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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Does yachting have a future in Fiji?

Yachting can provide a lucrative foreign exchange earner to Fiji if the proper policies and regulations are put in place by Government and interested stakeholders. Owners of yachts are people of wealth who, apart from providing tax and other revenues to Fiji when they berth at one of our marinas, can also attract other wealthy acquaintances to visit the country by word-of-mouth advertising.

It is therefore essential that the right infrastructure and policies are in place to attract this target market.

Read related articles below taken from the Fiji Times.

"Marina planned for Mamanuca, Tuesday, January 22, 2008

An Australian investor plans to construct a multi-million dollar yachting facility to further develop the fastest growing segment of Fiji tourism.

Bill Bennett, the director of Amanuca Resort on Tokoriki Island believes Fiji has the potential to become one of the world's leading yachting destinations.

Mr Bennett, who has already constructed a 300 room four-star resort on the island believes the yachting facility could become the Mamanuca group's newest "craze."

"I have very big plans for Amanuca Island Resort and this includes a yachting facility. The deep-water marina that I plan to build on the island would be able to cater for 150 crafts and will also have a bunkering facility."

"During the construction phase of the resort, I spent more than $1.3 million on local labour and I plan to spend more while constructing the yachting facility," he said.

Mr Bennett said he "fell in love" with Fiji and completely confident of its potential when he first visited in 2003.

Mr Bennett and his family returned a year later, secured the property on Tokoriki Island and began construction of the resort. The resort opened for business early last year.

But while Mr Bennett plans to pump millions of dollars into the local economy, he is wary of new regulations reducing the length of stay for yachties from six months to three.

Mr Bennett said the reduced period compared to the six months offered by previous governments would see yacht owners travelling to neighbouring countries like Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, New Zealand and Australia.

He said such decisions would make it very hard for Fiji's yachting industry to grow."

"State firm on yacht policy, Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The interim Government remains firm in its stand to restrict yachts from staying longer than three to six months in the country as it continues to investigate drug smuggling and prostitution allegations.

In a statement yesterday interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry said the Fiji Islands Revenue and Customs Authority was forced to revise its policy on visiting yachts because the system was being grossly abused by people who were not genuine tourists.

Mr Chaudhry said Fiji was losing millions of dollars in duty from people who were abusing the system for their own interests.

Savusavu Yacht Club director Geoff Taylor earlier lashed out at the interim Government for restricting yachters from staying more than three months and according to Mr Taylor this had greatly affected tourism and Savusavu.

Mr Chaudhry said duty- free entry of yachts only applied to those bona fide tourists who were allowed a three-month permit which could also be extended to another three months.

"A total of six months in the country is more than sufficient," said Mr ChaudhryPeople come and park their yachts here for months at a time, they do business in Fiji, own residences and use Fiji as a duty-free base to fly out and do business elsewhere," he said.

Mr Chaudhry said yachts were becoming a highly suspected source for drug peddling, smuggling of contraband goods and even endangered species of flora and fauna, and prostitution.

"I expect marina owners here to understand why policy changes are being initiated," he said.

Meanwhile the Fiji Tourism Resource Owners Association feels the longer the yachties stay in the country, the better it will be for everyone especially those whose livelihood depended on yachts.

The association is concerned with the new policy directive issued by the interim Government to restrict yachties to only three months stay in the country, saying it was detrimental to the people there.

Association secretary Meli Bogileka said the livelihood of most islanders especially those in the Yasawa Group would be affected.

Several marina developers have expressed disappointment at the reduced stay, saying it would affect the viability of their ventures.

Vuda Marina in Nadi has confirmed putting on hold a multi-million project after the announcement of the reduced length of stay."

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