When your income relies on tourist dollars, what happens when the planes stop flying and the borders slam shut? Sarah investigates how our Pacific neighbours have fared through the pandemic.

The Pandemic in the Pacific

The impact of the pandemic has been felt worldwide but has had a far greater effect on poorer nations. How have the border closures and lockdowns affected our neighbours in the Pacific? I spoke to Loretta Ooms, a Fijian local working for Blue Lagoon to find out.

Blue Lagoon, run the Fiji Princess out of Denarau Island, Fiji, and I was lucky enough to join them on one of their adventures through the Yasawa Islands back in 2018. Run by Fijians, the small ship takes you to remote beaches, untouched coral reefs, and beautiful villages. 

 

 

‘When the border first closed a lot of people who worked in the city and tourist resorts had to go home to their extended families in their villages and live off the land and sea,’ explains Loretta. 

‘The government didn’t have the money to help support people like in other countries.’

‘You were able to take money from your Superannuation Fund if you had any. Some people handled it well and were very resourceful, opening small businesses using other skills they had, and community groups popped up on Facebook, such as Barter Fiji where you could swap things with other families. Some other people, as in countries the world over, didn’t handle the disruption as well and got very depressed with all the closures.’ 

The Fijian tourist board ran a campaign to encourage locals to travel domestically and that helped hotels and tourism experiences get up and running again, even with the border closed. 

 

 

‘All the companies offered very discounted rates, so they weren’t making much money, but they were able to offer work to their employees which was great,’ said Loretta. 

Blue Lagoon offered local cruises on their usual routes as well as planning some new routes, which unfortunately had to be cancelled when Fiji was locked down in mid-2021.

Borders Open and Covid Arrives

With the borders now open in Fiji there’s been a rise in COVID cases and Loretta explains that Fijians have mixed feelings about having the border open. 

 

 

‘There’s been an outbreak of COVID, which was to be expected, but still not a very good situation,’ says Loretta. 

We’re over 92% fully vaccinated in Fiji so we’re very lucky with that. Knowing a lot of the citizens are vaccinated makes us feel a little more at ease.’ 

The vaccination rate should provide some protection, but some locals are still worried about the rise in cases. While others are pleased to be back working and welcoming international visitors to the islands. 

If you want to explore the Pacific this year and spread some of your tourist dollars around, there are places welcoming visitors, but rules are updated regularly so make sure you do your research before you book your adventure. 

 

Where can I travel in the Pacific right now?

Fiji

Borders: Open
Quarantine: Quarantine-free travel for fully-vaccinated tourists from Travel Partner countries
Restrictions and requirements: 

  • All travellers (12 years+) to Fiji must produce a negative PCR test taken no more than two days before departure
  • All travellers who visit Fiji will need to stay at a CFC certified accommodation and book a CFC transfer from the airport to their hotel
  • Foreign nationals must have travel insurance for COVID-19 coverage
  • Take a Rapid Antigen Test at a CFC-certified resort 48hr after arrival in Fiji (you don’t need to isolate until you get the results of this test)
  • Wear a mask in public places (eg restaurants, tour buses, shops)
  • Activate your careFIJI contact tracing app to check into businesses

More information on Fiji travel requirements

Vanuatu

Borders: Open
Quarantine: Two weeks in a hotel quarantine facility approved by the Vanuatu Government at your own expense
Restrictions and requirements: 

  • Travellers must receive approval to travel to Vanuatu from the Vanuatu Ministry of Foreign Affairs before travel. Priority for entry is given to citizens and residents of Vanuatu.
  • All travellers to Vanuatu must be fully vaccinated and have a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before travel

More information on Vanuatu travel requirements

New Caledonia

Borders: Open
Quarantine: Seven days quarantine at home or at a hotel upon arrival is mandatory
Restrictions and requirements: 

  • Full vaccination certificate (except for children under 18) and PCR test are required to enter the country
  • Must apply for a travel certificate

More information on New Caledonia travel requirements

Samoa

Borders: Closed
Restrictions and requirements: 

  • Only returning citizens and residents are allowed to enter, or where specific permission is granted from the government
  • If you’ve had a positive COVID-19 PCR test in the last six months, you’ll not be allowed to travel to Samoa unless you meet strict criteria

More information on Samoa travel requirements

Solomon Islands

Borders: Closed
Restrictions and requirements: 

  • All incoming passenger services to Honiara have been suspended until further notice to allow frontline health professionals to focus on COVID-19 responses
  • Due to civil unrest travel to the Solomon Islands is not currently advised

More information on Solomon Islands travel requirements

Tonga

Borders: Closed
Restrictions and requirements: 

  • Only Tongan citizens and permanent residents can enter Tonga at this time

More information on Tonga travel requirements

 

All border information correct as of 5/1/22