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Fiji Exceeds Half Million Tourists For First Time

Issued by Fiji Visitors Bureau

February 8, 2005.

News Release For immediate use

Fiji Exceeds Half Million Tourists For First Time

Fiji has exceeded the 500,000 tourist mark for the first time, creating an all-time record in the history of the Pacific Island¹s tourism industry.

For the 2004 year, an estimated 507,000 tourists arrived from all markets, up over 18 percent on the previous year.

Star performer for Fiji, however, was its New Zealand market.

With just over 103,000 Kiwi holidaymakers to Fiji during the year, figures were up 37 percent on the previous record set in 2003.

Chairman of the Fiji Visitors Bureau, Sitiveni Weleilakeba, was in Auckland yesterday delivering the good news to 70 travel industry leaders from wholesalers and airlines and representatives of Fiji¹s tourism industry.

New Zealand had been a "stand-out" market for Fiji, he said.

He attributed New Zealand¹s strong support to greater airline competition, lower fares and low cost package deals.

The decision by Freedom Air to begin Fiji flights from Hamilton, Palmerston North and Christchurch had also made a major contribution.

Mr Weleilakeba said Freedom had opened up opportunities for Fiji from the provinces.

Fiji¹s international airline, Air Pacific, and Air New Zealand which celebrates 50 years of flying to Fiji in June, increased flight capacities and both reported big increases in passenger numbers

Despite earlier fears that Freedom would grab market share from Air Pacific and Air New Zealand, this had proved to be unfounded.

FVB had commissioned Hamilton research company, Versus, to find out more about the provincial passengers.

The research released at the meeting showed that almost two thirds were first time visitors to Fiji.

The Versus research also showed very high levels of satisfaction from New Zealanders on their experience and that 75 percent would return to Fiji within the next two years.

While growth in 2004 had been exceptional, Mr Weleilakeba said the FVB was concerned that the figures were not sustainable.

For 2005 growth is projected at between 7 and 10 percent.

One of the successes of the year had been to extend the peak season beyond the traditional May to October period which had released pressure on bed availability.

From this year Fiji was expecting to open a new hotel every year for the next 10 years with an unprecedented investment in excess of $F1.5 billion.

The first of the big new resorts, the five star 296 room Sofitel at Denarau near Nadi, and operated by the Accor Group, is opening in September.

Mr Weleilakeba said the Fiji Government was looking to develop Fiji tourism into a billion-dollar earner by the end of 2007.

Earnings currently sit at just over $F800million and he believed the target was realistic given recent visitor trends.


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