|Q1. Concerning the
background of Air Fiji. In 1997 the airline expanded
and doubled its fleet, what were the main reasons
and consequences in doing so?
A1. The company was established in 1967 and
now we are the largest air serving domestic operator
in Fiji. Air Fiji was relatively small for a period
of 20 years, mainly servicing the smaller outer
islands. Some of our major services today are to
provide the vital link between Fiji's two main islands,
Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, and of course our services
between Nadi and Suva. We have also been providing
an essential service to smaller but equally important
outer islands for many years. Our role besides transporting
passengers and essential supplies is also to see
if we can assist develop outer island niche tourism
development projects by providing the necessary
air links. Most of the islands are very exotic and
untouched. There is not really much planned at this
stage but the link is there and opportunities exist.
Back to your question, we expanded and doubled the
fleet in 1998 for various reasons. Air Fiji was
considered the airline that largely looked after
the locals whilst our competitor was the airline
that served the tourists. I was brought on board
in 1997 to try and increase the airlines tourist
market share. There was a need to increase our fleet
size to do this effectively. Five years later, we
have largely achieved what we set out to do by concentrating
our focus on the two islands of Vanua Levu, and
the garden isle of Taveuni. The other reason for
our fleet expansion was due to Air Fiji commencing
International Services to the Island Nations of
Tonga and Tuvalu in 1999. These services have proved
to be successful and are aptly named Pacific Link.
"Air Fiji Pacific Link" provides both
domestic and South Pacific Regional Charters to
as far away as Nauru and Kiribati.
Q2. What is the shareholding structure of Air
Fiji at the moment?
A2. Air Fiji is a private company with 50 shareholders.
The major shareholders are the Government of Tuvalu
and CATIC, a Chinese Aeronautical Manufacturer and
Distribution corporation. The Government of Fiji
is also a significant shareholder. There are future
plans to float Air Fiji on our local stock market.
Q3. There is an increasing partnership approach
between companies within the airline industry
and between airlines and other industry-related
companies. How do you measure the importance of
good partnerships for the future growth of Air
Fiji and how do you plan to increase your partnership
A3. Air Fiji assists the Fiji Visitors Bureau
and the Fiji Hotel Association by providing numerous
discounts or free services to wholesalers, travel
agents, photographers and people who are able to
boost the tourism image of Fiji. We have had a good
working relationship with Qantas, Air pacific and
Air New Zealand and are also the general sales agents
for Air India, Air Vanuatu and Polynesian Airlines
in Fiji. Due to the nature of our business we have
a close working relationship with not only tourism
oriented businesses and airlines but with a diverse
range of corporations and companies. Due to the
relatively small size of our economy, and airline,
the economical opportunities that may exist for
large national and multinational carriers do not
have the same baring for Air Fiji, although there
may be future opportunity in Regional cooperation.
Q4. How does the merger between Qantas and Air New
Zealand affects Air Fiji?
A4. Firstly it does not really affect Air Fiji.
Qantas is proven and well established airline, whilst
Air New Zealand was considered, at one time, to
be amongst the best. Air New Zealand made some very
unfortunate expansionary blunders, which almost
cost the country its airline. With continued escalating
costs, the "partnership" appears to maske
sense, only time will tell.
Q5. In the last Tourism summit in Savu-Savu,
the aim was to go towards the billion dollar industry.
What is your opinion about this?
A5. It is not an easy task. However, It will
be achievable if new hotel and resort projects come
on line (as projected) within the next two to three
years, and additionally, appropriate student and
management training is implemented as soon as possible.
There will need to be an effort that will entail
everyone in Fiji, so as a genuine Fiji experience
is felt when you go everywhere, from shops to buses,
markets, excursions, etc. not only the large International
Resorts. We need to go back to basics and try hard
to live up our old FVD adage "Fiji, the way
the world should be". In today's troubled world,
the sense of romance and exoticness which is synonymous
with the South Pacific, can be a very strong attraction
to those potential visitors that are just fed up
with the daily media dose of world troubles. Fiji
is very well poised to attract visitors to meet
our target given the fact.
| Q6. After the coup
of May 2000 there was a dramatic decline in tourism
arrivals. Is Air Fiji financially recovered from
that time? What can you tell us about your latest
financial results and expectations for 2003?
A6. Our results for both 2001 and 2002 have
been very encouraging with acceptable profit levels
achieved in both years. Certainly, I would like
to think that we can do a little better than last
year for 2003. I am very optimistic about 2003.
It is going to be a good year all around for us
given the noticeable increase of tourism from our
primary markets of Australia and New Zealand and
the upcoming South Pacific Games in July.
Q7. After the event of May 2000 the Fiji Tourism
Industry has tried to attract visitors back to
Fiji. What has been Air Fiji's role in this effort?
A7. Air Fiji has contributed to the various
"damage control" tourism committees that
were formed to combat the negative media reporting
associated with the event of May 2000. We contributed
financially and through professional input. We also
worked very closely with the Fiji Visitors Bureau,
the Fiji Hotel Association and with wholesalers
by providing discounted or free domestic air travel
to journalists and travel agents so that they could
witness for themselves the remarkable quick recovery.
In fact, some island resorts off Nadi continued
to record very good occupancy during and immediately
after the event of May 2000. If you look at the
many troubled spots in the world, you find that
Fiji is a very resilient country, meaning that after
a significant negative event, the people of Fiji
by our nature, are able to get on with life and
business very quickly. The year 2003 is a prime
example of this. We are projecting a record number
of visitor arrivals, two years after a major setback,
and it will certainly be achievable.
Q8. What are the main challenges Fiji has to
face in the near future?
A8. If Fiji's tourism industry is to achieve
its aim of being a billion-dollar industry in the
short medium term, then it is crucial to have new
Resorts and Hotels "breaking ground" as
soon as possible. Once there is one major project
on its way, I think this will act as the catalyst
and the confidence will then spread and you will
see other projects getting off the ground. With
Air Pacific expansionary plans it is vitally important
that Government does everything within its power
attract investors to develop the Resorts and Hotels.
The Government is addressing required infrastructure
to support the development of Resorts and Hotels,
i.e. electricity, water, roads, etc. the overriding
challenge facing Fiji is to attract investors by
offering them very competitive incentives that will
make Fiji exceptionally attractive to them.
Q9. What is the regional expansion strategy
for Air Fiji?
A9. Air Fiji is also a regional operator through
our "Pacific Link". We provide a service
to Tuvalu twice a week and to Tonga three times
a week. The South Apcific offers limited expansion
due to most island nations having their own national
carriers. This coupled with a small population base
does offer limitless opportunities. However, we
are carefully monitoring developments and if we
feel that there is an opportunity we will certainly
explore the potential. One area we do see as having
some potential is that of regional charters.
Q10. Could you tell us more about your personal
background and future challenges?
A10. I did my career at Beachcomber Island Resort
in Fiji in 1975. I began as a Management Trainee
and worked my way through various management positions
in Islands In The Sun, which managed Beachcomber
and Treasure Island Resorts. I worked in the Hotel
and Resort industry in Fiji for around 20 years.
In 1997 I started with Air Fiji as Marketing Manager
to try and lift Air Fiji's tourism market share.
Four months after I joined I was offered the position
of Chief Executive and still hold the position.
I see myself in Fiji for a long time yet. I have
always believed that tourism has the greatest potential
for Fiji provided it is developed sensibly and with
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