Fiji Times

SUVA. Fiji (Jan. 2) – Last year was a disappointing year for the tourism industry.

As Dixon Seeto explained, it was several things: fewer tourists, shorter holidays and discounted room and travel rates that led to the loss of million of dollars.

He places the loss last year by the industry at between FJ$150 million and FJ$200 million [US$96.8 million and US$129 million].

That is a lot of money by anyone’s standards.

This loss also includes sectors that support and rely on the tourism industry for survival.

Some of them are the tour coaches and taxis, the airlines, the Fiji Museum and other eco-tours sight-seeing sites, the rental car companies and the handicraft shops.

They too make a living off tourism.

In fact, the Fiji Museum was forced to cut wages because admissions dropped to almost zero last year. Majority of the Fiji Museums visitors are foreigners.

Other eco-based tours and backpackers sites that are village-run would also have felt and seen the impact of December 5, 2006 on their income and on occupancy rates.

For them, the loss would have greater than the big five-star hotels that would have been able to absorb the losses.

But the biggest loser in all of this would have been the people, the workers.

Workers in the tourism industry have worked fewer hours the whole year in order that they may keep their jobs.

They have taken less pay home every week or fortnight for the 365 days in 2007.

There has been less money for food, for bills, for loans and mortgages and for the essentials in the 365 days of 2007.

They have sacrificed something, gone without something in the 365 days of 2007.

The $150m-$200m lost to the tourism industry would certainly have trickled down to the people of Fiji.

As we enter 2008, we hope the problems of the past will remain there in the past and that the new year will bring recovery and stability to the very fickle tourism industry.

We also hope that the losers the tourism workers will turn into winners this year so that the sacrifices they made in 2007 will not be in vain in 2008.

We also hope that the losses of last year will turn into gain this year gain for the industry, gain for government, gain for the local small operators and gain for the people.

All we can do is hope for the best for 2008.

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