15 Mar 2007

Fiji Visitor's Bureau says tourism will be severely affected by funding cut

8:05 pm on 15 March 2007

Tourism authorities in Fiji say slashing the sector's budget is a severe blow for its global marketing efforts.

The military-backed government has trimmed the tourism purse from nearly 9 million US dollars to just under 6 million in a move that has caught the industry by surprise.

After a decline in tourism numbers following the coup, indications were that the funding would remain in place.

The Fiji Visitors Bureau, says tourism is facing grim times, with hotels reporting weak occupancy rates for April and May.

Its chief executive, Bill Gavoka, says a budget reduction of that scale will undo much of the marketing work that has been built up over the last 10 years.

"This will affect our global marketing, you know you're talking about the UK, Europe, the Asian market, which will feel the reduction in funding quite heavily."

Mr Gavoka says he has asked the government to urgently review the funding but the signals are not looking good at this point.