Fiji Sun

SUVA, Fiji (Nov. 14) – The Fiji tourism industry is heading to an uncertain future because of the impasse between the Government and the military. The revelation made by the Minister for Transport and Tourism in Parliament yesterday is a cause for alarm.

What is of greater concern, according to the minister, is the 40 per cent reduction in new bookings. Now the country runs the risk of new bookings virtually drying up, leaving 2007 as one of the worst ever for tourism in Fiji.

We must remember that the target set up by the tourism industry is to reach a billion-dollar-mark by 2007. Now everything is not working accordingly for the industry and should be a concern to the nation.

Even our international airline Air Pacific, is feeling the pinch and will be badly affected by the 40 per cent reduction.

Forty-nine percent of foreign exchange contributed by tourism will be drastically reduced. The employment of some 45,000 people is jeopardized

Millions of dollars of huge investments are also at a greater risk. We are now feeling the negative impact of the impasse. The Tourism Master Plan for the next seven years is surely under threat.

This plan is based on the desired managed growth scenario of 1.1 million visitor arrivals, generation of 21,000 jobs annually and FJD1.2 billion [US$707.9 million] annual economic contribution by 2014.

Fiji is now part of a much bigger world. What we say and what we do, or threaten to do, is easily picked up and reverberates around the entire world, eliciting responses, which adversely affect all good efforts being made by the thousands of people of the nation who are part of the industry.

We surely have to put in a recovery plan, but this will be useless if the impasse is not resolved. The positive outlook projected over the next three years for hotels and restaurants sub-sector, with growth at 2.9 per cent in 2007 and 2.8 per cent in 2008, is now doubtful.

This can only be achieved through a lot of bookings but with the 40 per cent reduction all is not well for the industry and also for the nation.

It is very encouraging to see that the rooms and beds available for the second quarter in 2006 increased by 6.6 per cent and 0.1 per cent respectively when compared to the same quarter in 2005. Rooms per night increased by 0.1 per cent while room occupancy rates decreased by 3.1 percentage points to 55.7 per cent for the quarter when compared to the second quarter of 2005.

Takings from accommodation, sale of food, liquor, telephone and other miscellaneous charges recorded an increase of 0.9 per cent, bringing the total hotel turnover to $108.6 million for the second quarter of 2006.

Paid employment in the hotel sector increased by 2.6 per cent, for the second quarter in 2006 when compared to 2005. Now the nation is eagerly waiting on how best can the military and government solve their differences. And if the impasse is not quickly resolved then we should expect a totally different report come 2007. Let us hope that common sense will prevail.


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