Assistant Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation, Hon. Alitia Bainivalu, 
New Tourism Fiji Board of Directors,
CEO Tourism Fiji, Brent Hill,
Industry partners from Fiji and abroad,
Media Partners, 
Invited Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen;
It is an honour to welcome you all to the ninth edition of the Fijian Tourism Expo!
Bula Vinaka and welcome to Fiji. If this isn’t your first time here – welcome back!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This year, we are bringing you a bigger FTE than last year with over 100 buyers, more media, more sellers, and more countries.
Some of you have been age-old trade partners, while some are new. Some of you have come from as far as Bulgaria and Switzerland and we are very happy to have you.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I won’t take us back three years ago to the pandemic. As travel and tourism associates, you know what its impact was – and still is – as well as its value.
What I do want to mention is where we are now.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a country, we take tourism very seriously. Tourism contributes the largest portion of our GDP. It is the cornerstone of our economic well-being and the economic well-being of many of our people and our communities.
Today, we have recovered 71 percent of our 2019 visitor numbers with higher yields — paving the way for a full return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024. By value, we recovered 73 percent of our tourism earnings.  
If we look at the first quarter of this year, (January-March) we welcomed 175,284 visitors, a recovery of about 102 percent compared to the same quarter pre-pandemic. Hotels are reporting unprecedented bookings. So not only are we recovering, but we are also thriving.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our national airline, Fiji Airways, is recording bookings with more seats and more passengers than in 2019 with strong forward bookings looking at the next 12 months.
Since the last FTE, we have re-launched direct services to Adelaide, Hong Kong and Japan. Last month, we also announced direct services commencing July to Canberra.
And, as the hub of the Pacific, we will continue to invest in connectivity between our islands, and with the rest of the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We took the last few years as an opportunity to invest. Invest in a new brand, “where happiness comes naturally”, invest in renovations, new routes, and infrastructure, in new products, in our people and in our environment.
During your famils, and over the next few days, you will see and learn more of what’s in the pipeline. And I am pleased to announce some of these:
● Seventh Heaven’s new luxury overnight stay, Mamanucas
● $47 million new Wananavu Beach Resort development, currently underway in Rakiraki
● $10 million villa addition to Vacala Bay Resort, Taveuni
● Crown Plaza to open soon in Wailoaloa (former Pullman)
● Hilton Garden Inn, Suva
● Wyndham is also adding 90 rooms in Wailoaloa and 40 rooms in the Coral Coast – my hometown!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In another major announcement, I am pleased to share that Captain Cook Cruises is announcing the arrival of luxury expedition cruising with the introduction of 114 passenger MS Caledonian Sky.  
Her introduction will see the dawn of a new era of high-end cruise experiences, never before seen in Fiji.
Captain Cook will further develop its remote itineraries, pioneered with their ship Reef Endeavour.  Meaning, they will be taking you to some of the remotest and most beautiful parts of Fiji, including the North, Lau Islands, Tonga and Samoa.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
There are a number of other projects in the pipeline – a few representing globally recognised brands that will add to our growing inventory.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We know there is demand, and it is up to us as an Industry and as Government to meet these demands.
Unlocking investments, diversifying our offering, and dispersing tourism and its benefits. These are key priorities of the Fiji Government.
At the moment, we are working with the World Bank to strengthen targeted infrastructure and essential services in Vanua Levu that can unlock tourism developments that include our domestic airports. This is a ten-year partnership at the end of which, I hope we get to have an FTE event in the north!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Earlier this week, I was in the North visiting some of the tourism stakeholders in Labasa and Savusavu. One of the properties visited was Nukubati Island, which is right on the Great Sea Reef, off the North Coast of Vanua Levu. And it was beautiful.
They are solar powered, harvest rainwater, and have onsite farms. Just being on the island makes you feel like you are part of a community. So, happiness truly does come naturally.
In fact, there are many examples in Fiji. Right here at the Sheraton we have one of the largest organic farms which yields close to 5,000 kilograms of fruits and vegetables monthly.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am also happy to share that Tourism Fiji has taken a significant step towards sustainable tourism by replacing its fleet with new electronic vehicles – a step I am sure will encourage others to follow in striving towards sustainability.  
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Each of us here have a huge part to play in connecting people and making tourism what it is – and what it can be. You represent airlines, accommodation, experiences, and destination marketing.
So, by being part of our renowned home-grown trade event, you become Ambassadors of Fiji. And I hope by the close of this year’s FTE, you are inspired to share our story, and the warmth of our people, with the rest of the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With those few words, I am proud to declare the 2023 Fijian Tourism Expo open.  I wish you well in your connections and networking!
Vinaka vakalevu, thank you and see you again next year!