(CNN) — Fiji is ready to welcome tourists again by the end of 2021.
The island nation had originally intended to reopen its borders to tourists in December, but that date could be moved up as the country’s vaccination program continues.
Brent Hill, the CEO of Tourism Fiji, the country’s national tourism body, told CNN any reopening date is still a moving target.
Hill said travelers permitted to enter the country will need to be fully vaccinated, show evidence of a negative Covid-19 PCR test and be from a “green list” nation, although the criteria for the green list has not yet been spelled out.
However, in a speech made on September 3, Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport Faiyaz Koya announced, “We are collectively working towards a November reopening.”
He added: “With COVID-safe behavior, we will reduce our community transmission and give confidence that Fiji is a safe holiday destination and will not be a source of cases in their respective countries. I am confident with all our collective effort we will achieve the desired outcomes and create a safe environment to welcome back tourists.”
The country’s national airline will play a major role in the reopening process.
“Fiji Airways is committed to putting on a strong schedule right from the get-go. They are committed to opening across a number of their ports that they flew to and providing capacity,” Hill confirmed. He teased there will be flight and resort deals on offer as part of the country’s reopening.
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About 40 percent of Fiji’s gross national product (GNP) comes from the tourism industry.
Last summer, Prime Minister Josaia “Frank” Voreqe Bainimarama openly said he was courting billionaires who wanted to visit Fiji during the pandemic.
Despite the country being otherwise closed to foreign travelers, a group of some 30 high net worth individuals were allowed to spend three months in the country as part of a special agreement with the government.
The reopening news was met with happy responses from Fiji’s tourism community, which has taken a significant hit during the pandemic.
“We are ecstatic that before the end of the year we will be able to share the Fijian bula spirit with the world once again,” Christopher Southwick, owner of the Royal Davui Island Resort, told CNN. “We are anticipating a strong opening for those looking to celebrate the holidays under a palm tree.”
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In order for a successful reopening, businesses, locals and visitors will need to follow guidelines laid out by the country’s CareFiji plan.
Travelers will need to download the CareFiji app to their phones ahead of arriving in the country. They will be able to use the app to book hotels and resorts compliant with the program.
CNN’s data showed as of September 14, 33 percent of Fijians have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
However, the prime minister said on Twitter half the country’s eligible adults have taken both doses of a vaccine, while the Fijian government’s official Twitter account said 97.2 percent of the “target population” had received at least one shot.
According to Tourism Fiji, the discrepancy has to do with the ages of those being vaccinated. About one-fourth of the country is under 18, and Fiji does not yet have vaccines specifically aimed at children. Therefore, “target population” is a term they use to mean eligible adults.