"You may have a beautiful hotel, but it's the people that actually make it happen."
One of the hallmarks of Fiji's tourism industry is the world-class hospitality of the Fijian people.
Thanks to this kind of dedication from Fijian hospitality staff like Asenaca Nitayaqa - who you will meet properly a little later - the industry is on track to smash all its expectations for a recovery in 2022.
Fiji Tourism chief executive Brent Hill said at the start of the year they had set a goal to try and achieve visitor numbers of around 400,000.
They are now on track to almost doubling that number.
"We definitely will hit over 600,000 through the end of December. And the really good news is when you look at the people that are travelling for holiday reasons - so they indicate on the cards, that's now exceeding 2019 levels. So that's the thing that we're really excited about," he said.
"We've had amazing numbers of Australians, Kiwis, Americans, and we're just starting to see a little bit of that sort of medium long-haul flights coming back as well. So yeah, it's really exciting heading into 2023. And, you know, to think that we've been able to recover that much that quickly is an incredible testament to the tourism industry."
However, it has not all been sunshine and rainbows.
Like the rest of the world many tourism businesses in Fiji - even quite large ones - were forced to close by the pandemic.
One such business the Novotel Suva Lami Bay is about 10 minutes out from the city centre.
A serene waterfront hotel overlooking Suva Harbour was closed in 2020 and has just reopened this month.
Its new manager Mareile Jerosch-Hoehn - who is in the process of moving her family from New Zealand after taking up the job - said they were stoked to be able to get back up on their feet again.
"We only reopened on the ninth of December, just before Christmas and just before the election hit. So, it's a progressive refurbishment for us," Jerosch-Hoehn said.
She said they started slowly, with 40 rooms and have now got another 22 online. Once at full capacity, they will have 108.
Jerosch-Hoehn said they were looking forward to reopening their gym, spa and conference facilities next year as they try to build up their business over the summer period having been closed now for three years.
"You know, that was a long time to jump back into the market. Fiji is you know, doing really, really well tourism-wise at the moment. And we're just trying to hop on board with that as well and open this beautiful Lami Bay to the public again," she said.
Brent Hill said when Fiji reopened to the world on 1 December last year only about two-thirds of its tourism properties were open.
And while most have now reopened there are still a few projects to come through next year.
"It is really good to see some of those resorts like Lami Bay - which is well loved. It's, you know, an incredible spot, just near Suva - and it's good to see them, reopening and beginning their progressive rollout," Hill said.
Hill said they were also seeing some encouraging signs of outside interest in Fiji.
"We are definitely talking to a lot of investors. You know, I think there's a lot of people that are really interested in Fiji's tourism recovery and are looking at that saying, 'Well, hey, you know, maybe this is a place that we could potentially invest in and, you know, employ local people.' And that's something really encouraging," Hill said.
The hospitality of the Fijian people is what makes Fiji's tourism a world-class destination to visit.
Walk into any hotel in the country and you will be greeted with a friendly Bula! a beautiful smile and a genuine sense that these humans care as much for your well-being as they do their own families.
Asenaca Nitayaqa grew up in the tourism industry.
She said her mother and father established the Hyatt Regency - now known as Warwick Fiji - and she is currently the food and beverages manager at Novotel Suva Lami Bay where she has worked for the past four to five years, but she has over 30 years of hospitality experience under her belt.
It is safe to say for Asenaca - this is a calling.
"It's the people that connect to the guests. You may have a beautiful hotel, but it's the people that actually make it happen," Asenaca said.
"Every contact, every connection we have with our guests that actually counts. Even if it's not a word, it's just a smile and a bula! (hello) You don't have to explain yourself. You may not know what a guest is going through. And just by smiling and saying bula you can just change a lot of things," she said.
In 2023 the minimum wage in Fiji is being lifted to $FJD4 an hour - approx. $US1.81 - it is part of a transition from just over $FJD2 an hour ($US 0.91 cents) initiated by the former FijiFirst government.
Tourism Fiji chief executive Brent Hill said he was looking forward to working with the country's new minister for tourism Viliame Gavoka who is a former chairman of the Fiji Visitors Bureau.
"He obviously has a real pedigree in the tourism space, which is really exciting from our perspective. I think the great thing has been that tourism has always been an apolitical element," Hill said.
"We're here providing growth for the people of Fiji and providing jobs in that respect. So, I think the good thing is we can continue to do what we're doing and put our foot down. And yeah, definitely, from our perspective, we look forward to working with the new government."
Still in its honeymoon phase, Sitiveni Rabuka's three-party coalition government has already been announcing cabinet reshuffles as it works to get up to speed and start on its ambitious 100-day-plan.
It involves a lot of measures aimed at dismantling some of the former FijiFirst government's policy initiatives. Especially those that do not align with the new government's vision for a "free Fiji."