Saturday 20 February 2016 will forever be a memorable day for many Fijians. It was the day Cyclone Winston, the strongest tropical cyclone to hit Fiji on record, made its presence felt.
Cyclone Winston spared the main tourist destinations of Fiji, however devastated some of Fiji’s remote islands, flattening many villages and leaving thousands homeless.
With community spirit being such a key focus for TravelManagers, it came as little surprise to Executive General Manager Michael Gazal, that the personal travel managers immediately asked what they could do to help.
“TravelManagers immediately contacted sister company HOOT Holidays’ local ground operator Rosie Holidays to understand what was the greatest need,” Gazal said.
“After hearing that some Fijians could be without housing for up to two years, TravelManagers and HOOT Holidays purchased 25 high-quality Katmandu four-person tents that were sent to Fiji and delivered with other essential supplies by yacht to the Makogai, Koro and Yadua islands.”
With 53,630 Fijians in evacuation centres, 3,360 houses destroyed, 143 schools partially damaged and 60,239 students without classrooms, funds are still in desperate need in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston.
To assist with fundraising efforts, the Tourism Action Group (comprising of Fiji Airways, Tourism Fiji, Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association and the Society of Fiji Travel Associates) held a fundraising initiative last Friday for the Australian travel industry. The Cyclone Winston Fundraising breakfast event was hosted by Fiji Airways and Tourism Fiji and was held at Sydney’s Sheraton on the Park.
Both HOOT Holidays and TravelManagers purchased individual tables as further support for Fiji.
“Our heartfelt thanks go to the team at TravelManagers who have been a long-time supporter of Fiji tourism. With tourism such an important part of the Fijian economy we in the Australian travel industry have a great opportunity to assist Fiji’s recovery,” says Andrew Stanbury Acting Executive General Manager, Sales and Marketing Fiji Airways.
The event was twofold, to raise much needed funds to assist relief efforts but also to reassure the industry that Fiji was ‘Bula as usual’.
“Although the cyclone has affected a number of areas, the country’s tourism infrastructure was spared and we can confidently continue to sell one of TravelManagers’ favourite holiday destinations with conviction,” Gazal said.
Stanbury talked about the importance of tourism to the Fijian people and economy.
“Tourism represents the largest foreign contributor to Fiji’s GDP. The key role the travel industry must play in helping Fiji get back on their feet is boosting visitor numbers out of the Australian Market. Fiji Airways’ motivation in leading the way with the introduction of some extremely competitive airfare offers is our way of making it an easy sell,” he said.
The TravelManagers’ community spirit for Fiji has a long history with personal travel managers. In 2012 whilst in Fiji on conference, the entire TravelManagers team worked together to give a local primary school a makeover after it was damaged by floods earlier that year.
In 2013, personal travel manager Karen Christie created a much needed library at the Deuba District School in Pacific Harbour by donating over 2000 books and in 2014 personal travel manager Robbie Barrett organised the collection of more than 100 bras specifically for women on Nacula Island, a remote part of Fiji in the Northern Yasawa Islands.
“The strongest message for TravelManagers is the culture of our business and our desire to give back. The opportunity for our personal travel managers to do something that benefits communities that need it most, mirrors our business philosophy of going the extra mile. That sums up the culture of TravelManagers and we are extremely proud of that,” Gazal said.