Project will benefit 60,000 Fijians and create 30 new locally-managed marine areas around Fiji’s second largest island
Washington, June 25, 2023 – A new World Bank-funded project that aims to support Fiji’s efforts to develop the tourism potential of Vanua Levu, the country’s second largest island, is expected to benefit at least 60,000 Fijians through the creation of new jobs, and tourism infrastructure investment.
The Fiji Tourism Development Program in Vanua Levu financing approved by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors, is the first of three projects planned over ten years to help Fiji deliver its vision for more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient tourism across the country.
This first phase of the program focuses on bolstering tourism in Vanua Levu, including Taveuni Island, by improving access to and climate resilience of essential services – such as drainage, sewage, and transport infrastructure. This includes the Labasa and Savusavu domestic airports, as well as an upgrade to the 95-kilometer road connecting the two towns.
With the second largest economy in the Pacific, Fiji has a well-developed tourism sector and is the leading connection hub for travel in the region. Tourism currently accounts for about 40 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. However, the sector was severely impacted by COVID-19, with visitor arrivals dropping by 96 percent in 2021, significantly contributing to a 2.4 percent increase in poverty across the country.
The new program aims to bolster the sector’s resilience to multiple shocks by strengthening tourism service capacity, attracting private investments, creating employment opportunities – particularly for women; and increase government revenue. In addition, the management and protection of Fiji’s natural resources will be a central component of the new program, with the program driving the establishment of more than 30 locally-managed marine areas in Vanua Levu and improving the management of strategic areas such as the Waisali Rainforest Reserve.
“This World Bank-funded program will also help to increase Fiji’s marketability both domestically and internationally, while adopting a community-centered approach to ensure the sustainable management of our precious local resources,” said the Hon. Biman Prasad, Deputy Prime Minister of Fiji and Minister of Finance. “This will make travel to and from Vanua Levu more affordable, accessible, and convenient.”
Stefano Mocci, World Bank Country Manager for Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu highlighted the wide-ranging benefits of the program, extending beyond the tourism sector and contributing to the overall socio-economic development and environmental sustainability of the region.
“The program will foster the development of new Fijian-run small businesses, improve access to markets and essential services for local farmers and communities through upgraded roads, empower communities in the sustainable management of marine and coastal areas, and much more,” said Mr Mocci.
This new project’s financing of US$61.5 million (FJ$137 million) for the first phase is part of a larger US$200 million (FJ$447 million) envelop approved for the ten-year multi-stage tourism program for Vanua Levu. The financing for the program is on highly concessional terms through the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s fund for the world's most in-need countries.