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NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 12) – Tourists from Mainland China are expected to start using Tonga as a holiday destination later this year, said Va'inga Palu, Director of Tourism, who this week welcomed the Chinese vice-minister for tourism and Chinese tour operators.

Va’inga said that at present, the Tongan tourism industry could cater to only small Chinese tour groups of 20 to 30 people per group.

Tonga last year was granted an Approved Destination Status by the Chinese Government, meaning that Chinese tourists may visit Tonga because Tonga has met all their requirements with regards to things like security and the standard of accommodation facilities.

[PIR editor’s note: The largest hotel in Nukualofa, Tonga’s capital - the International Dateline Hotel – is owned and operated by the Chinese government. See story.]

The visit to Tonga by the Chinese Vice Minister for Tourism, Mr. Zhang Xiqin, and 31 of China’s major tourist operators from April 8 to10 to assess the Tonga tourist market has confirmed that Tonga will soon be using its approved status.

While the delegation was in Nuku'alofa, they met Tonga Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism Cecil Cocker, and members of the Tonga Tourist Association.

Cecil Cocker, during an official welcome ceremony told the delegates that their visit to Tonga was historical because it fulfilled a promise that was made to the King of Tonga in October 2004 for Tonga to become a Chinese holiday destination.

April 13, 2006

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