FIJI has to capture more market share for tourist arrival numbers from Australia.
This is the view of senior economist with the Westpac Group, Justin Smirk.
Renowned as the Smiling Economist in the Australian business fraternity, Mr Smirk said despite strong growth backed by a strong currency, Australians were borrowing less.
Speaking at an Economist Conference hosted by Westpac in Nadi, he said this meant the number of Australians visiting Fiji was not expected to increase as such.
The reason Australians are coming here in large numbers is because their currency has been strong and it has opened their eyes to alternatives rather than domestic tourism and that wont change overnight because we dont expect the Aussie dollar to drop any time soon.
So the backdrop of Australian tourists coming here is still positive because income growth in Australia is still positive, but whats changed in Australia is that Australians are no longer willing to borrow money theyre becoming more cautious.
So even though weve got a backdrop of stable growth from Australia remaining, you are not going to double your number of tourists from Australia unless you can capture more market share.
Mr Smirk commended the government for shifting its focus to emerging markets like China, India and South East Asia but warned that enticing tourists from that part of the world would not be an easy task.
This is probably the hardest market in the world to tap into but the next big income growth is India and China, especially the new middle class with rising disposable income.
Europe and the United States will recover and come back but theyre not the growth markets. The growth markets that are creating new tourists are China, India and SE Asia.
Fiji Hotel and Tourism Association president Dixon Seeto said the observations made by Mr Smirk raised opportunities for the tourism sector.
I still think Australian arrivals will continue to grow and will remain Fijis main source market for many years to come as the Aussies look for value for money holiday packages at a destination thats a short hop away from home, he said.
However, I also welcome the observations made by Justin because it made us think about some of the global factors that affect tourism.