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Should you go to Fiji?

There are big ethical questions around visiting Fiji. The country is currently ruled by a military dictator who has been called the Pacific's own Mugabe by former NZ prime minister Helen Clark. Freedom of the press is looking shakey after Australian and New Zealand journalists have been expelled, and every visitor is warned against conducting 'research' on their immigration form. Indian Fijians aren't being invited to the kava ceremony of the Great Council of Chiefs despite representing over a third of the population. And Craig Sherbourne's excellent article in The Monthly which tells us that 80% of food in resorts is imported doesn't make for guilt-free beach reading.

But travel doesn't have to just make negative impacts. I'm a big believer in doing some research so you can give money directly to locals rather than to dictators or foreign-owned resort chains. The place we stayed at was giving ethical tourism a go by working with a local village - including a village visit with a small market that let you buy straight from local women. And on checking out you can throw in a few extra bucks to the scholarship fund that sends local kids to a mainland high school.

But is it ever enough? Even after you've carbon offset your flight, you're still making a big environmental impact and even if you seek out local places they're all paying taxes to a government. You can find yourself in the never-enough morass of ethical tourism.

In Nadi we were grabbed by a marketseller keen for us to buy from him because any money we gave him went "straight to the village". He couldn't exactly say which village. His stall was side-by-side with several Indian Fijian vendors all selling similar kava bowls, shell necklaces and wooden statues. I asked him how he got along with the other sellers. He jerked his head round to see who was nearby. "We're all friends. All friends here, but the Indians are still a problem."

And it's this kind of duality that even the most well-meaning tourist encounters in Fiji. There's only so much that can done with dollars and good intentions, but going somewhere is the only way you can make your own mind up.


  1. I heard about Fiji kava ceremonies and decided to try it out sometimes. I think Fiji kava ceremonies do have a great amount of respect for it and we as tourists should learn about it more and know it.

    I have been trying to order or buy kava online just to test it out myself.



    Julia O'brien

  2. I went on a holiday to South Africa in 1980, as a politically naive tourist - but I soon realised the inequities of apartheid when I witnessed it. So I guess I agree with you that if you go somewhere you have to judge for yourself whether your visit is ethical. In retrospect I don't know whether it was wrong for me to go there.

  3. It's such a personal thing isn't it, Parlance? I felt very odd for most of the trip but i think if you ask questions and learn a little more then maybe it's worth it. Did you have such an experience in South Africa?


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