TIME TO LIFT NEGATIVE FIJI TRAVEL ADVISORIES

Editorial

FijiSUN

SUVA, Fiji (June 6) – There's no doubt that the countries that have issued advisories concerning risks involved in travel to Fiji will now revisit these in light of the removal of the Public Emergency Regulations (PER) by the Interim Government.

Nobody seriously believed that tourists might be "invited" to the military camp for interrogation, but lawyers, journalists and businessmen were at a degree of risk.

There was also a perceived danger of street violence in a volatile atmosphere, hence the advisories.

These dangers - real and perceived - have substantially receded and the lifting of the PER underlines the aura of stability that is returning to Fiji. We are far from out of the woods but tourists are safe in Fiji. They are probably safer than they might be in some parts of Australia and New Zealand, for example.

The travel advisories won't be removed overnight. These are routinely reviewed in the light of developments. And the removal of the PER absolutely qualifies as a development.

If the advisories are not reviewed or removed at the earliest possible moment, the people of Fiji - those who are not targeted by them - will continue to suffer. In fact their pain will only worsen.

At another level, should the advisories be left in place for too long, they will begin to be seen as punitive not only in Fiji but around the region and broader world. And, we repeat, they punish those who have done no wrong.

For let there be no mistake, people are hurting. As the tourism industry staggered under the weight of cancellations and plummeting bookings following the takeover, the pain rapidly spread to nearly all sectors of the economy. People are still losing their jobs or being put on reduced hours. Businesses see little hope of restoring revenue streams and are forced to look hard their costs just in order to survive.

And labour, for most businesses, represents the biggest cost.

So anything that encourages the tourists to return can benefit the economy as a whole.

A removal of the advisories won't of itself reverse the economic trend overnight - but it will signal to potential tourists and other visitors that Fiji is not a danger zone.

And if the Interim Government could only assist - delivering the funds promised in the Budget would be a start - this vital industry has the potential to lead Fiji back towards economic growth, thus buying some time for the sugar industry to reform itself in the face of falling prices.

As matters stand we run the double risk of a stagnant tourism sector and a failing sugar industry.

The outcome is not so difficult to predict.

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