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Tourism , Terrorism and Political Instability: A case study of Fiji -What effects tourists percerptions of the safety of visiting Fiji

Tourism , Terrorism and Political Instability: A case study of Fiji -What effects tourists percerptions of the safety of visiting Fiji
Author: Anna Mawford
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Tourism Students Virtual Conference

What are the impacts of terrorism and political instability on tourism demand ?
How do the media and the government contribute to tourists travel decisions?. The case study of how military coups in Fiji have effected tourists' percerptions of the safety of travelling to Fiji ?

Discussion Paper

Key words : Political Instability: A situation were the government have a lack of control over events that happen within a Country which usually leads to an effect on the Countries economy and public image.

Tourism is now one of the biggest industries in the world and has become extremely important to the Worlds economy. However despite its size tourism is a very volatile industry. There are a number of factors that can have an influence on peoples travel decisions including the threat of terrorism, civil/world wars, and natural disasters. This paper covers the subject of tourism, terrorism and Political Instability. The case study of Fiji discusses how a country in a politically unstable situation has problems convincing tourists that the destination is safe to visit.

Fiji has become dependent on tourism and tourism has taken over the sugar industry as Fiji's biggest source of employment and Foreign exchange. (Narayan,2003). Fiji have suffered from being politically unstable due to the military coup attacks of 1987,2000 and 2006. In 1987 Military coup leader Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka protested against a multiracial government. The attack of 1987 was actually a bloodless event but led to a break down in the confidence of the Fiji government and led to tourist arrivals into the country declining. (Lexow& Edelheim,2004:55).

The military coups in Fiji have had an impact on the tourism industry mainly due to the negative media that has been globally published on the destination. In the tourism industry the image of a destination is important to making it a desirable place to visit. If there are negative images of a destination in the media it can make tourists question the idyllic image the destination wants to portray. (King & Bueno,2006:73-74). The coup of 2000 was the most published of the coups and led to a worldwide concern on the safety of visiting Fiji. (Lexow & Edlelheim,2004:55). Fiji's main generating regions are Australia and New Zealand and the governments of both Australia and New Zealand were discouraging people from visiting Fiji and trying to restrict the areas that people were able to visit. (Lexow & Edelheim,2006:56). Fiji's government have less control over what the media report then a more developed country. Fiji were unable to defend themselves from being portrayed as an unsafe place to visit. Foreign diplomats in Fiji made attempts to defend Fiji as a tourist destination and claimed that the travel warnings were un necessary. In a 2007 travel mole publication the secretary at Fiji's prime ministers office claimed that much of the media was inaccurate and the travel warnings were an overreaction. The other problem that Fiji have faced is that the media have only ever talked about the negative aspects and have not mentioned tourists in Fiji that have not been effected by the acts of political violence. (Bianchi,2006:71)

Statistics taken from Fiji Islands Bureau of statistics shows how tourist arrivals did decline at the time of the year 2000 coup and also in 2007 after the 2006 coup. This was at the time that there travel warnings about the safety of visiting Fiji were spreading. The biggest decline was in the year 2000, however tourist arrivals numbers did go up in again in 2001 so this may indicate that peoples faith was starting to be restored. Despite the fact that the statistics show tourist arrival numbers declining at the time of the coups, there were tourists that were backing Fiji in a report in Travel Mole 2009. The report found that readers of travel mole recognised the importance of tourism to Fiji's economy and recognised that restrictions into tourism in Fiji would effect the local people. The readers of travel mole also claimed that they felt safe in visiting Fiji and were aware that the attacks were not on the tourists themselves. However the statistics do suggest that the media and the government have had an effect on the tourism industry in Fiji.

The conclusions of the paper are that tourism depends heavily on public perception of a destination being a safe and secure place to visit. Tourists want to know they are going to have a safe and enjoyable experience on their holiday. There is clear suggestion that negative images in the media do effect tourists travel decisions and that politically unstable Countrys are unable to defend themselves from this. In the case of Fiji they were unable to stop the media from exaggerating the extent of that the military coups effect tourist safety. The stronger governments of Australia and New Zealand have overpowered the Fiji government and the travel warnings they gave at the times of the military coups have had an effect on tourist arrivals.

Key References

Bianchi,R,(2006), Tourism and Globalisation of fear: Analysing the politics risk and insecurity in Global Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Research,7,(1),P64-65 &71

Fletcher,J,& Morakabalti,Y,(2008), Tourism Activity,Terrorism and Politcal Instability within the Commonwealth: The cases of Fiji and Kenya, International journal of tourism research,10,(6),P 538-542

Lexow,M,&Edelheim,J,(2004), Effects of negative media events on tourist, in Frost, W, Croy,G, & Beeton, S ,(eds),proceedings of International Tourism and Media Conference, Tourism Research Unit, Monash University, Melbourne. P55-56