The ever-growing number of Japanese tourists visiting Fiji will have at least six to eight hours knocked off their journey to the Pacific island starting this summer.
At present, journeys to the republic require a stopover and take around 15 to 17 hours. But from July 3, the trip will take just nine hours as Fiji Airways will start direct flights, three-times a week, between Narita airport near Tokyo and Nadi, on the west coast of the main island.
“The Japanese and Fijian cultures get on so well,” Matthew Stoeckel, chief executive officer of Tourism Fiji, told Kyodo News last week during the Fiji Coral Coast Sevens at Sigatoka’s Lawaqa Park.
“We expect some business traffic and this will be a great stepping point for trade relations. But obviously the majority of visitors will be tourists.”
Each week, flights will be scheduled for Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, offering over 80,000 seats per year.
“We are excited to share with Japan the untouched beauty of our 333 islands. Fiji’s unparalleled hospitality and warmth offers Japanese tourists a unique, culturally immersive experience — much more than just another beach getaway,” Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO Andre Viljoen said when the plan was announced in December.
“Our flights have been designed to ensure guests get the most of their time in Fiji. The flight from Narita arrives at Nadi in the morning, with convenient domestic connections on our subsidiary Fiji Link to major tourism spots like Savusavu and Taveuni. Additionally, guests can also easily do boat transfers after arrival to the many wonderful resorts in the beautiful Mamanuca and Yasawa island groups.”
Fijian Attorney General and Minister responsible for Civil Aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said, “This opens a direct gateway between Fiji and the most populated metropolitan area in the world, and we expect the impact to go far beyond attracting more tourism to our shores.”
Stoeckel said there were already a “couple of thousand Japanese students studying English in Fiji” and “a lot of Japanese presence and ownership.”
And with numbers set to soar, resorts have already hired Japanese speaking staff, he added.
“The beautiful beaches and water obviously look good in pictures,” Stoeckel said. “But to really appreciate Fiji you have to come here. You can’t look past the people. It’s the hospitality that really sets us apart.”