Plea to save Taveuni

Dying tourism affecting livelihoods By RACHNA LAL The garden island of Taveuni is well-known for its beauty and activities such as diving. It’s no wonder Air Pacific has named its
11 Apr 2013 11:32

Dying tourism

An aerial shot of the Taveuni Airport, known as the Matei Airport. Photo: FIJI PHOTOGRAPHY


The garden island of Taveuni is well-known for its beauty and activities such as diving.
It’s no wonder Air Pacific has named its first of the three Airbus A330s the ‘Island of Taveuni’.
But the people on the country’s third largest island, which has a population base of about 17,000, are now struggling, a longtime business operator  says.
Their livelihood depends mainly on tourism. However, continuously declining number of tourists is having a serious impact on employment, food security and children’s education.
Taveuni Island Resort owner, Do Cammick, highlighted the whole economy of Taveuni is suffering.
“Taveuni has so many things and so many attractions. I have been in business for 40 years but back then, it was easier to get people here,” she said.
Mrs Cammick, like a number of other operators, blamed the high air fares and lack of seats for the decline in the number of tourists.
Mrs Cammick has had to reduce her staff numbers to only 40 as a result of decline in occupancy.
She said the number has been reduced by 75 per cent and these people are called in to work when there is demand.
This, Mrs Cammick said this was also the case for other resorts on the island.

Busiest period approaching
She said the busiest period of the year is coming up now but unfortunately, seats are hardly available on the Pacific Sun flights into Taveuni.
Mrs Cammick said at times it seemed cheaper for people to travel to Europe from countries like Australia rather than to come to Taveuni as a result of the high air fares to get them to the garden island.
But light seems to be shining at the end of the tunnel for resort-operators such as Mrs Cammick as another domestic airline is expected to start operations by July.
Inter Island Airways (Fiji) Limited plans to fly to Taveuni from Nadi and Suva. [See report page 5]
Pacific Sun flies twice weekly into Taveuni from Suva and five times a week from Nadi using its 18-seater Twin Otters.
Pacific Sun general manager, Shaenaz Voss, has already stressed the pricing structure for Taveuni was such because of simple economies of scale were applied.
She said the 18-seater Twin Otter was used on flights to Taveuni as the airfield is restricted to smaller aircraft operations only.
Mrs Voss said the Twin Otter flights are weight-restricted, depending on the number of passengers and luggage that is on a particular flight.
It is also a long flight, one and a half hours from Nadi.

Commitment to Taveuni
Mrs Cammick said: “It is really sad to see the island going backwards.
“Almost all the resorts here are owner-operated – all the people here love Taveuni and Fiji and have invested in Fiji because they are passionate,” she said.
“Four to five years ago, we used to have seven planes a day but now because of lack of competition, the flight numbers have reduced.”

World-class diving destination
Mrs Cammick and her husband, Ric, opened up Fiji and Taveuni as a world-class diving destination and have tirelessly been involved in work to preserve the beauty of Taveuni.
They have been here for almost 40 years and were the first scuba diving resort in Fiji.
One of the first diving sites the couple discovered was called ‘The Great White Wall’ and then they took divers out to Rainbow Reef as well.
Their resort initially catered for divers but now attracts discerning upmarket travellers from around the world when they can get flights, Mrs Cammick says.

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