The Fiji Times
Scholars push for Aust, NZ to act fast, think beyond bubble
A TOURISM bubble should not be looked at in isolation, says Massey University academics Apisalome Movono and Regina Scheyvens.
The co-authors of a research paper titled, “Sun, sand and uncertainty: the promise and peril of a Pacific tourism bubble”, are of the view that Australia and New Zealand need to act fast to help the Pacific build a better, more sustainable future after the impacts of COVID-19.
They said China was fast in its “COVID-19 diplomacy” to the Pacific, in particular, Fiji, funding pandemic stimulus packages and offering aid and investment which included drafting a free trade agreement with Fiji.
“That is not to say Chinese investment in Pacific economies won’t do good,” they said.
“Rather, it is an argument for thinking beyond the immediate benefits of a travel bubble.
“By realigning their development priorities, Australia and New Zealand can help the Pacific build a better, more sustainable future.
“The pressure to reopen borders is understandable.
“But we argue that a tourism bubble cannot be looked at in isolation. It should be part of a broader strategy to diversify economies and enhance linkages, example between agriculture and tourism, to put more local food on restaurant menus, especially in those countries that are most perilously dependent on tourism.”
They said the high debt, lack of economic diversity and dependence on tourism had put the Fijian economy in a very vulnerable position.
“Fiji has taken on more debt to cope. Its debt-to-GDP ratio, which ideally should sit below 40 per cent for developing economies, has risen from 48.9 per cent before the pandemic to 60.9 per cent. It’s likely to increase further.
“Recovery will take a long time, probably requiring assistance from the country’s main trading partners.”
... tourism bubble cannot be looked at in isolation
– Apisalome Movono, Regina Scheyvens