PACIFIC – Australian airline Virgin Australia, has entered voluntary administration putting the jobs of 15,000 airline and connected supply chain workers under a dark cloud.
The CEO of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association, Fantasha Lockington, says while job losses will be small in the Pacific ,the move will have an indirect impact on the Pacific’s already Covid-19 damaged tourism industry.
Virgin Australia ran flights from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to the capitals of Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and the Cook Islands – and was a popular vacation route for Australian tourists.
“People holidaying in Fiji and the outer islands will lose the ability to spend most of the day in Fiji before catching Virgin’s afternoon connection to Australia.
“With 15 flights a week it’s going to have quite an impact on the availability to get in and out,” Lockington said.
Virgin Australia’s fleet has largely been grounded since March 25 due to the coronavirus pandemic emergency.
In a statement to the Australian Stock exchange, Virgin Australia said the move to voluntary administration would help “recapitalise the business” and ensure it emerged “in a stronger financial position on the other side of the Covid-19 crisis”.
With the lockdown of international borders due to Covid-19, Lockington says tourism in the Fiji has effectively been brought to a standstill.
“Fiji has a population of 900,000 and tourism employs 40,000 people directly and around 110,000 people indirectly so it’s a large proportion of the population impacted and tourism affects the country more than any other industry.
“Nearly every utility, transport, activity provider, food manufacturer and fresh produce supplier has some level of dependency on tourism.
“We have had bad weather, floods, cyclones, even political upheavals and we’ve been able to get back up and dust ourselves off.
“But this is unprecedented and how long we hold on for in a holding pattern is an absolute unknown,” Lockington said.
“Fiji’s highest foreign exchange earner is tourism, over $2 million annually, so it is having a huge impact on our economy right now.”
She said the crisis in particularly damaging to small businesses which may not survive to be around when the tourism industry starts to work again.
“We need to start planning right now how to recover from this and what changes need to be made to what will undoubtedly be the ‘new norm’ after this is behind us.”