Innovation and Trends in a New Era

By 4 October 2021Innovation

Innovation and Trends in a New Era

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By Julie King

Interview with Matt Stoeckel

In this final blog, Matt Stoeckel, CEO of Fiji Tourism, discussed innovation, trends and looking ahead to what needs to shift and change in the tourism industry due to the insights gained during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Matt, how has Fiji Tourism been able to innovate as a result of the pandemic? And have you seen a lot of innovation starting to happen amongst your industry stakeholders on the ground in Fiji?

Our industry has adapted to having a local market through our Love our Locals campaign and offers products and packages suitable for a local market. That’s been a significant innovation, and something the Tourism Board is pleased to see is industry giving back to the communities.

Many of those communities have been impacted; the livelihoods of workers who may now be unemployed or on furlough or communities that were sustained by the tourism industry.

Operators are working with them, supporting them, getting in at the grassroots level. It is encouraging to see and showcase all these positive stories through our own good news channel, Happy Hour TV, on YouTube. We showcase all those examples of where the tourism industry and businesses help communities or help each other. It’s very popular and embodies that Bula Spirit.

It’s produced as much for our industry and our trade partners and those connected to the destination as for the consumers because we all have to get through this, and it’s fantastic sharing the positive stories where there hasn’t been much good news.

“What’s good is when you see those who are not so fortunate themselves or have been impacted themselves, helping others who are even less fortunate is moving to see. They are going up on our YouTube channel roughly every month.”

We’ve been doing a lot of research on trends since the beginning of the pandemic and talking to international partners to get a gauge on what’s going on.

Some other trends we are seeing are that people are moving from global to local during the pandemic, and we will see a shift happening moving back when borders open from local to global to be local. We’re calling that new trend Glocal with consumers wanting to be connect more with local communities to feel they’re having authentic experiences.

Part of what you’re doing, with your existing campaigns, plays into that but is it something you are preparing more for in future for Fiji Tourism?

Once we get borders reopened and get our industry back on its feet, one idea we’ve been toying with for a long time is promoting Fiji as a sustainable destination just by its necessity of being an archipelago the Pacific of 333 islands.

We’ll never be a mass tourism destination, but it offers people more than that. In Fiji, we have the Bula Spirit;  people in Fiji will give a lot to visitors, without any want of a return or expectation. So visitors want to extend that that hospitality back.

Visitors can come to Fiji and leave it in better shape than they found it by participating in voluntourism programmes run through hotels or tour operators. Some are quite long formal programmes, others more modest around coral regeneration, working with communities, supporting the environment or the marine life.

There are many ways to give back, and we’ve always been trying to bring that to life and get more profile for it. That’s likely to be fast-tracked by us on re-entry. We’ll see if there’s demand for consumers who will travel, then come in and see the direct impact that their trip is having on the lives of those around them. It’s pretty powerful.

We get fantastic feedback from this, particularly from our business events groups when they do a corporate social responsibility activity. That’s an empowering thing they’ve taken their delegates through in Fiji, and it makes a difference. We’ll be looking to continue to build on those activities.

With more conscious consumption now, consumers will want to know what their money is contributing to and how they can connect more in that way.

The other trend that we see on a global level and perhaps it’s different for Fiji because you typically have longer stays, is that people may travel less, but they will travel for longer. They however want to spend more time immersing themselves in the destinations and living more of that local experience.

Do you think that’s a trend that you might see shift and the average length of stay might increase slightly and are you looking at providing more added value through the partners on the ground as you reopen?

 

That’s an interesting one to watch. We do have quite a reasonable length of stay, from both our long-haul and our short-haul markets, and they already immerse themselves in the destination when they arrive, so there may not be as many changes for us. But there might be changes within our neighbouring destinations, which might impact us indirectly. I’m reasonably confident that we won’t see a dramatic shift to Fiji initially, but who knows?

It’s a critical part of all stages of the re-entry plan that we need to deliver. Let’s do the right thing by consumers. We’ve heard horror stories, and consumers may naturally be a little hesitant.

If they have a barrier to making a financial commitment, let’s take it away by offering reasonable, flexible terms and conditions; we’re all for that and been advocating that across the destination.

Our national carrier Fiji Airways leads the charge with their peace of mind policy, and the industry is aligning to it and aligning through it. When we come back to the market, businesses accessing the travel stipend need to have this same peace of mind travel policy and align to it to participate in the programme.

So it will be across the destination and taking away the barrier, if there was one, for people to decide to have more flexible terms and booking conditions. There is an uncertain path ahead and if that’s a barrier, let’s take it away.

Many things have come up in our industry during the pandemic, showing us where we need to start shifting and changing. For example, some sectors often worked in silo before but now need to be much more integrated and collaborating across the tourism industry. In your opinion, from what you have seen during the pandemic, what do you think needs to change within the tourism industry to ensure a sustainable future for businesses for the planet and society in a stronger economy?

And finally what advice from your experience so far, within Fiji, would you give to other industry partners and destinations world-wide that are planning to open when it’s safe to do so and at whatever stage they are in.

Fiji is well placed. As I said, we are very sustainable by nature and have a hugely collaborative tourism industry. Every policy decision in Fiji impacts the tourism industry with 40% of GDP. Everyone’s got a focus, and every decision is quite integrated.

We’re there with it, we just need to continue to work together, and of course, we can always do better and strengthen. And probably the main area where we can do that is every business thinking, broader. Don’t just think about your business or your sector; think as broadly as you can. That’s certainly how Tourism Fiji has approached this.

With the programmes and strategies that we deliver, we challenge ourselves to say it’s not just our responsibilities; it’s everyone’s responsibility. Let’s make sure everyone’s coming along on the ride, and we’re all aligned, and together we can succeed.

So for destinations, stand up NTOs, this is the time where the industry needs us more than ever, and we have this huge responsibility to lead. I spend a considerable amount of time in my job demonstrating the need for a National Tourism Board. Everywhere where I’ve worked in the world, it’s the same.

Tourism Boards are required more than ever; we need to lead confidently. We need to align our industry and come back with a solid plan to build back prosperity and build back our tourism industry right across the globe.

As leaders, we need to step up and think big beyond just our Tourism Boards and do programmes as a destination, challenge ourselves and think outside the box to achieve the imaginable. We’re in an unprecedented time, and we need an unprecedented solution.

So think big, think bold, and hopefully, all those Tourism Boards and destinations out there take on that responsibility and embrace it to be leaders. We can all demonstrate to all our stakeholders and partners the importance of having aligned tourism destinations and the power of getting it right.

There’s always a silver lining. Perhaps one is that at the end of the pandemic, we globally re-enter our markets with really aligned collaborative destinations that can be more in sync with each other to tackle further challenges and achieve further goals. Maybe I’m a dreamer, but let’s hope.

“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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  • Weekly webinars on growth and sustainability
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  • 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
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  • 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
  • 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

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