When the Fiji Government committed to reopening the country’s border on December 1st, 2021 after a protracted pandemic hiatus, it was like a light switch being flicked on, says Bayleys Fiji managing director and partner Philip Toogood.
“The dramatic tourism recovery since has been admirable and is testament to the resilience of the Fijian people – and to Fiji’s enduring charm.
“New Zealanders and Australians were quick to book trips to Fiji, encouraged by the short-haul journey and feeling safer holidaying close to home.
“For many, that holiday mindset has prompted thoughts of Fiji property acquisition and the development sector has recognised this sentiment.”
Toogood says local and offshore developers are buoyed by the surge of interest in Fiji, underpinned by its accessibility and leveraging a shortage of leisure property stock in New Zealand and Australia.
“Developers are targeting the managed investment buyer, where a mix of private use and the opportunity for getting an investment return is provided for, along with the solely owner-occupier condominium segment of the market.
“In the Australian and New Zealand waterfront and coastal property markets during the COVID-19 period, pressure was created by droves of returning expatriates which pushed up prices and absorbed inventory – something we didn’t see in Fiji.
Toogood says despite some market value corrections in both countries, it’s still difficult for aspiring leisure buyers to realise waterfront property dreams in Australia and New Zealand given the market fundamentals.
“So, Fiji offers a tangible alternative for holiday home buyers, with familiar ownership options and easy travel.
“Australia’s eastern seaboard has thousands of condominiums owned by Kiwis and Australians, so that’s a segment of the Fiji market that’s now attracting buyers – and developers.
“The Nawi Island Marina development featured in this issue of Waterfront is designed to cater for just such investors, and many other condominium developments are planned.
“Fiji is entering an exciting period of growth in leisure residential inventory.”
Toogood says while not new to Fiji, the fractional ownership property model is proving increasingly popular.
“Owning shares in a single purpose company, legally structured to give shareholders planned usage protection, is a very cost-effective way of owning and maintaining a holiday residence or condominium.
“Typically, there are maybe six or eight shareholders each entitled to eight or six weeks of private usage a year, with the remaining four weeks enabling the occupation calendar to jump a month, giving shareholders seasonal variation.
“With maintenance costs spread equally between shareholders, demand for these properties is rising.”
Toogood points to two fractional ownership opportunities in this edition of Waterfront – one on Denarau Island and another at the Vunabaka Marina Resort, with more opportunities set to arise given growing demand.
“Many owners of existing holiday homes or condominiums are considering fractional ownership, too, and setting up appropriate company share structures.”
The tight fractional ownership legal structure means owners can exit simply by selling their shares.
“Although shareholders typically start off knowing one another, that’s not essential and over time the mix can change, with existing owners assessing new shareholder interest as it emerges.”
One of the South Pacific’s finest homes was recently acquired by six families under fractional ownership.
The residence, on an absolutely prime Denarau site, has four full-time staff looking after the owners and the property and Toogood says it’s “the perfect solution to carefree holidays”.
Bayleys Fiji has numerous sea change options on its books, including a broad range of income-producing properties like the Sea Winds Villa in Maui Bay, and Savasi Island Resort.
“And we have islands for private ownership or development, like Tilagica, Mai, and Dolphin Islands, which could make the perfect private retreat or fractional ownership paradise.”
Tourism Fiji chief executive officer Brent Hill says his team is proactively working with Investment Fiji and the Fijian Government, which recently rolled out a number of initiatives making it easier for investors to consider Fiji.
“While there are a number of commercial accommodation projects currently underway, we are actively seeking and encouraging investment in Fiji’s tourism sector to meet demand as, based on current projections, existing supply will be stretched.
“Major global tourism brands have eyes on Fiji and since the border reopened, we’ve hosted a number of representatives looking at either greenfield sites for new builds or considering acquisition of existing properties.”
Hill applauds the Fijian people for their role in the country’s post-pandemic recovery.
“Fijians are genuinely such beautiful people to work with, having an attitude of resilience, happiness, and living in the moment entrenched in their culture.
“Given Fiji experienced one of the biggest economic contractions in the world during the pandemic’s height, it is testament to the Fijian way of life that it’s been able to rebuild so quickly and is now on a path to economic growth.”