenario.

That’s happening at the end of this month, and it’s an excellent chance for us to showcase our campaigns to all our trade partners and our plans for when borders reopen. We will showcase the Care Fiji Commitment, what we’ve done to get the destination ready, and showcase the outcomes of this packaging and rebate programme and the types of competitive packages available so the market can be as prepared as possible.

When the decision is made, we can go back with a significant market-wide trade campaign to ensure that we can get all those bookings back to Fiji, where, let’s face it, many of our hotels will have very few forward booking. We’ve got a lot of ground to make up, and that’s what we’re spending our efforts on planning and preparing for.

 

In the next blog, Sherin explains how the marketing strategies for Seychelles have shifted to adapt to the new era and showcased examples of some of the new initiatives of the destination

“As an industry we weren’t solving the problems that really mattered. We were disconnected from each other and not leading the way.”

Julie King
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These are live facilitated programs so that your business is ready to fully optimise the trends that tell us that there will be a 10-year period of fast growth in the economy from 2022 onwards. The program is designed to be intensive and collaborative.

  • Weekly webinars on growth and sustainability
  • Access One EarthTM webinars
  • Learn from Bonailie thought leaders
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  • Access Innovation House
  • Connect with Bonailie global tourism community
  • Learn from other industries via One EarthTM
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Plus

  • Find Your Formula (4 modules - live facilitated)
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  • Weekly webinars on growth and sustainability
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  • Learn from other industries via One EarthTM
  • Audit business brand and path to growth
  • Tools to transform your business
  • Access to the One EarthTM annual summit
  • Access to global travel media – Coming soon
  • Each subscription provides donation to LB foundation

In addition to the Find Your Formula, Audit Your Business For Growth (4 modules) you will have access to the Business DNA and Personal DNA curriculums, you will also join the flagship LB Program that has been designed specifically to support business owners navigate the global pandemic of 2020/21 to drive them into growth.

This is a self-guided programme where we will provide support in the form of accountability groups, so that your business is ready to fully optimise the trends that tell us that there will be a 10-year period of fast growth in the economy from 2022 onwards. The program is designed to be intensive and collaborative.

  • Weekly webinars on growth and sustainability
  • Access One EarthTM webinars
  • Learn from Bonailie thought leaders
  • Access Bonailie research and insights
  • Access Innovation House
  • Connect with Bonailie global tourism community
  • Learn from other industries via One EarthTM
  • Tools to transform your business
  • Access to the One EarthTM annual summit
  • Access to global travel media – Coming soon
  • Each subscription provides donation to LB foundation

Plus

  • Find Your Formula (4 modules - live facilitated)
  • Business DNA (online)
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  • LB Program (Online)

Additional

  • Access to Travel & Tourism Summit (2022)
  • Annual Trends E Book