Gavoka takes a swipe at Koya

TOURISM Minister Faiyaz Koya and Opposition spokesperson for tourism Viliame Gavoka tangled over tourism issues in Parliament yesterday, with Mr Koya saying his counterpart was misleading tourism workers with incorrect information.

During budget responses in Parliament yesterday, Mr Gavoka questioned what he deemed was the underperformance of the tourism industry and said the budget was put together by “under-performers”.

Mr Gavoka said this was evident because Fiji had not managed to exceed more than a million visitors by 2016, when it recorded 792,000 visitors. He also questioned the $33.1 million marketing grant provided to Tourism Fiji, the logic behind providing $9m for the Fiji International Golf Tournament and the continuous hiring of expatriates in Tourism Fiji.

He also questioned why tourism workers were not paid a service fee for their tourism work, which SODELPA had presented as a petition.

Mr Gavoka also said Fiji’s tourism performance did not compare favourably with the Maldives. He said the Maldives had 602,000 visitors in 2006 compared with 549,000 for Fiji, but by 2016 the Maldives had hit 1.3 million visitors.

“Benchmarking with that of the Maldives is not unrealistic as both countries thrive on the holiday market in its various segments; both are vulnerable to the elements and both have had to deal with political upheaval,” he said.

While delivering his response to the budget, Mr Koya said Mr Gavoka was misleading tourism workers with incomplete or incorrect information on the service tax, asking for the source of his information.

Mr Koya also said the Tourism Fiji marketing budget would help stimulate tourism activities through market development strategies aimed at increasing returns on Government investments.

He said it was important the tourism industry was developed sustainably, so as not to commit the same mistakes of countries such as the Maldives.

“The growth of tourism in Maldives has negatively impacted the island’s limited water resources, damaged its coral reefs and its fragile ecosystems.

“Fiji does not want to go down the same path, therefore, our focus is not on mass tourism but high end, including golf and sports spectators and players.”

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