Over the past few years Talanoa Treks’ on Fiji’s Suncoast has partnered with Market Development Facility (MDF) to assist in improving their capacity to reach and cater for tourists looking for alternative and adventure activities and working with local communities along the treks to raise the standard of services offered to guests.
Walking the path less travelled with Talanoa Treks on Fiji’s Suncoast
Tourism is Fiji’s largest foreign exchange earner and is the main economic driver of the country. The industry contributes about 36% of the GDP and employs 35% in the formal sector through direct and indirect employment.
Visitor arrivals average over 600,000 tourists yearly, predominantly from Australia, New Zealand and United States. Denarau near Nadi, is the nexus of tourism in Fiji, with the major hotel chains, port access to nearby luxury and backpacker resorts and large actvity providers are located there. These operators ofer mostly prepaid all-inclusive beach holiday packages with easy access to the internatonal airport.
Fiji accounts for over 60% of all tourist arrivals into the South Pacific region however, competing prices and similar attraction offerings from other islands in the Pacific region are driving Fijian tourism operators to seek local authentic and unique experiences and attractions to maintain the appeal of Fiji tourism. While most foreign investors in tourism have the capacity to diversify, adapt and expand their operations, many local operators and service providers struggle to properly capitalise on their unique Fijian offerings and activities that will cater to travelers looking to explore more of what Fiji has to offer.
Offer alternative and adventure activities
Walks and Trails, trading as Talanoa Treks is one of the only dedicated hiking tour companies in Fiji offering guided day trip and multi-day group walks, working in partnership with local communities through Vit Levu’s rural areas.
Tourists are offered an experience into local and traditional ways of life in Fiji by visiting and staying in villages during the treks.
With the interest to provide a modern day authentic Fijian experience through scenic hiking trails, local food and community interaction, Talanoa Treks currently works with four local communities and two lodges (see right).
The business supports these communities by training/up-skilling of tour guiding, booking and hosting abilities, logistical arrangements and trip management. The communities (tour guides and service providers) are also trained for better service delivery and managing a business, and have better knowledge of how to meet the best quality standards and requirements in hosting tourists. This has led to an increase of around 3-4 tours a month averaging 10-12 tourists since the MDF intervention was implemented.
According to TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, there is an increasing demand for environmentally friendly, niche type tourism activities that work with local communities as travelers feel enriched that their trip benefits a local community.
Some of the communities that the company works with are so remote that the company is helping to spread the tourism dollar to these regions. The four communities engaged with Talanoa Treks earn an average of FJD 15,840 annually from the tours.
Community Engagement and Empowerment
Talanoa Treks currently engages with communities that provide 30 male and female tour guides that would otherwise rely on farming as a source of income. The 80 households in the wider communities benefit from this increased income as more tourists visit and spend money on food in the villages.
With the number of tourist arrivals expected to increase, full time employment for five tour guides has been created and additional jobs will be generated within Talanoa Treks and its partner communities.
Best “Visitor Attraction and Activity” award at the 2015 ANZ Tourism Excellence Awards
The award winning adventure innovator also won the best “Visitor Attraction and Activity” award at the 2015 ANZ Tourism Excellence Awards and is a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence holder for outstanding reviews.
These awards are recognition of the unique offerings of the tours and the commitment to community and sustainable development.
Early Signs of Pro-Poor Results
MDF’s partnership with Talanoa Treks’ involves improving their capacity to reach and cater for tourists looking for alternative and more adventurous activities and working with local communities along the treks to raise the standard of services offered to guests.
With Talanoa Treks’ growth, tourists will have greater access to experience Fijian hospitality at the community level. This is bringing in additional revenue into the communities that host tourists and provide tour guiding.
Communities also earn income through the sale of handicrafts and fees from special sites access to tourists during these hiking trips.
Under the partnership the following activities were cost-shared between MDF and Talanoa Treks:
- Engaging a tourism specialist for market research and developing a strategic marketng plan to boost Talanoa Treks’ marketng campaigns.
- Increasing market presence through the development of a quality website and participation at local tourism events.
- Investing in infrastructure within communities to assist with post Tropical Cyclone Winston rehabilitation and raise standards of community facilities for tourists.
- Increasing the capacity of community guides and community focal points through First Aid and Financial Management training to enable them to better manage bookings and finances received through guided tours and village visits.
- Engaging a Community Business Development Adviser to work with the communities in maintaining the quality of hospitality standards clean and hygienic washroom facilities, hygienic food preparation and hosting of guests.
- Strengthening the financial management capacity of Talanoa Treks for better management of the business expansion, by recruiting a Finance and Administration Officer.
- Engaging a training expert to train guides (particularly female tour guides) and reviewing of tour guide training manuals.
- Engaging a community liaison specialist for scoping to new communities to increase and diversify visitor experiences.
For more informaton on MDF partnerships please visit: www.marketdevelopmentfacility.org