Fiji, a country in the South Pacific, is an archipelago of more than 300 islands. Historians note that Fiji was originally settled by Austronesians and later by Melanesians, with some Polynesian influences. The first European contact with Fiji was during the 17th century (when Dutch explorer Abel Tasman came across the islands during his voyage through the South Pacific in 1643). The islands’ ruler Seru Epenisa Cakobau declared himself King of Fiji in 1871. A short time later (1874), he ceded sovereignty of Fiji to the British, making it a Crown colony of the British Empire. This happened at a time when other European powers and even the then isolationist USA competed for outposts in the Pacific.
British rule continued until 1970, when Fiji became independent. Since then, Fiji has gone through occasional periods of political instability, particularly in 1987 when a series of coups occurred. Another coup occurred in 2006. Even though Fiji is currently a republic, there’s still on and off debate on whether Fiji should return to British rule and recognize Queen Elizabeth once again as its monarch.
Fiji is one of the most developed of the Pacific island economies, though it remains a developing country with a large subsistence agriculture sector. Agriculture accounts for 18% of gross domestic product, although it employed some 70% of the workforce as of 2001.
In recent years, tourism and sugar have been Fiji’s main sources of income. About 40% of Fiji’s visitors come from Australia, with large contingents also coming from New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Pacific Islands. Tourist arrivals grew by 7% in 2011 and reached the 680,000. Fiji’s gross earnings from tourism in 2011 totaled $1.051 billion, more than the combined revenues of the country’s top five exports (fish, water, garments, timber, and gold).
The direct contribution of tourism to Fiji’s GDP is measured through the accommodation & food services activities sector (which includes short term accommodation activities of hotels & resorts as well as food & beverage serving activities), which has increased from an average of 3.0 percent in the 1980-1990s to 6.4 percent of GDP in the 2011-2016 period.
What brings tourists to Fiji is obvious: its location in the South Pacific (which enjoys enviable tropical weather all year round). The tourism industry’s combined direct and indirect contributions to GDP averaged above 30.0 percent, over the past seven years. Additionally, the industry provides direct and indirect employment to an estimated 45,000 people. All this, despite the fact that Fiji must compete with other South Pacific destinations for tourists, such as Samoa, and French Polynesia (Tahiti and Bora Bora), along with Hawaii.