Fiji Drinking Age Raised

Hotel bookings in Fiji are 20 percent down for the first quarter of 2006 due to a combination of three factors. A five percent hotel bed tax was to have gone into effect on April 1, 2006. After an outcry from hoteliers, this was changed to a three percent turnover tax, which may take effect on June 1, although nobody really knows! No guidelines have been published for the new tax, and Fiji tourism operators still haven't been told how the tax will be assessed. The bed tax would have been on accommodations only, but the turnover tax will probably be levied on all hotel turnover. Of course, hotels will simply pass this additional cost along to consumers, making Fiji slightly less competitive.

Another serious blow to tourism is Fiji's new Liquor Bill, which raises the legal drinking age from 18 to 21. The Qarase government rushed this law through with no consultation, demonstrating again that scoring points with ultraconservative Methodist voters is worth more to certain politicians than nurturing Fiji's largest industry, tourism. Hotels, bars, and bottle shops can now be prosecuted for selling alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 - young travelers take note.

National elections are to be held in Fiji from May 6 to 13, and the fickle end of the overseas tourism market has raised security concerns. I think these can be disregarded, although it must be said that some elements on the Fiji political scene are rather unpredictable. The bright side (for visitors) is the fact that no tourists were harmed during the 1987 and 2000 coups, and Fiji's army has positioned itself as an independent force to guarantee the rule of law. Don't cancel your trip yet.

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