Why the Negative Publicity on Fiji Tourism?

Rip off? Fiji no, New Zealand yes: NZ media balance under question
Thakur Ranjit Singh
Just on the heels of bad publicity about Fiji and misrepresentation in other mainstream media, TVNZ has been accused of being the New Zealand’s tool in hurting Fiji further with its unbalanced news and doing a ‘hit’ on Fiji’s tourism.
 Those who coined the term ‘parachute journalist’ referred to those fly-by-night journalists who in their own country covered reports on horticulture, horse-breeding, butterfly catching and canine care but suddenly find themselves in Fiji. Once on the ground in Fiji such remnants of the neo-colonist overnight transform as experts on Fiji’s tourism, its economic performance, infrastructure, its racial issues, politics , international trade and Fiji’s poverty. One such parachute journalist, masquerading as an Aviation commentator (wonder what they comment on, aircraft turbulence?) found himself with his family in a Fiji hotel in Sigatoka and made a song of it on TVNZ.
Peter Clark, supposedly an Aviation commentator, who has recently returned from Fiji, appeared in Paul Henry and Pippa Wetzell’s TVNZ Breakfast programme on Wednesday 14 July, 2010. Clark claimed that while Fiji had always been a popular spot for Kiwis looking for a cheap holiday, travellers however may be turning elsewhere due to a hike in airport taxes and deterioration in infrastructure. He further stated that hikes in airport taxes, price gouging and a lack of spending on infrastructure meant it was not a destination he would return to in a hurry. Clark claimed the lack of infrastructure was astounding and he felt they were grossly overcharged for accommodation and food. As an example, he said one small scoop of ice cream cost around $6.50.
Meanwhile, Croz Walsh, former University of the South Pacific academic and publisher of website Fiji, the way it was, is and can be ridiculed Clark of being a naive person and was surprised at him claiming to be an Aviation expert if he did not know that hotels put up prices during school breaks and there were cheaper alternatives available. If Clark (wonder if any relation of Helen) indeed was a seasoned traveller as he claims to be, then he should have known those travel tricks and there were ways of saving money. On infrastructure, Walsh wondered where he stayed, as he did not notice anything during his last visit. As I had also been to Fiji just a month ago, I was somewhat surprised what planet and what infrastructure Clark was talking about. For a third world country embroiled in political instability for the last decade, Fiji still has world class roads and hotel facilities, if Kiwis like Clark do not whinge to pay for what the same hospitality at home will cost him an arm and a leg.
It is obvious that TVNZ has not cared to get any “expert” on its programme who could have given a more balanced and rational explanation and shed a different light on the matter. As my analysis of the NZ mainstream media shows, they tend to sing from the same songbook that has tunes singing ills of Fiji, in chorus with the NZ Foreign Affairs office. TVNZ is no exception, and other mainstream media such as NZ Herald, the Dominion and Radio New Zealand fall in this category. They do not care to get more balanced people on their programmes who do not share their ideology on Fiji. I was recently interviewed by TVNZ on Fiji’s media decree, and my ten minute interview was given some few seconds and most things that should have given an alternative and informed view on Fiji media to the Kiwis of what their mainstream media had failed to tell, were conveniently edited out. I challenged the TVNZ reporter to tell his Close Up guy to get somebody like Dr. David Robie or Dr.  Crosbie Walsh on their programme if they wanted a more balanced view on Fiji. They have neither bothered to approach yours truly. Favourites for TVNZ are Ballu Khan, Nik Naidu and Michael Field who make them happy by complying with their ideology and definition of Fiji’s problems and giving chorus to their songbook verses.
Brent Thomas, House of Travel Retail Director’s statement to the Scoop showed how out of tune Clark was with the reality on Fiji tourism.
Our customers are heading to Fiji, in fact year on year we’re seeing an increase in Fiji travel – this year our bookings are up 16% on the same period in 2009,” Thomas told Scoop. He also gave tips on how travellers from New Zealand could save by shopping around, seeking cheaper alternatives, eating out of hotel restaurants and carrying with them some essentials that were known to be expensive in any hotels.
You need not be a rocket scientist to know that it helps to carry cereals, soft drinks, bottled water, drinks and some snacks when you go to hotels. I have done that at the Sheraton Nadi, even took my whisky, went to Nadi town for delicious Island, curry and Chinese meals and the local market offer exotic tropical fruits. Taxis are cheap in Fiji if Clark did not hire a car, so there is no excuse that he was stuck away from any shops or town.
Peter Clark claims that Fiji Government’s hike of departure tax was turning travellers away was also a matter of jest for Cozr Walsh who laughed off that it was a most ridiculous to claim that tourists may go elsewhere because of a F$25 (that's NZ$16.57!) increase in the departure tax!. I add that he may soon warn Air New Zealand that Kiwis are shunning Los Angeles and San Francisco because their respective airport luggage trolleys cost equivalent of NZ$6, perhaps some of the few airports in the world where you pay such charges.
In the meantime, Peter Bills, a veteran international rugby and travel writer for Independent News & Media shut off critics who were accusing other countries of being a rip off. In a New Zealand Herald (16.07.10) opinion article titled “NZ: 100 per cent Pure rip-off.” he claimed that New Zealand was ripping off its visitors and accused it of massive overcharging in just about every field such as hotels, car hire, restaurant food, wine, clothes and other items.
Bills who claims to have spent much time in France; have been to Rome, Venice, Paris, Dublin, London, New York, San Francisco, Augusta, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Sydney so far this year was in a relatively better position to compare New Zealand with other countries.
I sat down for a simple lunch at a restaurant on Auckland's waterfront .... A glass of splendid New Zealand sauvignon Blanc was a delight - until we saw the price. $28 for two ordinary sized glasses? You don't pay that in Paris or London.” Bills wrote in NZ Herald
On hotel charges Bills said that “This weekend in Wellington at the InterContinental, a king room costs $410. Now it is rugby test weekend and it has club facilities but even so. £205 a room? You might pay that in New York or London but not in most European capitals. And just imagine what on earth such a room will cost on the weekend of October 8/9 next year when Wellington hosts two of the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals.”
He claimed that New Zealand hotels and restaurants were ripping off their customers with overtly highly priced food and wine. Giving some examples: at Kermadec in Auckland, one main lunch dish was $33, in the evening, entrees were $25, mains around $42 with desserts $18. The wines were equally expensive - a bottle of Stoneleigh pinot noir cost $48. He claimed he could take you to a dozen restaurants in Nice where a perfectly good French wine costs nothing around that.
Even in glitzy Monte Carlo, at one elegant beachside restaurant, a glass of rose wine costs less than $6.” He added that one did not have to spend such vast amounts as New Zealand hostelries were charging, even in outstanding restaurants across Europe. Bills gave a further example of Kiwi rip-off by saying that in supermarkets you could buy a good bottle of your outstanding sauvignon blanc for as little as $12.99, but the price of the same wine in a restaurant soars to anything between $40 and $60 which represents a 400 per cent mark up, or more.
Perhaps it is time the Aviation commentator Peter Clark had a closer look at how Kiwis were ripping off their own people before focusing on Fiji. While he is at it, he may also care to find out, why Arabs can buy locally produced petrol at a very cheap price while Kiwis cannot buy locally produced milk cheaply. In fact a litre of NZ produced milk here costs more than a litre of imported Arab petrol! Isn’t this a Fonterra rip-off? I suggest Peter Clark meet Peter Bills and sort out things at home first before levelling unsubstantiated accusations at Fiji, and agree who are bigger rip offs, Kiwis or Fijians.
Bills warned New Zealand in preparation of Rugby World Cup, not to be greedy for a short-term gain but to look at longer tourism opportunities so the Rugby visitors wish to return at a later date. The editorial of Weekend Herald of 17 July, 2010 repeated this warning by cautioning that “NZ must resist the temptation to make a short-term money grab by ramping up prices.” Martin Snedden, Rugby NZ 2011 CEO told Weekend Herald (17.07.10) of “the dangers of NZ acquiring a global reputation as a rip off destination” which could frighten away the fans.
Peter Clark will be of greater service to his country by pontificating Kiwis to control their greed on over pricing mentioned, as well as on rental and accommodation, and become good hosts for the 2011 World Rugby Cup. He should stop barking up the wrong tree in Fiji where Kiwis are getting far better deals than in their own country. And hope TVNZ will adopt a more responsible journalism practice to balance their stories.
In case Peter Clark wishes to get a good bargain, there is a one by Harvey Travel to Fiji for $NZ899 which includes airfares to Fiji, four night stay at the five star Westin Denarau Island Resort in Nadi, transfers and breakfast. That great deal is equivalent to only two night’s accommodation at Wellington’s Intercontinental Hotel. Oops, sorry, it appears people are not listening to Clark, this sold out in less than 24 hours. However, there is another similar deal at NZ$1249 at Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa. Rush, it may sell out fast. My advice to the Aviation commentator is to follow the advice of Graeme Osborne, CEO of Tourism Auckland who told Weekend Herald (17.07.10) that there were always options when travelling around, as one could choose a cheaper alternative, if so desired. Or perhaps Clark can follow the advice of Liam Dann, the Business Editor of New Zealand Herald, as he wrote in last Weekend Herald; under the heading “Complaint about costs shows tables have turned”: “... do what Kiwis have been doing for years – grab a bottle and a bun from the supermarket and have a picnic.”
In fact Coral Coast in Fiji, where Peter Clark reportedly had stayed, there are nice picnic spots.
(Thakur Ranjit Singh is from Fiji, now a post graduate Communication Studies student at AUT)


