FIJI reopens to tourists

Fiji reopened its border to international travellers for the first time in nearly two years on Wednesday, 1 December 2021 as the Pacific Island country seeks to revive its dominant tourism industry.

Fiji shut its border to all foreign nationals in March 2020 to curb the spread of COVID-19 in a desperate bid to stop its limited medical facilities from being overrun.

With about 90% of all Fijian adults now fully vaccinated, the Pacific Island reopened its border to tourists from a small number of countries – much to the relief of tourism operators.

Fiji will initially offer quarantine-free travel to fully vaccinated tourists from Travel Partner countries. Currently these are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Cook Islands, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Federated States of Micronesia, Finland, France, French Polynesia, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kiribati, Luxembourg, Malta, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Palau, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tonga, Tuvalu, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna.

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“To see the Fiji Airways plane full up and for us to welcome those tourists today was so amazing. It was a great, great feeling and I’m glad to have been there personally,” James Sowane, director of the Fiji tourism company Tewaka, told Reuters.

Tourists arriving will have to stay three nights in an approved resort and undergo rapid testing. They can move around designated areas, including bars and restaurants within the hotels, while they can embark on some day trips and activities.

Although limited, the resumption of tourism is a boost to many of the island nation’s 1 million people.

Tourism accounts for 40% of Fiji’s economy and the border closure saw an estimated 10% of the population unemployed.

Still, the reopening marks a risk to Fiji with Australia one of a few countries to record cases of the Omicron variant.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama hailed the return of tourists, who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and tested for infection.

“Today, we are proud and most importantly prepared to welcome the first tourists to fly to Fiji in almost two years. Our message to every fully vaccinated, COVID-tested traveller who arrives on our shores is simple: Welcome Home,” Bainimarama said in a post on Facebook.

Source: CNN / Fiji.travel