With the downturn in the global economy, long haul travel may no longer be such an attractive option for residents of the South Pacific and in particular, Australia and New Zealand. It is time to take a birds-eye look at the largely unexplored tropical island South Pacific nations, as being the holiday destination of 2009. Each nation has its own individual and particular attraction, but a quick overview may help the discerning traveler to arrive at a more informed travel decision.
1. In spite of the world financial crisis Papua New Guinea is still expected to have a 6 – 7% economic growth in 2009.
2. Solomon Islands, with the largest population growth in the area, also had the highest economic growth of over 10% in 2007. Experts believe it is strongly placed to continue this into 2009.
3. It is predicted by the Asian Development Bank that there may be a slowdown in growth for Vanuatu in 2009. However, tourism is prospering, thanks to the vast increase to air services from Pacific Blue, Air New Zealand, Solomon Airlines, Air Pacific and Air Vanuatu. It has been reported that tax-haven countries will withstand the global financial crisis better than most.
4.Under the leadership of military strongman and coup leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fiji could be in for a stormy 2009, now under the threat of an election. Bainimarama, in his military-led regime, is single-mindedly set to break the nation’s coup culture. He is the driving force aiming to bring change to the country’s election laws.
5. Samoa is about the only South Pacific nation that is not wrestling with corruption, poor leadership and instability, under the eleven year leadership of Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi. He has pulled off the highly unpopular decision to change the road code from driving on the right, to driving on the left. It was Tuilaepa’s drive that almost single-handedly pushed the changes through parliament.
6. With the Cook Islands use of New Zealand currency, the nation may find it is not as protected from the world financial crisis as other South Pacific nations. However, the rapid increase in tourism may offset this.
7. Because of Niue’s extreme cash flow problem, New Zealand advanced NZ $1 million for jet fuel, so that delegates to the annual Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Niue, in August 2008 could be ferried to the island. However, this need never happened and now Niue has the nasty problem of trying to get rid of a million dollars worth of jet fuel.
8. Nauru, with many years of financial disregard, is still being rescued by Australia, from bankruptcy, to the tune of around Au$1000 per capita each year into the island nation. Fiji has promised to sign a regional air-services agreement with Nauru’s national Our Airline, which may assist.
9. Tuvalu, uses the Australian dollar as currency and so may find it is more influenced by the wolrd financial crisis than it wants to be. It appears Apisai Ielemia may prove the exception to the continuing removal of Prime Ministers, through votes of no confidence. Ielemia has remained unchallenged since taking office in August 14, 2006. Tuvalu, in spite of its small size, has played a prominent role in climate change talks, through Australian-based Dr Ian Fry.
10. International donors and the Asian Development Bank are highly concerned over the financial status of Kiribati, with its constant draw-downs from the country’s reserve funds, which are invested offshore. A more cautious approach to government spending is needed immediately. The country’s deteriorating infrastructure and overcrowding in urban developments are Kiribati’s other pressing problems.
11. There have been 8 different governments in French Polynesia in the last four years. Gaston Tong Sang is scrambling to stay in power, with only one seat majority. It is expected that tourism could be in for a large decrease through the global financial crisis.
12. The new US$4 billion Koniambo nickel mine has proved a great boost to New Caledonia’s economy. There are whispers however, that the seat of power could soon be shifted from Paris to Noumea.
13. With its two kings as co-rulers, Wallis and Futuna will experience little change in 2009.
14. The US military base has been relocation from Okinawa, Japan, to the South Pacific tropical island nation of Guam. Approximately 8000 troops will be stationed there. Plans for infrastructure alone are estimated to cost US$15 billion, stretching into the next decade, in a joint venture between the United States and the Japanese government. It would appear though that the global downturn may slow this process down.
15. Northern Marianas is looking at the possibility of an erosion of 44% to its GDP according to a recent survey. Ten thousand Filipino workers may be affected by alterations to the immigration laws. Tourism numbers from Japan and South Korea may drop away due to the global economical downturn.
16. Palau may have difficulty meeting its 2009 budge, if the US$70 million aid is not forthcoming. Combined with the down turn in Japanese tourists, may push Palau to create its own financial strategies.
17. The Marshall Islands had hoped for some spin off from the US military base in Guam, however this may be forced to be put on hold. Environmental and overcrowding issues remain the Marshall Islands major problems.
So you have seventeen exotic, exciting and very individual holiday destinations right on the doorstep of both Australia and New Zealand. 2009 could be your once in a lifetime Blue moon Opportunity year of discovering the magic of the South Pacific.