South Pacific tourism brings major gains for island economies

Tourism in South Pacific island nations is estimated to be worth between US$1.5 billion (Ђ1.3 billion) and US$1.8 billion (Ђ1.5 billion) a year, the South Pacific Tourism Organization said Tuesday.

The group's 12 member states had nearly 1.1 million visitors in 2004, with half of that number visiting Fiji.

Arrivals totaled 524,659 in the first six months of 2005, 4.6 percent more than the same period a year earlier, the SPTO said in a statement.

Ross Hopkins, the group's policy and programs adviser, said tourism is a major driver in most South Pacific island economies and a major source of revenue for most governments.

Research for SPTO by New Zealand's Tourism Research Institute found that the economic value of tourism to the region had grown by more than 60 percent since 2000.

Tourism accounts for over 50 percent of the gross domestic product in some South Pacific states and often accounts for between 10 percent and 20 percent of formal employment, AP reports.

А. А.

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