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ADB urges Fiji government to prioritise tourism industry

 

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has recently released its economic outlook, emphasising the need for the Fijian government to take action to maintain the growth of the tourism industry and keep hotel pricing competitive. The ADB predicts that the limited availability of tourist accommodation may hinder sustainable economic growth in the coming years.

Currently, there are 13,000 hotel rooms available from 421 licensed accommodation providers, but the increasing number of unlicensed short-term accommodation providers on platforms like Airbnb is also a concern. To address these issues, the ADB has proposed three ways in which the government can help: easing impediments to domestic and foreign tourism investment, improving tourist infrastructure, particularly in outer islands, and exploring alternative forms of tourism.

The ADB suggests that Fiji should act quickly to attract more investment in tourism, as potential investors may view the government’s complex foreign investment procedures as a barrier to entry. The government is encouraged to streamline and expedite investment processes while prioritising environmental protection and promoting sustainable tourism.

One of the critical obstacles to realising investments is the delays in finalising and obtaining approval for environmental impact assessments. To address this, the government has established an inter-ministerial body to help streamline investment-related processes. The ADB also suggests that Fiji can work on spreading tourism activity and benefits to more areas, as 75% of hotel rooms are currently concentrated in the Coral Coast-Nadi corridor. Improving transportation connections to Vanua Levu, such as upgrading airports in Savusavu and Labasa and constructing a new airport, is a potential solution.

While sea transportation remains viable, the initial focus should be on enhancing key connecting jetties to Vanua Levu. The ADB also suggests exploring alternative forms of tourism, such as sports, retirement, and medical tourism. Fiji has already been successfully hosting some of the Super Rugby Pacific Competition since 2022, and there is potential to attract medical tourists from neighboring Pacific countries by investing in additional privately operated hospitals to enhance healthcare infrastructure. A study by the International Finance Corporation indicates opportunities for private sector investment in advanced diagnostic facilities and specialist care hospitals.

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