13 Nov 2006

Fiji parliament warned about poor tourism outlook over crisis in Suva

5:09 pm on 13 November 2006

Fiji's parliament has been told that the prospects for Fiji's tourism industry in 2007 are looking increasingly bleak as a result of the crisis caused by the impasse between the military and the government.

Forward bookings for next year have slumped by 40 percent.

Radio Legend reports that the minister for tourism has told the Lower House that a resolution to the impasse needs to be found now, as the current situation could worsen resulting in thousands of job losses and millions in foreign earnings.

Tom Vuetilovoni says the country needs humility, maturity and a sense of responsibility to overcome the hurdle.

Mr Vuetilovoni says Fiji runs the risk of new bookings virtually drying up and 2007 becoming one of its worst years for tourism.

He says this is quite a turnaround from the target of Fiji tourism becoming a billion dollar industry by the end of next year.

Mr Vuetilovoni says foreign exchange earnings from tourism will be drastically reduced and the employment of some 45,000 people put in jeopardy.

He says the millions of dollars in new investments Fiji has been experiencing are at great risk.

Mr Vuetilovoni says the confidence shown in Fiji's first ever international bond issue recently has eroded and the country's credit ratings have been downgraded.

New Zealand holiday-makers seem to continue with their travel plans for Fiji, despite the impasse between Fiji's government and its military forces.

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has acknowledged that the stand-off led to millions of US dollars worth of cancellations, which has prompted some hoteliers to lay off casual and seasonal workers.

The hospitality workers union says it is trying to negotiate a solution to prevent a mass lay-off.

But a spokesperson for one of New Zealand's major travel agencies, the Flight Centre's John Mc Guinness, says it had hardly any cancellations.

"We have had a look at our numbers and we have actually found that we haven't had very many cancellations at all. In fact there has been a bit of concern out there as to what the recourse is if the tensions do escalate, but as far as we have seen New Zealand travelers are still going to Fiji."

A spokesperson for Flight Centre in New Zealand, John Mc Guinness.

The New Zealand and Australian Ministries of Foreign Affairs have maintained their travel warnings for Fiji.