Liberalizing Nirvana: An analysis of the consequences of common pool resource deregulation for the sustainability of Fiji's surf tourism industry

Jess Ponting*, Danny O'Brien

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


In July 2010, the Fijian government issued a decree that liberalized Fiji's surf breaks and deregulated its surf tourism industry. It did this by canceling licenses that granted resorts exclusive use of surf breaks based on indigenous customary ownership of foreshore and fringing reef fishing areas as common pool resources. This paper analyses the sustainability of surf tourism in Fiji, utilizing a developing framework for sustainable surf tourism. Based on broader sustainable tourism theory and empirical research, the framework considers (1) the impact of economic neo-liberalism, (2) the need for coordinated planning and limits to growth, (3) the advantages of systematic attempts to foster cross-cultural understanding, and (4) the social benefits associated with the development of surfing at the village level. The study found that a lack of regulation is compromising the sustainability of Fiji's surf tourism industry in each of these four dimensions. However, evidence of a growing acceptance of the need for regulation by most stakeholders offers a starting point for a transactive, participative process to find solutions. A fifth element to the framework is recommended for future analyses based on the need for surf tourism to contribute to poverty alleviation in destination communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-402
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


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