Travel Comment

Ponderings on all aspects of travel - both at home and abroad.

Beautiful Fiji: Paradise not lost

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There's a growing chorus of opinion that we should avoid holidays in Fiji until their political system meets with our approval. Even Foreign Minister Murray McCully has suggested New Zealanders should think twice before visiting Fiji on ethical and security grounds. What a load of ill-conceived tosh.

As far as security goes, www.safetravel.govt.nz, the official source of advice for Kiwis travelling overseas warns that, "There are indications that crime levels are increasing in Fiji. Robbery, theft and incidents of assault have been reported by locals and tourists alike, with most occurring at night and in urban areas. Kiwis are advised to take particular care with cash and credit cards, especially when using ATMs."

That's fair enough, but most New Zealanders don't go to urban areas like Suva and Lautoka, they go to island resorts. Furthermore, if we're going to stay away from places where you need to be careful about withdrawing cash from an ATM at night then that's Downtown Auckland off the itinerary.

When it comes to morality the argument for staying away is even less tenable. Certainly the regime installed by Commodore Frank Bainimarama is a bungling dictatorship with little regard for human rights. But compared to many other regimes we deal with it's actually relatively benign.

I haven't heard our foreign minister argue that we should boycott China on ethical grounds. Yet China has even less regard for human rights and also tends to execute critics. In my book that puts China a lot further down the ethical ladder than Fiji.

The reality is, once we start choosing our holiday destinations on ethical grounds there's a lot of places much more deserving of boycotts than little Fiji.

Furthermore, before talking of sanctions it's important to consider what impact they might have, and who they might affect. If you take your holiday in Thailand - another place whose democratic credentials are looking dubious - instead of Fiji, then do you really think Bainimarama and his uniformed mates will suffer? Of course not.

The only people to miss out will be the ordinary Fijians who work in the tourist industry. So to punish them for losing their democratic rights at the point of a gun we're going to deprive them of their incomes as well?

Personally, I reckon if you fancy a holiday in the sun this winter you should certainly consider Fiji, especially as there are some great deals on offer and the devaluation of the Fijian dollar means your money will go further. Just don't go wandering the backstreets of Suva at night and steer clear of any hotels Bainimarama and his mates might own.

And, no, I haven't been offered a free trip to Fiji in return for saying this.

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