Tourism Fiji has hastily canned a promotional video which took an indigenous phrase meaning ‘sacred place’ and translated it as ‘toilet’.
The organisation issued an apology after the social media post encouraging visitors to ‘talk like a local’ was widely panned for its translation of the words Vale ni Lotu.
Many locals were upset by the error including opposition leader Ro Teimumu Kepa, who said the Vale ni Lotu is a sacred location of belief and worship for indigenous Fijians, and the post ridiculed its sanctity.
“Outraged & disgusted that an organisation like Tourism Fiji would allow the release of a promotional video on their social media platforms without proper vetting or proof reading.” she tweeted.
“A gross insult and humiliation to the first settlers of this country & the people of Fiji.”
In a statement, Tourism Fiji said the mistake was due to a mismatch of graphic design and failure of its quality assurance process.
It said it regretted any offense caused and was reviewing internal processes to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.
“The taxpayers of Fiji give Tourism Fiji $43.5 million a year in grants for marketing and operating expenses and if this is a sample of what we can expect them to produce using our taxpayer dollars, then perhaps we should review their allocation in this year’s budget,” said Ro Teimumu Kepa.
While some social media commentators saw the funny side, others were horrified.
Tweets ranged from “One job @TourismFiji One job!” to “It’s an insult to Christianity. This is a tactic used deliberately to desensitise the sanctity of religion”.
It’s the second time in two weeks that Fiji’s tourism strategies have been bogged in controversy.
On April 23, news.com reported authorities in Fiji were downplaying the need to warn Australian visitors about an outbreak of meningococcal disease, saying the Australian vaccination program ensured pre-vaccinated tourists would have a “low risk of actually catching meningococcal when they visit Fiji”.