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Political Instability

Discuss about the Tourism Marketing in Asia Pacific Region.

Tourism is one of the major income generating activity in the world of today. But like any other form of business, tourism is susceptible and sensitive to environmental factors within its area of operation. Tourism nearly touches on every aspect of human development. Apart from being an income earner – which is an economic benefit- it also has social benefit in that it exposes one to other forms exciting cultures which bring about inner satisfaction as well as promoting cohesion as people around the world get to appreciate divergent ways of leaving of various communities around the world. The future of tourism is bright. The improving life standards of the middle class both in developed and developing countries could only mean that a lot more people will be able to afford more leisure, be it on local tourism front or international tourism front.

This paper will argue that political instability, a lack of foreign investment, and poor government policy negatively affects Fiji’s tourism industry. In order for Fiji to realize her full potential in this sector, there has to be democratic political space that encourages smooth transitions of power from one regime to another as opposed to use of coups, improved legislations on property rights and acquisition of credit for investment in tourism sector and targeted campaigns to position Fiji as best tourism destination in the world.

Fiji as a country is viewed or perceived by many tourism markets of the world as unstable politically. There have been a number of Uprisings in the country where the civilian authority elected by the people is dislodged from power by the country’s military. A more recent case is the 2006 coup. This paper will seek to explain how political instability negatively affects tourism in Fiji.

Many tourism markets for Fiji like New Zealand and Australia issued travel advisories to its citizens against visiting Fiji. According to Leisure tourism an online source of tourism and hospitality information, Fiji was on course to lose up to $400m USD after the third coup in 20 years. These are immense loses that will shake the economy of any developing country like Fiji. When tourists and tourism organization are making plans for the visits to various tourism destinations in the world, very few of them will dare plan to visit a country under civil unrest leave alone a country under military authority no matter the uniqueness or the attractiveness of the tourist sites in that country. One major reason for this is that the majority of the governments and people prioritize safety first before any other factor when selecting tourism destination. (Arroll, 1993).

Foreign Investments

During an interview done by Fiji Times, chief executive officer of the Fiji Island Hotels and tourism association revealed that one of the top hotel in Fiji’s coastal region lost about $7M USD in revenue while other smaller hotels reported low number or no bookings at all in the aftermath of 2006 Fiji Military coup. Apart from negative short term effect on tourism numbers in Fiji, Political instability takes long time before the international community can believe in the security systems of the affected country once again.

 Travel advisories are placed quite fast but its lifting is a tedious long process that involves a lot of back and forth in resolving the issues that informed the ban. Even If the ban is lifted there still remains perception issue among the tourists themselves. The mind set that may not be responsive to legislative and administrative actions put in place to ensure safety, but rather the connection to the emotional side of the human being. This side is irrational but it affects business. It’s down to whether the client in this case the tourist has confidence in you or not. Once a coup happens the confidence of the visitors in the security level in the affected country will be in the balance for a number of years. Thus Political stability is a very key component of a prosperous tourism sector in Fiji and other countries/ regions (Arroll, 1993)

Direct foreign investments are also negatively affected by the political instability. Fiji as a country attracts less of this kind of investment because investors will not take huge risks in terms of security of their properties. With successive coups since 1987, Fiji has had to fire-fight adverse international media attention which more often than not will focus only on the negative side of the situations creating a bad image for the country and scaring foreign investment away. Inadequate foreign investments will mean that there will be less infrastructural development for tourism compared to when a country receive adequate foreign investments. The tourist visiting Fiji will have challenges trying to move from one point to another as they visit tourist attraction sites and recreational areas and thus may have a negative perception about revisiting the same place again. This will be an opportunity for competition to offer the unpleased tourists to their markets thus denying Fiji a repeat client.

Land is one of the major factors of production or development. In Fiji there are a lot of unfavourable issues to the investors who will want to invest in the hotel industry for instance in order to make the stay of the tourists visiting Fiji comfortable. Security of tenure for developed properties is one important item in the private developers menu when shopping for a place to invest.

Government Support and Policy Issues

Majority of the land in Fiji is owned through lease system where you are given a certain piece of land say for 50 years to develop and use it and when the period elapses you leave everything behind including developments to the original land owner. Very few property investors may agree with this kind of condition. The net effect is there will be less infrastructural development to accommodate tourism such as roads and hotels. Land ownerships tenures is basically dependant of the political will of the government in place (Pearce, 2002).

 The government and by extension politicians in government are mandated by the law to safeguard properties of both foreign and local investors. Majority of the land in Fiji 88% is owned by the indigenous population who mainly act as strict landlords and not developers. The Agricultural Landlord and Tenant act Cap 270 and Native Land Trust Act Cap 134 gives natives and landlords superior powers as far a land ownership is concerned. They make huge demands from the developers ranging from compulsory employment of the villagers by the developers to huge compensations that make business sustainability difficult thus scaring away the investors (Pearce, 2002).

Inadequate developments in tourism sector for instance hotels and roads will not attract tourists to Fiji because they will have no place to sleep where they feel secure and thus if they were to come they will probably spend very limited number of days.

On the positive note though, there has been significant foreign investment in Fiji despite the challenges. This shows that with correct climate Fiji can receive more foreign investment.

