Throughout the trip, I have met backpackers all around the world just by staying in the South Seas Private Hotel for 3 weeks and by attending the ‘Future Challenges, Ancient Solutions’ Conference. The backpackers all had different reasons to come to Fiji, some for vacation, some for business, while some other for field trips. It is very interesting that when we talked about our experience in Fiji, we often came up with the same question ‘Do you enjoy your stay so far?’ and I often gave the same answer ‘Yes, it has been a unique experience for me. I have tried a lot of things that I have not tried before and have learnt about topics that I have not learnt under my business degree’. Throughout the 3 weeks, I have been trying to think about why Fiji would become an international tourist spot that attract thousands of tourists every year, regardless of its ‘smallness’? Why is Fiji so unique for everyone who comes to visit it? Is it because Fiji is one of the ‘islands in a far sea’ (Hau’ofa 1994: 152) that make it unique? Or is it because of the ‘myths, legends and oral traditions’ (Hau’ofa 1994: 152) that Fiji has, which make the island nation so attractive for tourists? Reflecting on my 3 weeks in Fiji, I think that the latter will give a better explanation to the success of the tourism industry in Fiji.
Dr. Stephen Pratt pointed out in ‘A return to the Vanua: Sustainable tourism on Vorovoro, Northern Fiji’ during the Conference that one of the tourism strategies of Fiji is to sell the indigenous culture as a product or services, to show tourists the ‘myths, legends and oral traditions’ of the nation. I recalled my experience in the Korova Village and my visit to a flea market downtown, I believe that what Dr. Pratt said in the conference was true to a large extent. For instance, the traditional kava ceremony was performed when we visited the Korova Village as a gesture of welcoming; I could easily find traditional masi painting, shell earrings and wooden art crafts in the flea market, which target tourists. To tourists, the products are unique and authentic, which cannot be found in other places in the world. Therefore, the ‘authenticity’ of the culture caters the needs of international tourists, who look for a special vacation experience with unique culture.
Yet, apart from the uniqueness of the traditional ceremonies and art crafts, I believe that another very important criterion that leads to the success of tourism in Fiji is promoting it as a place to experience friendliness. Not only do airline companies take an active role in this marketing strategy, but also the general public. The unity of the whole nation to show the friendliness of the peoples to the world impressed me very much. For example, Air Pacific claimed itself to be ‘the World’s Friendliest Airline’ on its promotional materials. The cabin crew welcomed tourists on board with cheerfulness and smiles. At the same time, in daily life, it was not hard to hear ‘Bula’ on streets. Men, women and children always greeted us ‘Bula’ with a big smile. Shop owners in the flea market often addressed me as ‘my dear friend’ or ‘my dear sister’, even though I did not buy anything from their shops. I was overwhelmed by the friendliness.
With such friendly people and cheerful culture, Fiji is no longer ‘too small, too poorly endowed with resources, and too isolated from the centers of economic growth’ (Hau’ofa 1994: 150). It is the friendliness which attracts people from around the world to visit Fiji and believe that their trip is worthwhile, unique and happy.