Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

Australian families looking for a tropical getaway say they feel more secure planning a holiday to Fiji than intergovernmental, with double-vaccination rates in the Pacific exceeding 80 percent.

After months of pairing, Sydney mother Lisa Thwaite said it was surreal to book a family trip to Fiji.

“It’s exciting and really liberating,” Thwaite said.

“It feels like we’ve been on a treadmill or being in limbo for so long … for me, psychologically, it was actually quite liberating to go ahead and book it.”

Thwaite said Fiji had always been on her forest list of places to travel, and when Australian airlines began announcing flights to the islands last month, she did not hesitate.

“So that was what we chose to do.”

Mrs Thwaite is among a growing number of Australians booking holidays to the Pacific country, which this week announced specific plans for reopening in November.

Border reopens due to high vaccination rate

Sunset Villa Pool
Fiji will reopen its borders next month to countries that include Australia and New Zealand.(Delivered to: Kokomo Private Island)

More than 80 percent of Fiji’s population has now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a remarkable turnaround since June, when Fiji had the highest rates of infection per capita. Inhabitant of the world.

In addition to imposing a policy that has nothing to do, the Fijian government has urged citizens to be offended by running a “vaccine lottery” worth 51,000 Fijian dollars ($ 33,000).

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said Fiji would reopen its borders with a select number of countries, including Australia, the United States and New Zealand, from 11 November.

The first tourist flight – on Fiji Airways – is scheduled for December 1, with Qantas and Virgin Australia resuming flights later that month.

Travelers must spend at least 10 days in these countries, show proof of vaccination and return a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before their departure.

A middle-aged man in olive skin with cropped white hair stands a lecture with blue shirt and face mask in front of flag
Bainimarama says Fiji is convinced of its ability to take care of tourists during a pandemic.(ABC News)

Upon arrival in Fiji, tourists must spend 48 hours on the hotel premises before returning a negative rapid diagnostic test, which allows them to travel freely to “safe” areas throughout the country.

Bainimarama said he was convinced Fiji could reopen safely despite battling a major COVID-19 outbreak that has claimed more than 630 lives.

“To our friends in Australia and New Zealand and to the people of other countries, we are preparing to welcome you, our message is simple: Fiji is ready to welcome you back to our shores,” the Prime Minister said.

Some Fijians had expressed concern that it was “too early” to open the doors to international travelers.

Fiji ‘ahead of Asia’ in the opening for tourism

Kokomo Island Resort general manager Sean Flakelar said the Fijian government had done a fantastic job of putting COVID-safe protocols in place ahead of the return of tourists.

“I think we are a little ahead of Asia,” Mr Flakelar said.

“It has put us in a good position and I think the pent-up demand and interest in Fiji is very strong.”

Sir. Flakelar said phones “started running hot” since Sunday’s announcement.

The resort is already fully booked around Christmas time.

Family associations on the horizon

The announcement gives extra confidence to people like Shobhna Sen, a nurse in the suburb of Sydney in Blacktown who has been waiting to book flights to Fiji to visit her family.

Two younger South Asian women sitting with an older woman, all in swimwear and smiling, in the jacuzzi
Mrs Sen (right), seen here at a resort in Nadi before the pandemic, plans to fly home to see family members. (Delivered: Shobhna Sen)

“It’s important for me to come back because I’ve missed that family time together, especially with my elderly parents,” she said.

Ms Sen has taken a two-week annual holiday in February for the trip, but said she was waiting for more clarity on Fiji’s quarantine requirements before buying flights and accommodation.

In 2019, just over 367,000 Australians traveled to the Pacific nation, which is heavily dependent on international tourism for income.

‘Come in quickly’: Summer holiday in high demand

A woman and her children, wearing face masks, arrive at an airport
The majority of Christmas bookings for Fiji resorts have come from Australian travelers.(AP: Rick Rycroft)

Tourism Fiji’s CEO Brent Hill said Australians wishing to book holidays should come in quickly, as some resorts were already booked during periods over Christmas and early 2022.

“It’s a pretty exciting time,” Hill said.

At the Radisson Blue resort on the island of Viti Levu, preparations are underway to welcome overseas guests.

General manager Charles Homsy said the company was forced to release 90 percent of its staff when the pandemic hit and Fiji closed its borders in early 2020.

He said the resort had booked more than 500 room nights over the past two weeks and he expected interest to increase with the latest government announcement.

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Casey Briggs looks at national vaccination rates

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