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Friday, 1 February, 2002, 17:03 GMT
Fiji tourism soars
 Coral Reef near Fiji
Fiji is the most popular tourist destination of the region
Fiji tourism is back in the market and booming.

It is hard to resist the advertising, promoting the most popular tourist destination in the South Pacific.

"Sunny, unique and unspoiled, the Fiji Islands are one thousand miles of pristine white sand beaches, fabulous coral gardens and azure lagoons... The genuine friendliness and hospitality of the Fijian People is legendary and time after time is cited by visitors as the single, most memorable experience of their Fiji visit."

But amid all its virtues, Fiji's tourism industry, a core of the national economy, was hit hard by the shock of 11 September and, before that, of a military coup in 2000.

Coup

But now visitor numbers are slowly recovering.

According to the National Visitors Bureau, tourist numbers to the South Pacific islands exceeded 380,000 in 2001, up some 14% from the previous year, when the coup led by failed businessman George Speight frightened tourists away.

In 2000 the number of visitors fell to just a fraction of 1999, which was a record year, after Australia and New Zealand, Fiji's core markets, had advised their citizens to stay away form the islands because their security could not be guaranteed.

Tourist from Europe, Japan and the Americas also avoided Fiji.

Attacks

The terrorist attacks in the United States on 11 September cast their shadow on the industry as well.

There are no official numbers for Fiji, but French Polynesia, the second most popular destination in the region, suffered a 9.7% slump in arrivals after the attacks.

Overall, the Fiji tourist industry lost more than 40% of its customers.

Recovery

But two years after the coup and Speight behind the bars, tourists are returning to Fiji.

Visitor numbers from Australia and New Zealand soared 35% and 28% respectively for the past year.

More tourists are coming from Japan, the United States and Japan.

Only Europeans are still staying away, with numbers down a further 7%.

Fiji hopes that next year it will be able to catch up with the 1999 record level of almost 410,000 visitors.

See also:

31 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji seeks judge for Speight trial
12 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Fiji
03 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Tourists trickle back to sun-baked Fiji
31 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
Who is George Speight?
21 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Commonwealth welcomes Fiji back
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