In the early twentieth century, Fiji was the mid-way disembarkation point for ship-based passengers on the Australian-North America route. Fiji’s first tourist hotel, the Grand Pacific in Suva, was completed in 1914. The Fiji Publicity Board (renamed the Fiji Visitors Bureau in 1953) was established in 1924. By the mid-1930s it was advertising in the Bulletin as well as some New Zealand publications, indicating that the Australian market was considered a potential source of business even at this early date. Scott (1970:5) records that ‘from 1946 to 1961, the Fiji Publicity Board was much occupied with demanding improvements at Nadi Airport and to national infrastructure and hotels’.
The first major report on Fiji’s potential for tourism was the Checci Report (1961), which examined tourism as a means of strengthening the economies of the Pacific and Far East. By 1968, Fiji’s annual visitation reached 66,467, exceeding the Report’s prediction of 45,000.
The golden age of tourism from Australia to Fiji began in 1962 with the exempting of luxury goods such as cameras, telescopes and tape recorders from customs duty. This created the foundations of a ‘duty free’ industry. Hotel construction grew through the 1960s following the passage of the Hotels Aid Ordinance in 1964. Table 3.1 indicates the growth of tourism to Fiji between 1961 and 1993, outlining the relative market share provided by Australia.
Between 1968 and 1992, Australia accounted for one third or more of total visitors (it did drop to a little under 30 per cent in the early 1970s), making it the largest source of business. Australians have the longest average length of stay, enhancing their impact on the accommodation sector. Australia’s share of total visitation in Fiji slipped to its lowest level since 1967 in 1993 (27 per cent in 1967, 27 per cent in 1993). This reduced share is not entirely negative since Fiji is broadening its spread of market sources. The second, third and fourth largest markets, namely Japan, the USA and New Zealand, accounted for 15 per cent, 14 per cent and 14 per cent respectively. This wide range of source markets is welcome because it reduces the susceptibility of the receiving country to changing economic conditions in one particular source country. Of more concern to Fiji is that Australian ‘holiday departures’ to Fiji as a percentage of all Australian overseas ‘holiday departures’ decreased from 10 per cent in 1982 to 6 per cent in 1992. If domestic air-inclusive destinations were taken into account, it is likely that the decline would appear even greater. Fiji’s performance in the Australian market has clearly deteriorated.