Monday, September 7, 2009

Journalists call for Fiji travel ban

Source: TravelMole

Calls by a journalists’ organisation to encourage travellers to boycott Fiji – which last week was turfed out of the Commonwealth – have not met with universal support.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) wants travellers to rethink any plans to holiday in Fiji as a protest against the regime of Commodore Frank Bainimarama and the government’s media censorship record.

The IFJ’s Sydney-based spokeswoman, Deborah Muir, told Radio Australia that anyone thinking of holidaying in Fiji should reconsider.

"Fiji is no paradise right now. Any advertising campaign that says it is a paradise is false advertising,” she said.

But Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said he would not be advising Australians to boycott holidaying in Fiji because it would only hurt ordinary Fijians.

“We've never wanted to do things that hurt the people of Fiji and the great regret in all of this is that Fiji should be a premier country in the Pacific, it should be a premier economy," the minister said.

Frank Yourn, executive director of the Australia-Fiji Business Council, said the innocent would suffer from a travel boycott, not the interim government.

"It's not a matter of propping up the dictatorship; it's really a matter of trying to ensure the economic survival of people who are really suffering quite badly," he said.

Tourism Fiji regional office in Australia turned down TravelMole’s request for a comment but the Fiji Times quoted Tourism Fiji chairman, Patrick Wong, who said the issue “is political and unlikely to have an impact on the industry”.

He said Fiji has always been a safe holiday destination, and restrictions, unrest or military action have not affected visitors to the country.

However, the latest arrival figures show Australians and New Zealanders are staying away from Fiji in droves.

Visitor arrivals to Fiji are down 30 percent compared to this time last year and occupancy rates sit below 50 percent.

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