One of the strongest pillar and partner in tourism sector is the government. The government is responsible for many critical issues affecting tourism. For instance negotiations between one country and another is usually done by the government so that the promises being made are formidable and believable by the partner in the negotiating table. If the private sector organizes  a marketing campaign for Fiji tourist attraction sites in Australia then, then audients or the target market will want to see if the government of the country in question is in full support of the incentive and are committed to the success of the project (Arroll, 1993).

The successive governments that have undemocratically taken power in Fiji haven’t been having tourism as one of its top priorities because there are much more important issues regarding stability of the country which are at stake. The Policies that are put in place may not be favourable and some countries have reservations in dealing with a coup government and may not enter any kind of negotiations with it because they believe the government in power isn’t legitimate. These issues affect tourism in Fiji negatively. If for instance with the right push the travel bans in place would have been lifted if the Fijian government demonstrate to the suspended markets that security is now biffed up. But because there is no legitimate government in place the travel advisories will stay thus prolonging its effect on tourism.

Tourism marketers require facilitation by the government. In Fiji the government support to tourism isn’t satisfactory. There are a lot of bureaucracies and corruption in obtaining this important assistance. A case in point is that although the Fijian government increased budgetary allocation towards its tourism sector, obtaining relevant licenses and getting applications through to access this government funding is still a challenge to local tourism investors (Wong et al., 2013).

The Fijian government has set up a fund towards improving tourism sector in Fiji. This is a good move despite a lot of bureaucracies needed for one to obtain the funding from the government.

Fiji must ensure that its political stability is achieved. The way to grow any country’s political stability – Fiji included – is by inculcating the culture of democracy in the country. This will improve Fiji’s international image, many tourists will feel safe to travel and spend much more time in Fiji. The government in place today in Fiji has to have political will to inculcate democracy among the citizens and the issue of coups will definitely end. With stabilization of the country in place the government must proceed to market itself through internationally renowned channels like BBC and CNN where majority of the viewership comes from the targeted market. The message to be put across is safety in Fiji to demystify myths about political instability of the country. Other important tourism market for Fiji like Australia and New Zealand should be targeted in the campaign through advertisement in their main national television and Radio channels and as such the marketing campaign can be successful. Apart from reaching the potential tourists, the message will also be noted by the investors who will want to expand to emerging investment markets and since Fiji is offering the correct climate for investments, chances are very high that Fiji will receive increased direct foreign investment.

Once correct political environment has been established the government of Fiji should embark on re-aligning its policies to make it easier for relevant licenses to be obtained by those interested in venturing in Tour guide companies in Fiji as well as reduce bureaucracies in obtaining government funding meant to support ventures in tourism sector.

Land ownership issues should also be streamlined by repealing sections of the law that brings about poor security of tenure in the properties sector. The two acts that are; the Agricultural Landlord and Tenant and Native Land Trust should be amended to give property developers more power once they acquire the property because that’s the only way an investor will be sure that once he/she invests money into the project the property will be adequately protected by the law. The government should also run a campaign among her citizen to enlighten them on the need to support investors instead of placing conditions that are not unfavourable to business. 

All the above recommendations largely depend on the political will of the government in place to implement them because they have the power to make such decisions for the country.

Conclusion 

Tourism sector is indeed a fundamental part of any country. The ripple effect that comes with well planned and developed tourism sector in a country is immense. Fiji being an endowed island has many sites and if above problems are all tackled then it will emerge as one of the greatest tourism destination in Asia pacific region. The country’s tourism sector has been quite resilient despite instability in the country the sector still recorded some numbers in tourists visits indicating that Fiji as a country has capacity to compete with other tourist destinations in the world for the international tourists as well as local tourists. 

References

Arroll, J. (1993). Tourism cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. Tourism Management, 14(5), pp.390-392.

Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research. (2008). Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 13(1), p.ii-ii.

Bellamy, P. (2008). The 2006 Fiji Coup and Impact on Human Security. Journal of Human Security, 4(2), pp.4-18.

Collins, C. and Fraenkel, J. (2012). Conflict Prevention in the Commonwealth: The 2000 Fiji Coup. International Negotiation, 17(3), pp.449-484.

Heritage, A. and Jagger, C. (2004). Financial times world desk reference. London: Dorling Kindersley Pub.

International Marketing Data and Statistics 2012. (2011). Euromonitor International Ltd.

Jaworski, A. and Pritchard, A. (2005). Discourse, communication, and tourism. Clevedon [England]: Channel View Publications.

Miklius, W. (2008). Issues in Ocean Shipping and the Asia-Pacific Region. Pacific Focus, 3(1), pp.91-114.

Naidu, V. (2000). Another Way: The Politics of Constitutional Reform in Post-Coup Fiji (review). The Contemporary Pacific, 12(1), pp.263-266.

Pearce, D. (2002). Tourism and Peripherality: Perspectives from Asia and the South Pacific. Tourism and Hospitality Research, 3(4), pp.295-309.

Samaranayake, H. (1992). Survey of visitors to the Pacific Harbour Cultural Centre in Fiji, 1991. Suva, Fiji: Tourism Council of the South Pacific.

Wong, E., Jiang, M., Klint, L., DeLacy, T., Harrison, D. and Dominey-Howes, D. (2013). Policy Environment for the Tourism Sector's Adaptation to Climate Change in the South Pacific – The Case of Samoa. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 18(1-2), pp.52-71.

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