FIJI TOURISM IN SLUMP AMID POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, May 10) – The figures reported for visitor numbers do not reflect the present state of the tourism industry, says the Fiji Visitors Bureau.

Chief executive officer Viliame Gavoka said there was a need to clarify the state of the country's tourism industry.

He said many figures being reported in the media about visitor numbers were no longer valid and did not reflect the present state of the tourism industry.

"It is very difficult making any forecast because the situation keeps changing and the confidence in Fiji is still very low from our source markets," said Mr Gavoka. "What we do know is that the industry is far from normal and that it will continue to take a major effort by all of us to return it to its pre-December 5 arrival levels. To achieve this we are working against tremendous pressure. The competition is offering outstanding deals to tourists. We are still facing travel advisories, and with the bureau having its budget substantially cut, we are finding it challenging to sustain our promotional efforts overseas."

Mr Gavoka said even with budget limitations, the FVB continued to explore ways of reaching potential visitors in traditional markets such as New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

"We are also making major efforts to open up new markets as we did with Korea," he said. "As I said, this is a team effort and I would like to thank the Tourism Action Group and our tourism partners in the industry for their outstanding efforts to encourage visitors back into the country."

In March this year the industry said it needed another $9million for marketing to help it return to normal.

The FVB and the Tourism Action Group (TAG) were given FJ$10 million [US$6.2 million] for marketing in the revised 2007 Budget. The industry had hoped for FJ$15 million [US$9.3 million] for the bureau and FJ$3.8 million [US$2.4 million] for TAG.

Interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry said the revised budget had been delivered and the Fiji Visitors Bureau and Tourism Action Group would have to work within the budget.

Stakeholders in the industry had met after the December takeover to discuss ways of luring tourists back to Fiji.

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