In a special report, HM magazine editor James Wilkinson looks at Fiji’s MICE market, which remains positive as a result of continuing interest for the hosting of small and medium size events from Australia and New Zealand.
Drawing significant attention in Fiji at present is the new 1000-sqm Tagimoucia Centre on Denarau Island, located adjacent to the Sheraton Fiji Resort, which was inaugurated with a gala ball on New Year’s Eve.
Westin and Sheraton Resorts Fiji managing director, Shane Cunning, said the new venue would provide numerous opportunities for new business in 2009, particularly out of Australia and New Zealand.
“The MICE market continues to grow for us year-on-year as the infrastructure and facilities at our resorts are now bigger and better than ever,” he said.
“The key is to keep the destination and ideas fresh and unique which has provided us with many new incentive and large conference opportunities, which in some cases are a first time experience in Fiji.”
Cunning said a key feature of the new events centre is its versatility.
“The Tagimoucia Events Centre’s versatile and unique design will enables it to accommodation a variety of styles and theme events from awards ceremonies, to gala dinners, cocktail parties and large conferences,” he said.
“The addition of the new centre to the Sheraton and Westin Denarau Island’s existing meeting facilities sets the resorts apart as one of the leading and most innovative conference, incentive and events venues in the South Pacific.”
The Likuliku Lagoon Resort in Fiji is accessible only
by helicopter or boat
At the exclusive end of the accommodation spectrum is Likuliku Lagoon Resort, located a ten minute helicopter flight from Denarau in the Mamanuca Islands.
Likuliku general manager Steve Anstey said the resort had been fielding numerous incentive sales requests of late, with one large group already booked to take over the entire resort in June.
“We have several quotes out at the moment for sole use,” he said. “We have one confirmed for June, another for later in the year and several for 2010, which we are very happy about.
“Since opening we have hosted two sole use groups – one for a wedding and the other was an overseas incentive.
“Obviously with sole use the resort is theirs to do what they like… there is something pretty special about taking over an entire luxury resort.”
Without a doubt, Likuliku is one of the most exclusive resorts and to take over the entire island for an incentive trip is not for every company. Featuring a range of accommodation options – from overwater bures (the only resort in Fiji to offer that) to garden front bures – rates at Likuliku range from $1020 to $1725 per night.
While sole use is the preference for incentive groups, Likuliku also offers bookings for small groups.
“We have a private dining area that can seat up to 26 guests and which can act as a small boardroom when required,” Anstey said.
“Being a couple’s only resort we have to manage groups carefully and our general policy is we will accept groups of up to 12 rooms (up to 24 people), so we can separate them from the couples. We have done this a number of teams and have hosted a number of senior level board meetings most successfully.”
Set to open in May is the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa, located at Natadola Beach. Featuring 271 rooms and suites, the resort is spread out over a massive 35 acres, featuring four pools, several restaurants and an extensive conference centre with seating capacity in the ballroom for 450.
“We also have a further three event rooms that will each take 80 for dinner and these can all be broken into two rooms with a soundproof operable wall,” said InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa general manager, Neil Houghton. “And a Meke lawn that will cater for at least 600 and we can then spill out on to the beach to offer a traditional Lovo dinner experience.”
Highlighting the property is without a doubt the 18-hole Vijay Singh-designed golf course, which Houghton said is one of the finest he has ever played.
“I have been lucky enough to play golf all over the world and at some of the very best courses we see the professionals play in tournaments,” he said. “The set up is superb, the condition is great now and when we open it will be perfect.”
Just weeks ago, Fiji’s hotel industry was given a huge boost with the announcement of new, twice-weekly direct Pacific Blue flights from Adelaide and Melbourne to Nadi.
The inaugural Adelaide-Nadi flight in June will mark the first time Fiji has ever had a direct flight from the South Australian capital.
The new services were welcomed by the country’s peak tourism body and hoteliers alike.
“The new Pacific Blue Adelaide-Nadi service is very timely given that South Australia has always represented a latent source of visitor arrivals for the destination,” said Tourism Fiji Regional Director Australia, Paresh Pant. “The new services will undoubtedly accelerate our steadily growing visitor numbers from Australia.”
Pant added that the national tourist office was already planning a series of key industry seminars in both states.
According to the latest statistics from Tourism Fiji, Australian visitor arrivals grew in 2008 for the third year running, with last year’s figures surpassing 2007 by a healthy 18 per-cent. A total of 233,801 Australians visited Fiji in the 12 month period of January-December 2008, adding a further 35,581 on top of the 2007 total.
The rise in arrivals can be credited to additional capacity from airlines such as Pacific Blue, which added extra Brisbane-Nadi flights during 2008 and has a strong focus on the Australia-Fiji market.
“The success of our Fiji services from Brisbane and Sydney has been a strong incentive for us to introduce additional non-stop services,” said Virgin Blue Group CEO, Brett Godfrey.
“We are very pleased to be committing aircraft to the Fiji market where we see continuing opportunities to stimulate the market with more direct flights and affordable fares.
“We welcome the chance to provide a further boost to tourism to a destination that has attracted consistent demand in terms of our existing services,” Godfrey said.
When Pacific Blue’s new flights commence on June 4, the airline will offer 18 direct flights every week between Australia and Fiji in each direction.