Fiji relies heavily on the tourism industry. While the country also earns money from exports such as sugar, clothing, and Fiji Water, it is the tourist dollar that really helps to keep the country afloat.
Over the years, the number of tourists visiting Fiji has shown a steady increase, with figures for 2010 up by 15% on the previous year. If you look at the official stats, you will see that numbers dipped each time there was a coup (now that's a surprise), but overall, the trend has been upwards, and all indications are for this trend to continue. The numbers for the first six months of 2011 are up by around 10% on the first 6 months of 2010 (302,000 compared to 277,000).
Overall tourist numbers are reported to be well in excess of 600,000 for 2010. The total income from that number is reported as $1.2b (Fiji dollars).
That indicates an average spend of close to $2000 per person.
Overall, visitor numbers seem to be static, with the rises and falls averaging out to a 0.4% increase for 2013. Visitors from Australia and New Zealand (the two biggest tourist markets for Fiji) are up only slightly, while the US is down. Of more concern, is that the Asian market is down by over 40%, when this really needs to be a growing segment of the tourism sector.
Australia is Fiji's biggest tourist market by far, accounting for almost half the total numbers. NZ is the next largest, although the figure is only 1/3 of the number from Australia. Next is America, which is half the figure from NZ. So these three countries make up about 75% of the market.
The next largest is the UK, with perhaps 3% of the total figure.
And where they go to: I don't have any officially released stats for this, but common sense would indicate that the bulk of the tourists frequent one of three areas.
1. Some of the best beaches in Fiji can be found in the Yasawas (although not necessarily the best beaches...for those you might visit the more remote areas such as Kadavu, which is also famous for it's proximity to the astrolabe reef).
2. The tourism infrastructure is well set up for these areas. Regular ferries to the island groups, airport transfers to the Coral Coast, with high quality resorts in these places.
3. These are likely to be the places most heavily promoted by your travel agent.
But tourism is opening up to some of the less accessible regions of Fiji. It takes more of an effort to get there, and there can be more expense involved with extra flights, ferries and so on. Remember that there are in excess of 300 islands that make up Fiji, and the tourists tend to congragate on only a fraction of these.
Some of the more remote islands never see a western person from one week to the next, so there is plenty of scope to explore beyond the well known locations, and meet the real Fijian people.
If you stay at one of the Coral Coast resorts, then chances are you will be transported to your resort in a shuttle bus like this one. These are constantly making pickups at the airport, and delivering their passengers to resorts up and down the coast. The transport infrastructure for these resorts is very good...and it's a great way to meet fellow tourists and chat during your journey.
The Mamanuca island group is one of the most popular tourist destinations on Fiji.
Some of the well known islands in this group include Beachcomber (the "party" island), Castaway, Bounty, and Tokoriki islands. They are all well known for beautiful beaches, plenty or watersport activities, and upmarket resorts.
Travel time from the Denarau marina (by catamaran ferry) will be anywhere from 1-4 hrs, depending on which island you are going to, and how many stops the ferry needs to make before you get off.