IN the wake of a global economic recession and the struggle for recovery, 2009 was a difficult year for the travel sector.
As economies worldwide scrambled to restore stability, the impact on consumer travel patterns was felt by our local tourism industry.
The first six months of last year recorded a drop in visitor arrivals.
"The realities for 2009 were the January floods where confirmed bookings were cancelled, the global economic meltdown, changing market environment and, of course, the negative publicity for the destination," said Tourism Fiji chairman Patrick Wong.
He said competition from neighbouring Pacific island destinations and south east Asia also intensified the contest for travellers with disposable income.
The sector, he added, was also affected by the fluctuation of fuel prices, airline capacity and routing changes, and the withdrawal and introduction of flights.
He said the strategy for 2009 was the "branding" of destination Fiji in traditional markets.
"It also involves pursing a global audience, developing potential markets and public relations exercises to demonstrate clearly that Fiji is a safe, friendly destination with a unique living culture," he said.
"We have also embarked on price point driven campaigns.
"Tactical is working with airlines, wholesale partners, specialist suppliers and the press to achieve the objective of driving volume from traditional source markets." Visitor arrivals for the first two quarters were 3.6 per cent less than forecast.
Arrivals for the first quarter was a whopping 23.7 per cent less than the figure recorded for 2008.
In April, the visitor arrival forecast was revised to 540,000 -- a 10 per cent drop from the original target of 600,000.
Mr Wong said an interesting development emerged in July when Australian arrivals dominated the landscape.
He said this market was expected to flourish with the advent of V Australia and Jetstar flights.
He also pointed out that two markets had performed above 2008 levels.
"They are China and Taiwan, but relatively small in numbers when compared to our traditional source markets," he said.
Mr Wong said key achievements would be the renaming of the Fiji Islands Visitors Bureau into a new corporate identity.
The consolidation of the Suva and Nadi offices and devaluation also positively contributed to the industry's campaign, he said.