27 Nov 2006

Fiji PM surprised at Downer's coup talks

2:01 pm on 27 November 2006

Fiji's prime minister has expressed concern and surprise that Australia's foreign minister, Alexander Downer, has used the word coup to describe his predictions about Fiji in the next two weeks.

Speaking on Fiji TV, Laisenia Qarase said the word coup is very damaging to Fiji when it is used by a person in Mr Downer's position because it gets around the world.

Mr Qarase says it is unfortunate Mr Downer used the word because Australians would take note and it would have a very damaging effect on Fiji's tourism industry whose biggest market is Australia.

Mr Qarase's comments coincide with reports that the tourism industry is facing a crisis and is losing millions of dollars.

One hotel alone on the Coral Coast has lost bookings worth more than 4.1 million US dollars while others are reporting serious losses and new hotels remain empty.

The chief executive of the Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association, Mereani Korovavala, says many hotels have no reservations until about April next year.

She says tourists would not risk coming to a country riddled with political instability.