TONGA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY URGED TO BE MORE AGGRESSIVE

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TONGA’S TOURISM INDUSTRY URGED TO BE MORE AGGRESSIVE

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (March 16, 2000 - Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat)---Tonga’s Minister of Tourism, Dr. Masaso Paunga, has urged tourism officials and private tour operators to take a more aggressive approach in tourism marketing in the wake of declining foreign aid.

Paunga said Tonga holds great potential for visitors but has been slow to promote its tourism events.

"We have a distinctive and unique place with interesting festivals, but unfortunately we only advertise it only about a week or two before (the event)," he said.

He said major tourist events should be marketed one to two years in advance.

"If we can do that we would give more opportunity to the tour operators, airlines, and (hotel) accommodations," he said.

Paunga made his comments before a tourism briefing of marketing representative from Tonga, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.

Tonga’s Director of Tourism, Semisi Taumoepeau, has urged the industry to take a more innovative approach to marketing in order to be more competitive.

"We have to outsmart the rest of our competitors in neighboring South Pacific islands," he said.

Taumoepeau urged more public and private sector cooperation in the wake of diminishing foreign aid for tourism marketing.

He noted other destinations in the Pacific region -- such as Fiji, Cook Islands, Niue, and Vanuatu -- are experiencing similar cuts to their tourism budgets.

"Since funds are not so forthcoming, we have to do it ourselves," he said. "We have to make sure the industry grows in the right direction."

For additional reports from Radio Australia/Pacific Beat, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia/Pacific Beat.

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