Written By : SUN FIJI NEWSROOM. A midst national challenges and the global financial recession, Fiji’s tourism industry still shows signs of expansion in the form of top notch real
31 Dec 2009 12:00

Written By : SUN FIJI NEWSROOM. A midst national challenges and the global financial recession, Fiji’s tourism industry still shows signs of expansion in the form of top notch real estate accommodation. That and the decline of the Fiji dollar will play key roles in expanding Fiji tourism.
Rated one of the top surf spots, Natadola adds another lucrative piece of leisure property to Fiji’s largest economic sector and foreign exchange earner.
InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa on Natadola Beach is a timely development and its opening during this period is testament to government’s faith towards this key economic sector. The completion of the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa is a reflection of government’s continuous commitment to developing the tourism market.
Natadola’s latest addition to Fiji’s growing list of prized holiday destinations is one of government’s many tourism initiatives. The Naisoso Island Development is another luxurious tourism booster offering entrepreneurial entrepreneurial opportunities to cottage industries and larger enterprises.
In opening the Natadola property, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama rightly said that the operations of such a resort will provide enormous benefits for the people of Natadola and surrounding areas through employment, local economic activity, and upskilling. As it stands, almost 45,000 people are directly and indirectly employed through tourism activity.
Growth of Fiji’s tourism sector has not gone unnoticed on the international front. It has captured the eyes of American Forbes Magazine rating Fiji number one for best safe tourism destination in the world and voted Natadola Beach among the top 25 beaches worldwide.

Visitor numbers up

Visitor numbers look promising. Visitor arrival figures taken from the Fiji Islands Bureau of Statistics show visitor arrivals in 2008 reaching a record 585,031 – an increase of 8.4 percent over the 2007 arrival numbers of 539,881. The statistics office says that 2008 was the fifth year to surpass the 500,000th mark in tourist arrivals to Fiji’s shores.
For the Australian market in the first quarter of 2009, a total 37,053 Australians visited Fiji, surpassing the 36,745 figure recorded for same period in 2007.
New Zealand and USA follow with 100,018 and 63,667 compared to 99,744 and 64,687 respectively – these figures are keeping Tourism Fiji’s optimism high.
Tourism Fiji CEO Jo Tuamoto said while numbers were down when compared to 2008, the 2009 result when compared to 2007 was a strong indicator that Fiji was retaining its critical visitor arrivals base.
“Obviously coming off a very strong 2008 performance we would have liked to [have] seen stronger numbers,” Mr Tuamoto said.
“But when you consider the January floods and the ongoing economic environment we are pleased to see the 2009 figure surpass the 2007 result which was one of our strongest years on record.”
Mr Tuamoto said visitor arrivals showed improvement on a monthly basis from Fiji’s major source markets Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

Tourism dollar

PM Bainimarama says government is focused on ensuring that the tourism dollar is spread and not contained within the confines of the resorts or hotels. He wants the ordinary citizen to benefit directly and that it helps develop and sustain cottage industries, local art and craft, the agricultural sector, and other value adding activities.
On the opening of the Natadola property, the Prime Minister observed that “the location of this resort in an agricultural area means that it has at its doorstep available local fruits and vegetables,” another sector in the frame of government’s objectives to boost local industry and beef up overseas exports.
Recently the agriculture sector reported an increase of $55 million in agricultural exports for 2008 and January 2009. Industry stakeholders believe the fifty-five million dollar figure could have been higher had it not been for floods earlier this year.
PM Bainimarama urged tourism stakeholders local producers and the nation to actively encourage the marketing and consumption of more local fruits and vegetables.
“We have an abundance of what would be considered exotic fruits and vegetables that need to be propagated for consumption. I know there has been a mindset to not use local produce but it is time to make a shift,” he said.
We must not only be proud of and market our resorts, hotels, beaches, our sand, our sun and the Fijian hospitality, but we must market, we must push our local produce.”

Devalued dollar

Tourism Fiji is banking on the initiative of enticing foreign returns through the slashing of the Fiji dollar by 20 percent as a major boost to the economy.
There has never been a better time to holiday in Fiji,” Mr Tuamoto said. He added that, like the rest of the world, Fiji is feeling the effects of the current economic downturn since the beginning of the year.
Mr Tuamoto is confident though, the devaluation will have immediate and positive impacts for the tourism industry and its overseas partners.
“Our dollar has appreciated quite significantly in the last two years,” Mr Tuamoto added. “While Fiji has always represented fantastic value to our visitors, there were some pockets within the international travel industry that had implied the destination was becoming overpriced.”
That is certainly not the case now as the devaluation will bring the Fiji dollar in line with
the currencies in our major source markets especially Australia and New Zealand.”
Tourism Fiji’s new marketing strategies have seen positive responses from Australia and
New Zealand since the launch of its campaign in New Zealand.
In highlighting the significance of branding, Mr Tuamoto said that branding was part of a message informing potential visitors that they needed to see what it was really like in Fiji and in the case of New Zealand, the current cold season experienced there played a major role in attracting visitors.
“Our office in New Zealand has had a lot of enquiries and bookings so this is really helping us,” he said.
Mr Tuamoto revealed there were quite a number of promotional shows that Tourism
Fiji was involved with and one of them was the Hampton Court Garden Show in the United Kingdom in which Fiji was selected to host a crowd of 180,000 people in a day.
“We were surprised that Fiji was selected because this is one of largest garden shows in the world but we managed to give them a good show,” he said.
Tourism Fiji is also looking forward to the launching of the Adelaide flights with Virgin Blue and Pacific Blue as this would boost the visitor industry even further.

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