Tourism and Civil Disturbances: An Evaluation of Recovery Strategies in Fiji 1987-2000

By King, Brian; Berno, Tracy | Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, January 2002 | Go to article overview

Tourism and Civil Disturbances: An Evaluation of Recovery Strategies in Fiji 1987-2000


King, Brian, Berno, Tracy, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management


Fiji experienced two coups in 1987 and another in 2000. These events had a negative impact on the tourism industry and led to the implementation of "crisis action plans". This paper examines the different recovery strategies that were adopted in 1987 and 2000 with particular emphasis on communications. Tourism changed significantly during the intervening period and the circumstances of the coups were different. This has prompted the use of a different range of tactics in 2000. A number of key differences are identified. The media played a greater role in providing coverage of the 2000 coup with the Internet and Fijilive! site in particular disseminating up-to-the-minute information about the happenings in Fiji. Given that tourism flourishes in a climate of positive imagery, the communication of negative and threatening images has been particularly confronting for the tourism industry. In 2000 the coup was particularly prolonged because of the approach adopted by the hostage-takers. Whereas the 1987 coup was over quickly thereby allowing the tourism industry to focus on its recovery strategy, the 2000 hostage crisis extended over a period of two months. In these circumstances it was difficult for the industry to rally quickly. Land ownership has emerged as a major issue and the rhetoric of the coup leaders about indigenous land-rights spilt over into disputes over resort-based tourism. The 2000 coup led to a number of hostage-taking incidents in prominent tourist resorts, most notably Turtle Island which had recently won the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Award for the Pacific region and was previously seen as epitomising Fiji's top boutique resorts.

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From a planning perspective, the timing of the 2000 coup was particularly unfortunate. As a result of the timing, Fiji was unable to capitalise on its traditional peak season (coinciding with the Winter period in Australia and New Zealand). Prior to the coup a Masterplan had been completed covering the period 2000-2004 (Ministry of Transport and Tourism, Tourism Council of the South Pacific and Deloitte & Touche 1998). Furthermore the Fiji Visitors Bureau had recently completed its branding campaign "Fiji the World's one truly relaxing tourist destination". Though it is too early to draw definitive conclusions about the repercussions of the 2000 coup, it provides some pointers for other destinations confronted by the need to recover from political instability and from the negative publicity associated with such events. The issues raised in the paper have assumed added pertinence following the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The fallout from the attacks has prompted the tourism industry into crisis mode throughout the world, including in the South Pacific.

This paper examines the similarities and differences between the military coups of 1987 and 2000 and aims to draw out some issues that are relevant to the handling of political and related security crises affecting tourism. It demonstrates the role of effective communication in overcoming problems which arise in small island nations as a result of natural or man-made crises. In light of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, understanding the impacts of security threats to tourism has gained added potency.

Tourism in Fiji

Situated in the southwest Pacific, Fiji is an archipelago of over 300 islands, one third of which are inhabited (Tourism Council of the South Pacific [TCSP], undated). The 1996 census recorded a total population of 772,655, with indigenous Fijians accounting for 51% of the population, Indo-Fijians 44% and other ethnic backgrounds 5%. Most of the population (75%) live on the main island of Viti Levu with the second largest island Vanua Levu, accounting for a further 18%. The remaining 7% are spread across approximately 100 outer islands. According to the Ministry of Information just under 40% are urban dwellers, concentrated mainly in the Suva -- Nausori area, Labasa, Lautoka, Nadi and Ba (Ministry of Information, 1999). …

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