FIJI LAWMAKER: COUP HAS COST TOURISM DEARLY

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Daily Post, Jan. 11) – Fiji opposition leader Mick Beddoes still believes that the 2006 coup led to the downfall in the tourism industry despite suggestions otherwise by the military.

Beddoes described as "ludicrous" a news report that refers to a statement by military spokesperson Colonel Aziz Mohammed saying the coup had no effect on the industry.

In a statement Beddoes said that Col Aziz had been misquoted because he could not seriously believe that the overthrow of the Qarase-led government had any effect on the industry.

He said if Col Aziz was correctly quoted, then "he had a serious lack of appreciation for the fundamentals of the industry or had been grossly misinformed."

Beddoes said he was personally involved in arrangements for one tour group that cancelled as a direct result of the coup and that involved 475 players and 1800 supporters, who were scheduled to be in Fiji in July 2007 for the World Netball Championships. He revealed there was a loss of 2,275 visitors.

He went on to say the loss in accommodation for the same number of people for 14 days, their daily transfers to and form the venue for the length of their stay, their 3 meals a day, beverages and other activities and services including sightseeing and shopping was a loss of income for Fiji that exceeded $5 million and that was just one event that had been cancelled.

"But there were many more conferences, meetings, and groups that went elsewhere as a direct consequence of the December 5 coup," Beddoes added.

He said although the industry’s recovery campaign succeeded in maintaining the arrival levels, this had been a heavily "discounted arrival".

The ousted Opposition Leader said that leading economist, Dr Wadan Narsey, had already established the loss to Fiji, that military backed coups caused and since their first endeavour in 1987 they had cost the people of Fiji $9.4 billion dollars which averaged out at $2.3 billion per coup.

"So any suggestion that the December 5 (2006) coup had no impact of any sector of our economy in Fiji was nonsense and only highlighted their continuous state of denial about the real cost of their military interventions," Beddoes said.

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