Regional update: Fiji
The largest of the Pacific Island nations is open for superyachts and expanding its marina network…
After three long years away from the Pacific region, it is a delight to be back. Because the South Pacific is so heavily dependent on tourism and foreign visitation, the economic ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt acutely. Speaking with stakeholders across Australasia, the Pacific Islands and and all the way north to Canada and the USA, the conversations convey a region ready to reinvigorate the Pacific Superyacht Ecosystem. With The Superyacht Forum - Pacific Tour on the horizon, we examine the growing position of Fiji in the wider Pacific.
Fiji showed a pragmatic approach to COVID regulations for yachts early in the Pandemic, as covered in The Pacific Superyacht Report. A year on, and ahead of the upcoming Pacific cruising season, I was eager to speak with those on the ground again. After a challenging few years, Fiji may well provide an example of what is possible with the right amount of foresight and cooperation between government and private stakeholders. After successfully remaining open to yachts through the pandemic - thanks largely to its highly successful Blue Lanes Initiative - it has been announced that as of April 7th 2022, Fiji would be transitioning back to more relaxed entry protocols. As the Pacific season approaches, I speak with David Jamieson, of Yacht Support Fiji. With more than 30 years of experience living and working in Fiji, Jamieson is well placed to update the outlook in Fiji for 2022 and beyond.
Lau Group Islands, Fiji
Detailing the new protocols, Jamieson starts: "You have to do a RAT (Rapid Antigen Test) before you depart, whether you fly in or come by yacht, and you have to do another one when you get here after 48 and less than 72 hours. For yachts, we are working with the authorities to get the regulations altered so that one of the crew members can be certified to administer the RAT test, so they can cruise freely, and don't have to find a clinic or local nurse. Fiji is trying to make this work. I don't envisage any hassles.”
“All the hotels, resorts, and our marinas, are starting to fill,” comments Jamieson. “Concerning superyachts, it is still the end of cyclone season, technically so it’s a little behind. But we have got a great line-up of yachts that have said they are intending on coming down. I don't think we'll be quite back to pre-COVID numbers, but it will be a long way going towards that.”
The geography and cruising patterns of The Pacific mean that all yachts heading West from Panama invariably head to Tahiti. This gives Fiji a means by which to track the yachts, via bookings, ahead of time and anticipate and identify the yachts that may continue to Fiji. Here too Jamison is pleased with the outlook. Tahiti has seen positive bookings, Jamieson reflects, and hopefully, the usual westward movement will continue.
There is one major sticking point in the traditional South Pacific superyacht cycle however, as Jamieson explains "Fiji stayed open yachts the whole time, which was brilliant. However, now we are just waiting for New Zealand to give us some real positive news (regarding opening boarders to yachts). I think they've got quite a lot to be proud of with respect to their COVID response. But the situation has changed. If New Zealand is going to allow people to fly freely, then they should open the marine borders as well. It doesn't make sense not to. It's very important for the South Pacific that New Zealand comes on board. As you know, these yachts coming down from Panama to Tahiti, Fiji; when they get to October, November, they then want to go down to New Zealand to do the refit work and get out of the cyclone season. Without this option, it holds some boats back."
As Jamieson, and many stakeholders I have spoken to in the region, highlight; the refit planning cycle is already advanced enough that many yachts have locked in their 2023 slots. The NZ Government's long-range forecast of October 2022 for fully open borders, unless concrete, does not fill captains and managers with the confidence required to commit to the South Pacific in the short term, while the Mediterranean refit infrastructure starts to book up around them. Although, in light of this, Jamieson is encouraged by what 2022 has delivered to the region so far, and the outlook he sees, is promising. “The forward bookings are good. Normally we get between 50 and 60 superyachts over a season. We are about halfway to having that at the moment. We're waiting for the Tahiti flights from New Zealand to recommence as a next step.”
Lau Group Islands, Fiji
Fiji’s Marina infrastructure is set to expand also. Port Denarau has grown immeasurably since I first visited in the early 2000s, and is now a world-class marina. But Fiji is vast. The North Island of Vanua Levu offers wilderness and adventure for intrepid yachts, but as of yet has had very limited berthing options. The new development at Nawi Island Marina, although slowed by COVID, is nearing completion, in a welcome boost to the region. “They're determined to have it done in the next couple of months." concludes Jamieson, "they're going ahead as fast as they can, and it will be fantastic when open. They'll be able to hold some big boats up there. It is exciting, the design is good and they have the draught to take a large yachts, as well the ability to have crew and guests on the dock and able to relax and enjoy the surrounding area. Nawi Island Marina is located close on the shores of Savusavu Bay and provides a launching point to the Lau Group, one of the gems in Fiji's crown for superyacht destinations.
We will continue to follow the developments in the north of Fiji, and the wider region, both key topics in the lead up to The Superyacht Forum - Pacific Tour.
The Superyacht Forum Live - Pacific Tour (15-17th June 2022) is an exclusive event designed to bring key industry stakeholders together with the growing superyacht network across the region. If you would like to register your interest, please contact email@example.com.
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Image Credit: Yacht Support Fiji
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