THE number of attacks and crimes committed on tourists while holidaying in this country has doubled in the past two years.
Police spokeswoman Ema Mua said the number of tourists attacked or subjected to criminal intimidation in 2007 was 86, double that in 2006.
She said police would crack down on crime to ensure a safe visit to our shores by tourists.
But the alarming figures, according to the Fiji Islands Hotel and Tourism Association, does not mean that Fiji is unsafe.
Association president Dixon Seeto said that Fiji was still safe “but we can’t have any more of these types of crime here”.
The recent incident at Natovi Jetty in Tailevu where a couple was attacked in their yacht, he said, was a concern to tourism stakeholders who were trying to restore Fiji’s image.
Mr Seeto said citizens should do all they could to protect the tourism industry against all threats.
Ms Mua said that the two-fold figure was a concern and police were doing their best to ensure that Fiji remained a safe tourist destination.
“That figure is alarming,” she said.
Ms Mua said the Fiji Police Force initiated a separate unit after it noticed the trend in crimes against tourists. “We are enlarging our tourism police unit,” she said.
She said the force acknowledged the importance of the tourism industry in Fiji’s economy.
Ms Mua said the tourism police unit was more concentrated on the Coral Coast, Nadi, Lautoka and Suva.
“We have more manpower and our structures are more updated in those places,” she said.
“Where we know that there are more tourists, we have a big number of tourism police there.”
Ms Mua said members of the tourism police were working closely with stakeholders to ensure tourists are not subjected to criminal intimidation when in the country.
Mr Seeto said that everyone, not only police officers, must make it their business to ensure there is zero or minimal crimes committed.
He said the Natovi incident, where an Australian couple were assaulted and robbed of more than $9000 worth of items, would paint a bad picture of Fiji as a tourist destination.
“It is highly undesirable and should be stemmed out,” he said.
Mr Seeto emphasised that the law and order situation should be looked at in its totality.
“We don’t want to be seen as being favoured by the police.”
However, he commended the Tourism Police Unit, saying that it had helped the industry by protecting tourists.
“They not only patrol but also investigate any crimes on tourists.”
Mr Seeto thanked the judiciary for ensuring that all crimes against tourists were dealt with before the victims left the country.
“The court system has always been good, they sit weekends and public holidays to deal with all those cases.”
Fiji Visitors Bureau chairman Patrick Wong said the increase in robbery and assault cases painted “a serious negative image of Destination Fiji and would impact and deter visitors to our shores, impacting collectively on the recovery of our already fragile tourism industry”.
Mr Wong said it was important for the interim Government and the authorities concerned to collectively address law and order.