FIJI TOURISM AGENCY LOOKS TO HAWAII MODEL

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Daily Post, June 12) - Hawaiian tourism is a model worth pursuing.

That’s the opinion of FTIB [Fiji Islands Trade and Investment Bureau] chairman, Sir James Ah Koy.

Tourism to Hawai‘i is characterized by its Asian focus and clientele. Chinese, Japanese, Koreans and others visit the islands. This year about 11 million of them will pour their money into the Hawaiian economy.

‘If Fiji could tap into this market, we’d be laughing all the way to the bank,’ Sir James says.

The key, says our silver-haired knight, is to open our doors to Asia.

‘Approved Destination Status (ADS) is something we have in our favor. It gives us an advantage over our Pacific neighbors, but we have not used it to its maximum potential benefit. Samoa, Tahiti and other holiday destinations would love to have our ADS ability, but they don’t, so we must concentrate on utilizing it to the fullest while we have it - and we have had it for two years with nothing to show for it’.

ADS should be granted to China and other Asian peoples - and not limited to our traditional allies and near-neighbors, says Sir James.

He acknowledges that Fiji may have worried too hard about overstayers from Asia and that this ‘trained incapacity’ which he says is ‘an inability to adapt to our changing global environment’, is unnecessarily ‘obstructing the inflow of tourism dollars onto our shores’.

‘We are become petty to the point of shooting ourselves in the foot on this ADS matter,’ he argues.

‘Australia and New Zealand have granted ADS to China and they have not had problems with overstayers from there’, says Sir James.

The answer to trained incapacity is to ‘think laterally’, says Sir James.

‘What Fiji needs is an Immigration Visa Police Unit - designated, stationed and budgeted from within the Immigration Department with the sole objective of tracking visa infractions, of keeping an eye on who is coming and going and particularly the overstayers. They would be like an overstayer police unit, gatekeepers whose sole job is to keep surveillance on visa violators, pick them up and hand them over for deportation’.

The benefits of this method of operation would be that investors from Asia would not feel shy about coming here and only genuine ones would be permitted to stay on. Imagine the benefits from having just one million Asian tourists visiting here’, he says. ‘Some of them will be impressed by our beautiful country and want to invest here and that’s what we want - that’s what Fiji needs.’

Sir James points out that the Asian tiger economies are awaking from their late ‘90s slump and slumber and are again raising the stakes in the global economy.

They will be the manufacturing basket of the world,’ he emphasizes.

‘People elsewhere around the world will come up with ideas and ship them straightaway to China and Vietnam and the like and they will transform into material goods there. It’s already happening, but watch as it explodes over the next decade.’

The FTIB chairman notes too that China’s middle class is expanding at a phenomenal rate.

‘They have the disposable income to now travel abroad and see the world.

‘They used to be locked up in atheistic ungodly Communism, but now 30 million of China’s citizens are traversing the world exploring it and spending their hard-earned cash.

‘These are the people we must welcome as tourists here - imagine the good that will come if just a trickle of these 30 million came our way - as they do to Hawai‘i?’ says Sir James.

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