14,000 to 16,000 Fijian tourism workers overseas – Minister Gavoka

Raffe Hotels & Resorts workers. Picture: FT FILE/JOVESA NAISUA

An estimated 14,000 to 16,000 tourism workers have left the industry for overseas jobs, says Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Viliame Gavoka.

He made the statement while replying to a motion for debate on the review of Fiji National University’s 2020 annual report in Parliament this week.

“We all know about the brain drain and, indeed, for tourism it is a concern that all these robust forecasts that we have this year can be derailed by the lack of qualified staff,” Mr Gavoka said.

“It is quite pronounced, figures that have been given to me are in the vicinity of 14,000 to 16,000 workers in tourism who have left the industry to go abroad.

“Replacing them is not easy because most of these are in the production area where you need people to be skilled and to be experienced.

“Of course, given the way we are, we can bring in our young people from the villages, give them a couple of weeks of training and they can be good waiters and waitresses. They have it in them, that attitude to serve, it is very easy.

“But on the other, on what I normally call a heart of the house, the production area, there are huge challenges. Chefs are now very difficult to retain in Fiji.

“And this is where we would like to see FNU play a bigger role. I believe they have failed very badly in this area.”

He said the same threat existed in aviation, where people trained in air traffic management and aircraft engineering were migrating.

“Replacing them is the real challenge. When we dialogue on this with the players in the industry, we are told that there are certain FNU facilities geared towards this that are underutilised.

“The aviation facility in Nadi is not fully functioning. If it was properly functioning, we could be replacing a lot of these aviation people who are leaving the country.

“In food and beverage, also similar story. So going forward, we would like to see more focus by FNU to up its act and help replace those we lose through brain drain.

“We cannot do anything about labour mobility. It is part of the new global economy. You cannot stop it, even bus drivers.

“We had a meeting with our people – the Society of Fiji Travel Associates, these are people who operate coaches and the like, and they are losing coach drivers. I think a figure of 60 was given to us. They have lost 60 coach drivers.

“So, what you need is an institution like FNU to identify and relook at these offerings on what it offers in terms of education and training and meet its challenges. For some of us, we do not realise the extent of this threat until we see our bus drivers also migrating.”

More Stories