NIUE TOURISM WORRIES ABOUT LACK OF SEATS ON NEW JET FLIGHTS

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ALOFI, Niue (September 23, 2002 -- www.niuenews.nu/PINA Nius Online)---Niue tourism operators are disappointed with the seat allocations for the new Polynesian Airlines flights providing a jet link between Auckland and Niue.

They say only 40 seats have been allocated for Niue travelers on the flights, which will call on Niue once a week each way while flying Apia-Auckland and Auckland-Apia.

Infrastructure on the island could handle at least 100 tourists per week, the operators say.

But they predict most of the Niue seats on the Polynesian Airlines Boeing 737-800s will be filled by local residents and only a handful will be left for tourists.

At present, 66 seats are available on three Royal Tongan Airline turboprop flights a week out of Nuku'alofa to Niue and return.

More than 100 beds are available on Niue in a resort, a hotel, and several motels and guesthouses.

Tourism is regarded as critical for the island's economic development, but collapsed after the loss of an earlier Royal Tongan Airlines jet service from Auckland.

Niue Government officials say the seating will be reviewed once the service gets under way next month.

Air fares for the Auckland-Niue return route are being advertised January - November at NZ$ 1,090 (US$ 511.32) -- that's nearly NZ$ 200 (US$ 93.82) cheaper than the present fares.

Government officials say a special introductory NZ$ 899 (US$ 421.73) return fare will be available out of New Zealand from October 28 to November 30, 2002.

Polynesian Airlines is flying its Boeing 737-800s from Apia to Auckland and will drop into Niue on Saturdays from Auckland and return on Mondays.

It is understood Royal Tongan Airlines will continue a weekly turboprop service to Niue from Nuku'alofa return, probably on Mondays.

Premier Young Vivian confirmed Niue had been allocated only 40 seats and if an agreed number of seats were not sold during the year a subsidy would have to be paid.

But while Niueans are sky high over Polynesian Airlines decision to provide a weekly direct jet link the Samoa Observer newspaper says the decision is a "foolish venture."

Award-winning editor-in-chief Savea Sano Malifa writes in an editorial: "The news has sent shivers up the spine.

"Anyone who's 'commercially-literate' enough can see from a glance that without the government's help, this venture cannot succeed."

Malifa asked how, if resource-rich Air New Zealand does not want to operate to Niue because it's not feasible, how can financially troubled Polynesian make it work profitably?

With a population of just 1,750 -- another 15,000 live permanently in New Zealand -- and no big hotels, Niue is an uncertain market any serious airline would stay clear from, he said.

"Why spend Samoan taxes to fill up hotels in other countries? So let's hope the New Zealand government is subsidizing the Niue service," he said.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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