HONOLULU -- The U.S. State Department is continuing to urge
American travelers to steer clear of Fiji, where armed gunmen have
held the country's government, including the tourism minister,
hostage since May 19.
"The situation remains highly volatile and other similar
disturbances could quickly break out without notice," according to
the department, which also warned that international flights out of
Nadi Airport have been disrupted.
The unrest prompted the Outrigger Reef Fiji Resort to delay its
planned opening this month. Located on the main island of Viti Levu
near the town of Sigatoka, the resort lacks labor and supplies,
according to an Outrigger spokeswoman.
Kurt Bodmer, vice president of product development in San Diego
for J&O Tours, which runs programs under the Pleasant Tahiti
and Pleasant Fiji banner, as well as to other South Pacific
destinations, said travel to Fiji is off.
"We were hoping to book a couple of thousand people to Fiji this
year, but now we will have to wait and see," said Bodmer.
By contrast, Pleasant Tahiti will book about 7,000 customers
"We have big-time travel to Tahiti and it is not being affected
at all," said Bodmer, who added that Tahiti is getting some
"overflow" from people who canceled trips to Fiji.
Fiji Visitors Bureau chief executive officer Sitiveni Yaqona
said the country was expecting about 72,000 U.S. visitors this
year, "but that's definitely not the situation now."
"We have a tourism recovery program ready for our No. 1 and No.
2 markets -- Australia and New Zealand -- when the situation is
resolved, but we don't have a program for the U.S. because people
there are largely unaware of the events in Fiji," said Yaqona.
The country in 1999 received 62,000 U.S. visitors.
The U.S. State Department also is urging citizens to defer
travel to the Solomon Islands following an attempted coup June 5 in
the capital of Honiara on the main island of Guadalcanal. Rebels
took the prime minister hostage and set up road blocks around
Domestic and international flights to the Solomon Islands have
been canceled, according to the state department.
Earl Loo, president of Business & Leisure Holidays in
Honolulu, said his firm gets little interest in the Solomon
"We do have some special-interest travel such as few business
travelers, but other than that, not much," he said.
J&O's Bodmer added that his company sells "very little" to
the Solomon Islands because airline schedules make it difficult to
"There is really very little traffic going there from the U.S.,"