FIJI is an archipelagic country which has 333 islands. Since December 1, Fiji instituted a quarantine-free travel policy to welcome vaccinated foreign tourists from countries around the world.

When the pandemic forced Fiji to close its borders in March 2020, the effects were immediate and devastating for the island nation’s economy. In a country where the tourism industry accounts for 38% of GDP and employs more than 13% of the total population, borders mean layoffs, bankruptcy and permanent business closures.

By the time the second wave of virus cases hit the island, many residents had planted gardens, communities began to use a bartering system, with platforms and groups on social media helping people trade produce and seafood for convenience stores such as flour, sugar, rice and clothing.

Fortunately, the arrival of the vaccine changed everything, the country made it mandatory for vaccination to go to work, travel or enter shops and restaurants. Cases are drastically reduced. More than 91% of the eligible adult population, including tourism frontliners, have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Huge successes in vaccination have allowed the country to finally reopen its borders after 20 long months. Despite producing less than 1% of the world’s carbon emissions, Fiji’s 333 islands are some of the most threatened by rising global temperatures.

The nation has been a consistent voice in the importance of tackling climate issues globally but has also focused on sustainability initiatives in its home country, especially in its tourism industry.

Duavata, a sustainability collective, brings together tourism businesses that share a common mission to create visitor offerings that preserve the environment and integrate cultural heritage and communities, while also providing guidance to the next generation of sustainability leaders.

Visitors can also make an informed decision on where they live on the islands. There is the Namosi Eco Retreat which is 100% Fijian owned and operated and gives visitors the opportunity to eat local food and sleep in traditional Fijian bures next to the Luva River. All without telephone or electronics.

Oceanside, Leleuvia Island Resort, located within the Lomaaviti island group, works to preserve its marine environment by planting corals and actively monitoring the nests of turtles, whales and dolphins. The island’s abundant wildlife can be seen by snorkelling, paddle boarding or in a traditional outrigger canoe.

Regardless of vaccination status, visitors over 12 years of age must provide a negative PCR test three days prior to departure. Upon arrival, travelers must install and activate the careFiji app, which provides contact tracing across the country.

Most businesses require check-in using an in-app QR code and proof of vaccination to enter, and masks are still required in public places such as buses, restaurants and shops. Travelers must also book at least a three-night stay at a Care Fiji Commitment (CFC) certified property, a World Health Organization-approved program that ensures high health and safety standards. [ special]