Cruise Tourism, Fiji elections and APEC in PNG

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Alexander Rheeney

Apia played host to another cruise ship and its passengers of tourists yesterday morning — the second vessel to visit our shores in five days.

The word at Matautu wharf yesterday is that another cruise ship is due in Apia today, which if true would make it vessel # 3 in six days. Apia residents would probably be unfazed with the increasing regularity of visiting cruise ships, but ask a tourism expert and they would probably make reference to “cruise tourism”.

Cruise Tourism revolve around cruise liners, their destination countries, and the business opportunities that it could offer to the residents and communities at those destinations. 

A 2016 report on Cruise Tourism commissioned by the Netherlands government describes this component of tourism as, “one of the fastest growing segments in the tourism industry which can make a significate contribution to a destination’s economy and local communities”. 

According to the report, the market has experienced growth from approximately 3.8 million passengers in 1990 to over 22.2 million in 2015. The growth projections in the same report estimate that by next year 25.3 million passengers would have gone on cruise liners.

But what are economic benefits of Cruise Tourism? The report states that Cruise Tourism industry “globally represented roughly €119.9 billion in economic impact and €39.3 billion in wages and 939,00 jobs in 2014”. The Caribbean and Europe (Mediterranean) continue to be main attractions for cruise liners according to the report, thanks to their weather and seasonality. 

But if Samoa can get three cruise liners in six days¬— each with 500 to 1000 passengers — then we can conclude that this island paradise is in the top bracket in terms of destinations in the Pacific Islands. Perhaps more investment in Samoa’s tourism marketing strategy will go a long way in ensuring luxury cruise line operators around the world put the island on their bucket list. Food for though for the Samoa Tourism Authority.

And while we celebrate the arrival of another cruise liner to our shores, with much needed revenue for our local tourism industry operators, we cannot help but notice developments in the west with Fiji counting down to their general election. Fiji’s eligible voters will cast their votes on Wednesday.

The country’s political parties and their candidates have been on the campaign trail in recent weeks, with the current Prime Minister and Fiji First leader Frank Bainimarama going head-to-head with the Sodelpa Party leader and former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka. The two party leaders are bother former military commanders, who instigated coups that overthrew democratically-elected governments in 1987 and 2006. 

The 2018 election campaign in Fiji has not been without drama with Mr. Rabuka summoned to police headquarters last week, in relation to comments he made on a radio talkback show while on air with Mr. Bainimarama. Mr. Rabuka is already in court over a separate matter, alleged electoral offences. 

Yesterday Mr. Bainimarama made headlines when he told an Australian journalist covering the elections to “go back to Australia”, when the reporter asked him about media restrictions that his government imposed in Fiji through the 2010 Media Industry Development Decree. 

Australia’s SBS News reported that Fiji’s current P.M. was “visibly irritated” when SBS News asked if he encouraged criticism during the campaign.  

“I think you go back to Australia. Go back to Australia and then come back to Fiji and see what life is all about in Fiji,” he said.

The response of the current P.M. is probably an indication that a Fiji First-led coalition government will keep the draconian media law, if it is voted back into power. The 2010 Media Industry Development Decree has been an impediment to press freedom in Fiji and we hope the new government of Fiji — regardless of whether it is led by Fiji First or Sodelpa Party or any other party for that matter — makes it its business to remove the oppressive law and consign it to the annals of history. All the best to the people of Fiji at this critical juncture of their journey as a nation.

And further to the west, the region’s largest nation Papua New Guinea (P.N.G.) is preparing to host the leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (A.P.E.C.) from November 17-18 in the capital Port Moresby. The A.P.E.C. Leaders Summit this Saturday and Sunday will be the largest international conference that the country has ever hosted in its 43-year history. China’s President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will join leaders from the other member economies at a conference hosted by what some commentators have described as the regional grouping’s “poorest member economy”. 

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and senior members of his Cabinet have over the last 24 months talked about the economic benefits that would trickle into the PNG economy following its hosting of A.P.E.C. Only time will tell if the country’s hosting of this international conference — which has come at a big price to ordinary PNG citizens with millions of PNG Kina diverted away from basic services — will have a transformational effect on the lives of its 8 million people. If there are lessons to learn from PNG’s hosting of conferences of this magnitude, it should not be done at the expense of delivering essential basic services to the masses.  

Nonetheless, it is the start of another working week in this island paradise. Have a lovely week Samoa and God bless. 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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