Island Report: The Incident Fiji Wants to Forget
That's the slogan they're using on the official Fiji Islands Web site these days. It appears to mean something along the lines of, "Put some Fiji all over me." Anyway, the South Pacific nation is extending an invitation to tourists everywhere, asking them to immerse themselves in the culture and exquisite beauty of its islands.
Things are not going well for Fiji tourism-wise, in part because of an airline passenger, last March, who got some Fiji all over her during an Air Pacific flight from Japan. The unfortunate woman was the victim of a Fijian soldier who first exposed himself to her during the flight and then ... urinated on her. Press reports subsequently determined that the man was drunk and/or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder linked to a recent stint in the military.
There are lots of interesting things to consider here, including the many ways post-traumatic stress disorder appears to express itself. But for our purposes, it's what happened next that's fascinating. After the aggrieved woman's tale was extensively reported on in the Japanese media, the number of Japanese tourists vacationing in Fiji fell precipitously.
How precipitously? Well, Air Pacific's recently-released annual report states that the company has lost approximately $70 million in revenue over the past year and its Japan-Fiji flights are not fulfilling projections, although the report principally blames Fiji's continued military rule following a coup in 2006, and not the urinating man. The country's largest newspaper, the Fiji Times, is not so sure. In a Jan. 8 editorial, the paper called the soldier's actions an "unforgivable offense" that "has caused untold damage in Japan, a market which Fiji has strived for decades to cultivate."
When a country loses $150 million to $200 million in tourism dollars during one year, as Fiji apparently has (according to another recent report), there are bound to be multiple factors involved. But the urination incident was nonetheless a PR nightmare for the country and a reminder of the fragility of every destination's appeal. And who knows how long it will be before large numbers of travelers want to Fiji themselves again?
Have your travel plans ever been affected by a nightmare travel experience reported in the media? If so, how?
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