Cicero said…
TVNZ: time to 'Get Real' and look at the illegal resorts run in Fiji by New Zealanders. NZers who run these resorts by advertising them on the Internet, receiving most of the funds overseas, fail to pay Fiji Taxes and then, some of them, lie in Fiji Courts about their activities.

This is much more newsworthy, surely, for TVNZ reporters? Or are they too chicken to take it on? Ask Michael Field. He seemingly is.
more rubbish said…
So does Ranjit think the heavily censored press in Fiji under the junta is preferable to NZ? interesting how he 1. wants to take advantage of freedom of speech and attack NZ 2. doesn't appear to see the need for Fijians to have the same freedoms and 3. chooses to live in NZ. All sounds very hypocritical to me?
Propud Fijian said…
@more rubbish said

I thought that Mr Singh's article was informative, balanced and well researched.

The message was quite clear. The majority of NZ so called reporters are biased and so cannot be objective on their opinion.

Paul Henry had called Susan Boyle (winner of Britains Got Talent) a retard on TVNZ Breakfast programme.

TVNZ did nothing about. Hundreds of complaints to the Human Rights Commission and the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

The BSA ruled that TVNZ did not do enough to condemn Mr Henry's comment.

The press cannot be allowed a free reign on what they can publish or

"Don't Shoot the Messenger".

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