FIJI STRUGGLES TO FILL BURGEONING HOTELS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Dec. 3) - The tourism industry is struggling to fill the additional resort and hotel rooms that have been built, says Fiji Visitors Bureau chairman Patrick Wong. And to do that, it has to be proactive and vigorously market itself extensively, said Mr. Wong.

Interim Tourism Minister Bernadette Rounds-Ganilau calculated that within a year, Fiji would have at least 20 new hotels opened, with a bed capacity in excess of 700 rooms, and a tourism shopping complex.

Wong said the industry would have to market itself in the non-traditional markets.

Fiji Islands Hotel and Tourism Association president Dixon Seeto said while the new inventory was good, it was a challenge given the prevailing circumstances.

He said next year the biggest challenge for Fiji was having to compete with other Pacific island countries because many visitors were being lured to other destinations by low-cost carriers.

Industry stakeholders said earlier that more rooms were being built than what the real demand was. They also expected the revised Hotel turnover Tax to dampen the industry further.

"Because of the uncertainties we have created in the last couple of years, some wholesalers have not considered loading Fiji rates, meaning putting a 'stop sell' on Fiji," said Wong. "Our suppliers will be very disappointed with the additional increase in HTT to 5 percent effective April 1, 2008 as prices for 2008/2009 are already advertised available worldwide."

"Wholesale Nett Rates have been extended and contracted with our supplier partners early this year in May," he explained.

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