FIJI ADMITS TOURISTS ARE HEADING ELSEWHERE

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Industry calls for stepping up marketing campaign

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, July 20, 2009) – There has been an increase in tourist arrivals but the industry admits that the growth has not reached levels enjoyed in previous peak seasons.

And on reports that Cook Islands and Samoa was crediting Fiji for their increase in visitor arrivals, Fiji Islands Hotel Association president Dixon Seeto said tactical marketing has to continue.

"There is a 20 per cent increase in room inventory but this is our peak season so it was expected. I admit that we are losing our market to competing destinations because it is very competitive now," Mr. Seeto said.

"We have to keep up with the tactical marketing which costs around $100 million [US$49.5 million] a year. This is nothing compared to the $800 million [US$395.6 million] it brings in on foreign exchange alone. So whenever there is a gap - when you're not in their face - you just drop off the travel supermarket shelf.

"The minute you stop, the traffic drops off."

He said the competition was on price points, where price and product was the key.

Seeto said continued State assistance in funding is needed and marketing should be planned on a long-term basis.

"Funding has to be consistent, like any business it has to be looked at on a three to five year plan, not on an annual basis.

"Tourism is the biggest foreign exchange earner and it it now the fastest declining foreign exchange. It has immediate returns - and we're not even talking about spin-offs, like construction and employment," he added, stressing that tactical promotions in major source markets such as Australia and New Zealand has to continue.

He said previous peak periods had guaranteed 100 per cent occupancy at hotels - but there could be other factors at play - such as the pandemic H1N1 2009 influenza and the global economic crisis.

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com.

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