Wednesday 24 February 2016

Fiji tourist calculus

Suppose that, when Air NZ stopped flying to Vanuatu, you exchanged your tickets for tickets to Fiji - with flights scheduled in a couple of months for a family vacation.

Here are some post-hurricane considerations:

  • If the Fijian government is optimising correctly, it will be allocating resources across the tourism and civilian relief sectors to weight both short term pain and long term recovery. Getting tourism working faster, when about a quarter of Fiji's GDP is tourism, means the longer term recovery can also be more effective. Farmers with ruined fields shifting into construction, both privately in the resorts and on the government's budget fixing roads and clearing mess, is better funded where tourists get back quickly. 
    • At the margin, you'd then want a bit more emphasis on getting the tourist side going well so that you can draw in the resources for the longer term recovery. But they'll have to take into account that tourists don't like seeing suffering, and that sipping cocktails at the beach doesn't feel nice if there's dysentery from contaminated water not too far away. And even if the tourists didn't care about that, dysentery is communicable. 
  • If the Fijian government is extractive, rather than social welfare maximising, it will divert loads of resources from hard-to-see places to the tourist sector to get government revenues up more quickly. 
  • In the former case, tourists coming back quickly definitely helps. In the latter, it might hurt things. I have no strong priors on which case applies. The Fijian government certainly seems more competent than that in place in Vanuatu, but competence can be overrated if benevolence is in question.
  • On balance, I expect that going does more good than harm, and that the case for it is clearer the farther out in time you are from the hurricane. 
On the purely self-interested side:
  • Hurricanes make a mess of mosquito eradication efforts. This matters when mosquito-borne disease is at play.
  • We'd planned on doing maybe 3 days in the resorts (pricey) then 4 days on the main island at hotels and touring around. The latter is now far more likely to be unpleasant, and more days in the resorts are too expensive.
Those with information that would assist are welcome to provide it in comments. I've found @alexperro's reporting for RNZ most useful thus far.

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