The new coalition government offers a ray of hope for a more inclusive and collaborative approach to tourism and tourism policy planning.
An opinion expressed by renowned academic Dr Apisalome Movono who has been part of multiple published works about tourism policies in the age of COVID-19 and the current recovery phase.
Dr Movono spoke to this newspaper about a recent work of his, a chapter in the Routledge Handbook on Tourism and Small Island States in the Pacific, published December 2022, titled ‘Tourism policy and planning in Fiji: A critique’.
“In the chapter that’s in Marcus Stephenson’s book, I reviewed all tourism policies and papers that were ever developed in Fiji. From the establishment of the White Settlers League, the first Tourism Fiji up until the most recent government policies, being very critical of the disconnect between what is needed and what is being done.
“And any responsible government will ensure that tourism is conducted in a manner that’s fair for locals,” said Dr Movono.
“Much of my research has been supportive of what the government is doing now as far as tourism policy and structural reconfiguration is concerned.
“Tourism is a cross cutting and multi-disciplinary sector exposed to many complexities but having the potential to be a catalyst for multi sector stimulation. The reconfiguration of government, such as having a stand-alone tourism and civil aviation ministry and which is complemented by other ministries such as a SME and Co-op ministry, planning ministry, and more importantly, having all i-Taukei departments like culture and heritage under one ministry, is positive on so many tourism levels.”
Perhaps his most timely suggestion is the need for Fiji to diversify its economy. Relying as heavily as it does on tourism places a great pressure on the industry, and runs the risk of economic crisis if the industry falters.
“In light of COVID-19; we’ve seen that tourism isn’t really the end-all of everything. Without tourism our people did other things.
“For some it was even without support from the employers, even without support from the government. And crisis presents opportunity, in this case, opportunity to diversify. And I think the way the government is now reconfigured, having an entire ministry of tourism unto itself, is promising.”