Fiji is looking forward to more investment opportunities from it’s long-term friend and well-wisher India.
The island nation is seeking investments particularly in tourism, healthcare infrastructure, and film-making.
Viliame Gavoka, Fiji’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Tourism, and Civil Aviation, told FBC News after completing his official visit to India.
“The signs are very positive and I’ve linked them up to investors so that we can see some big brands here in Fiji. But as an indication of how they hold Fiji, people of India very high. Fiji is held in high esteem in India because they say our diaspora live in Fiji.”
During his trip, Mr Gavoka met G. Kishan Reddy, India’s Union Minister for Culture, Tourism, and DoNER and highlighted that an increased investment highlights the growing partnership between the two nations.
Mr Gavoka also engaged with various Indian entrepreneurs and is hopeful that there would be significant contributions from big brands such as Taj Hotels and Oberoi Groups to further bolster Fiji’s tourism and economy.
India’s links with Fiji commenced in 1879 when Indian labourers were brought here under indenture system to work on sugar-cane plantations. In 2023, 144th Girmit Day celebration was organized by the Fijian Government with Dr Rajkumar Ranjan Singh, India’s Minister of State for External Minister, as guest of honor.
In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Fiji and signed three MoUs and in 2023, Dr S. Jaishankar, External Affairs Minister, visited Fiji to attend the 12th World Hindi Conference held in Nadi.
Prior to Fiji’s independence in 1970, India had a post of Commissioner since 1948 to look after the interests of people of Indian origin. It was later upgraded to High Commissioner after Fiji’s independence in 1970.
P. S. Karthigeyan, the present High Commissioner of India to Fiji, told The Australia Today that he sees tremendous potential in the India-Fiji Commercial space, including in the tourism and hospitality segments.
“With regards to the discussions of the Hon’ble Deputy Prime Minister with major hospitality groups, during his recent visit to India, we are hopeful that the two sides would be able to quickly progress their discussions.”
India is considered a natural development partner of Fiji with Indian assistance extended to sectors such as regional solarisation, human resource development, higher education, and skills training. In fact, during the last five years, 123 Indo-Fijians have visited India under the Know India Programmes.
Dr Sakul Kundra, Associate Professor and Dean (Research) at the Fiji National University (FNU), says tourism is one of the major industry for Fiji.
“Visitors are always welcome and given one of the best hospitality to make the visitor experience an memorable one. If the Tourists come from India, they can have the experience of paradise of the Pacific with pristine tourist destinations. The tourist stakeholders would be happy to welcome tourists beyond Australia and New Zealand.”
The University of the South Pacific (USP) associate professor in journalism Shailendra Bahadur Singh stated that the focus on India makes business sense as according to S&P Global India is expected to be the fastest growing major economy in the next three years and forecast to become the third largest economy in the world by 2030.
Dr Singh, the former editor of The Review and the Pacific Business magazines in Fiji, pointed out that India’s nominal GDP was USD 3.7 trillion in 2023 while Fiji was USD 4.8bn. So the impact that a vast economy like India can have on a small country like Fiji is immense.
He added that the trick is how to tap into the burgeoning Indian economy and identified tourism as an obvious area that had potential for Fiji.
“With India’s growing prosperity comes a growing appetite for international travel. In our neighborhood, Australia is riding the Indian tourism wave. India was Australia’s fourth largest source market in 2023, up from seventh. Fiji is just a hop away from Australia and the question for us is what are the ways and means to attract more Indian tourists.”
Indian citizens do not need a tourist visa when travelling to Fiji and a passport holder can stay in Fiji for a short period of time for 120 days.
Dr Singh further observed that already there is growing Indian interest in Fiji, thanks to social media.
“Fiji has received fairly extensive free coverage by a succession of famous Indian YouTube vloggers with huge following in their home country. The vloggers have been captivated by the welcoming nature of Fijians, the natural beauty and uniqueness of Fiji and Fiji Indians’ ties to India. The vloggers are fascinated by a diaspora that has maintained its language, culture, religion and rituals despite 123 years and 11,600kms removed from India. What is perhaps needed is a focused approach by Fiji tourism to captiliase on the increasing Indian wanderlust and and the bonds and goodwill between two friendly countries, Fiji and India.”
Indian visitors contributed over $1.4 billion to the Australian economy and emerged at number 5 in Australia’s top international markets for the year ending September 2023 with 365,000 trips.
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