SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, Dec. 22) - The number of Australian tourists arriving in Fiji has increased since the May 2000 upheaval, a trend officials hope will continue with the added help of economy airline Virgin Blue.

Foreign Minister Kaliopate Tavola said that though there has not been any official word on the company extending its services to Fiji, he is hopeful discussions will begin next year.

"We have read what’s in the papers; the interest of Virgin Blue coming into Fiji, they have not made any official approach but from what we read it’s most likely to come. So the matter would be dealt with by relevant authorities when the time comes, that is when we receive any official approach from the airline," Mr Tavola added.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said that if a formal approach was made then expanded air services would bring more people. That would mean that more people would generate more revenue, more revenue builds a stronger economy and that would not be a bad idea. 

"Fiji is a good country for tourists to visit and it’s competitively priced, and Australians enjoy coming to Fiji. Congratulation also goes out to the Government on their good part of the rehabilitation of the Grand Pacific Hotel," Mr Downer said. 

The two ministers also spoke on the garment industry that is under review at the moment. Mr Downer said that Australia had a very fruitful trading relationship with Fiji on the economic side though not without its difficulties particularly with the changes that had taken place, had affected the Fiji garment industry. 

"There is a review now underway into the Fiji-Australian industries and to see whether the current situation is the way about. "During my visit to the garment factory it seems that business is good and my instinct is that there will always be a market for Fiji in Australia.

"Our expectation is that the review on the garment industry would finish by end of February or early March.

"The review is well and truly underway, the study is underway by the consultants and our two governments will then discuss the outcome of the review by implementing any changes we agree on by July 1 next year, which is the beginning of the Australian financial year so, that is the schedule at the moment," he added.

December 22, 2003




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