It's when times get tough that you see what people are truly made of. In Fiji, the tourism industry has shown what the true bula spirit is all about
With all the bad news it seems we've been seeing of late, now, more than ever, it feels important to recognise and celebrate the positive stories shining through adversity. Our close neighbours in the Pacific have more than a few to share, with the Fijian tourism industry showing us that, no matter what, the "bula" spirit – Fiji's universal greeting which encompasses wishes of happiness, good health and energy – is always at the heart of things.
With no international travellers, it'd be easy to understand how this sector, which accounts for roughly 40 per cent of the country's GDP and provides hundreds of thousands of jobs across Fiji, might simply throw their hands in the air. But, instead, those hands have been reaching out to help others. With Fiji celebrating 51 years of being a republic on 10 October, we take a look at some of the heart-warming acts that show just what kind of a nation this republic is.
The team at Six Senses Fiji have not been idle while the usual customers of this luxury wellness resort have been absent. Instead, they've banded together to help the local community. A literal bridge was built for the town of Solevu on Malolo Island, so that vulnerable villagers wouldn't have their access hampered by high tides or rainy periods. Added to that, Six Senses Fiji has also developed a project to work alongside the village on a garden, so the local community can grow their own fresh produce.
The resort will also share some of the healthy recipes from the Six Senses repertoire to help improve daily diets, alongside presentations on diet and nutrition to Solevu school once the property re-opens.
Another exclusive resort lending support to local communities is Turtle Island, with the help of generous donations from global guests and friends. The Turtle Island team packaged and delivered six weeks' worth of essential food and supplies directly to each of the families from the seven villages and one settlement in the region. Turtle Island's managing director, Richard Evanson Jr, is deeply grateful for all the assistance from the global Turtle family, "The recent donations have made such a positive impact on the lives of those within our community," he says. Others have included supplying fishing and farming equipment to each of the surrounding villages and providing a year's worth of school supplies for all the school children in the Nacula region, among others.
Vaccinations for all
Getting everyone vaccinated in a country made up of some 333 islands, some of which are fairly remote, can obviously raise logistical issues. Thankfully, South Seas Cruises have come to the party, working alongside Sea Mercy, a non-profit charity, and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to deliver nearly 4000 vaccines, PPE and other essential medical equipment to the Yasawa Islands.
South Sea Cruises & Blue Lagoon Cruises CEO, Brad Rutherford knows how important it is that the vaccination programme extends to these more far-flung locations. "The Yasawa Islands are an integral part of Fiji's tourism landscape and it's vitally important that South Sea Cruises plays a pivotal role in best protecting the beautiful people of Yasawa," he says. Fiji is on track to having the eligible population fully vaccinated by November.
The children are the future
Volivoli Beach Resort have kept as many staff as possible busy during their time without international guests, including sending out dive crews to log 80 sites in the nearby world-class Bligh Waters.
When visitors return, they'll be treated to an abundance of new dive experiences to amplify their Fiji experience. Plus, Volivoli have also been nurturing the next generation of marine experts; about a dozen local children from the community were taught how to dive and experience for themselves why so many underwater aficionados choose their corner of the world to explore. Who knows who will now go on to make diving or marine conservation a future career!
In 2019, Kiwis accounted for more than 200,000 visitors to Fiji every year so it's fair to say there is a mutual longing on both sides to be reunited.
In the meantime, we can take heart in the good news of the incredible support being shown to each other. We can't wait to join in that positive bula spirit.
To find out more about Fiji's tourism industry visit Fiji.travel