Last updated: 11:00 PM ET, Mon April 20 2015

Fiji Makes a Road Trip Through the US

Destination & Tourism | James Ruggia | April 20, 2015

Fiji Makes a Road Trip Through the US

PHOTO: The Castaway Island Resort made a stop on Manhattan Island and many other American places to meet with agents. (Courtesy of Castaway Island Resort)

Tourism Fiji led a group of suppliers on a three-week tour to several U.S. cities to meet travel agents calling at Cleveland, Dallas, New York, San Diego and Santa Barbara among other towns. The group included representatives from Vomo Island Resort, the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, the Castaway Island Resort, Yasawa Island Resort, Blue Lagoon Cruises, Outrigger Fiji and other top Fijian suppliers. Even though Fiji has more than 600 of its own specialist Matai agents, Tourism Fiji feels that the destination has undergone significant sophistication in the product it offers visitors and needs to keep agents up to date.

“We want to get out of the category where we’re compared to Hawaii, the Caribbean or Cancun,” said Ruth Daly, Tourism Fiji’s director for North America. “We have something very different for the right client and that’s why agents are so vital, because they know who those high end clients are.”

Take the Vomo Island Resort, for example, which just completed a major $5 million renovation featuring completely transformed villas with new bathrooms offering free-standing bathtubs and separate showers. Bedrooms now feature Dynasty Heavenly beds and sustainable handcrafted teak furnishings made exclusively for the resort.

“One of the resort’s strongest suits is our cuisine,” said Vomo’s Director of Sales & Marketing Karen Marvel. “And it’s an all-inclusive.” In May, the resort’s Rocks Bar will launch dinner service with an outdoor show kitchen offering an eclectic array of signature grilled specialties, along with a new half million dollar kitchen in the main house serving the Reef Restaurant.

Fijian resorts have been following Tourism Fiji’s encouragement in upgrading the food and beverage product. “We are really behind promoting the food we offer,” said Jill Palise, the executive director of sales & marketing for the Matamanoa Island Resort Fiji. “The freshness of the food is an intrinsic part of the destination where ‘catch a fish, eat a fish’ is part of the life. We have that at our resort and all of the fruit you eat here is sun-ripened and it makes a big difference.”

The aspect of wellness and freshness is part of the offering at the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, which offers a Fijian Medicine Walk led by a marine biologist that shows participating guests plants and their positive effects on the body. The resort’s grounds grow 24 specimens of flora that unearth a natural cure for a multitude of ailments. And like many modern Fijian resorts, the Cousteau resort offers a broad range of spa treatments in-room or in the resort’s beachside spa bures.

Resorts like the Tokoriki Resort are reporting that they’re getting more guests from the East Coast of the U.S. “People travel for experiences; they don’t travel for the same old things,” said Luke Jones, the director of Advocate Travel Marketing. “In Fiji they get a rich level of experience with a high level of service, because hospitality is in their DNA.”

“Most of our American guests are 40 and up, they’ve been around the world and they’re especially motivated now because of the strength of the U.S. Dollar, which is basically twice as strong as the Fijian Dollar,” said Alex Raicebe, the sales & marketing manager for the Musket Cove Resort. “There’s also plenty of air capacity with a flight every day and then there are many who stop off in Fiji on their way to Australia and New Zealand.”

The destination welcomed 692,630 international visitors in 2014, including 61,924 from North America. Both figures are records.

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