On December 1st, 2021, Fiji reopened its borders to travelers from select “Travel Partner" countries, including the United States, just in time for the winter holidays. Visitors must be fully vaccinated, provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of boarding their flight, and have travel insurance. On top of this, visitors must also book a minimum three-night stay at a Care Fiji Commitment-certified hotel or resort and take a rapid COVID-19 test 48 hours after arriving. Travelers returning to the United States are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 24 hours of their flight under President Biden’s enhanced actions against the Delta and Omicron variants.
As most of the world is doubling down on travel restrictions due to the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, Fiji’s reopening offers a glimmer of hope to the country's beleaguered economy. Tourism accounts for 40% of Fiji’s economy. According to the Fijian government, 85% of eligible Fijians are fully vaccinated, thanks in part to the aggressive ‘no jabs no jobs’ campaign.
The United States is a growing market for the Fijian travel industry. In 2019, 96,968 Americans visited Fiji. While American visitors represent only 11% of the international travel market, the number of travelers from the United States has steadily increased over the last decade. Direct flights to Nadi International Airport operate out of Honolulu, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. More than 1,000 visitors from the United States have arrived in Fiji since December 1 and many more are expected in the coming months.
Once in Fiji, visitors can explore miles of white-sand beaches sprinkled across 333 islands and 500 islets. Fiji is one of the world’s best diving destinations and is renowned for its stunning soft coral reefs. In Fiji’s forested highlands, waterfalls tumble over volcanic cliffs into rainforest rivers and swimming holes. Surfers can test their skills at Cloudbreak, one of best waves in the world. Indigenous Fijians and immigrant groups have contributed to a rich culture and culinary tradition.
As the first Pacific Island country to reopen its borders to international travelers, Fiji can serve as an example for others who wish to restart their tourism industries. American tourists are eager to visit Fiji, as demonstrated by pre-COVID-19 trends and the numbers that have arrived since December 1. This is certainly positive for the Fijian-American economic relationship which can use this as room for future growth.
Lily Schlieman is a participant of the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a Master's Student at the University of Hawai'i-Mānoa in Pacific Island Studies and Ocean Policy.