TONGA TOURISM ON MEND AFTER RIOT

News Release

Tonga Now Nuku’alofa, Tonga Jan. 19, 2007

Visitors to Tonga may have dwindled in numbers after the November 16 riots, but tourist operators are glad about one thing – they’re still coming. And it appears that their numbers may be increasing.

The Ministry of Tourism says talks with tourist operators and travel agencies revealed that bookings are still being made.

Tonga Now spoke with one such operator – Sven Quick of the Heilala Holiday Lodge, who said they have been surprised with a sudden increase in bookings in the last two to three weeks.

Quick says there appears to be a change of trend to short-term bookings. Many are made ‘last minute’ and are for the near future rather than a few months further into the year.

"We’re taking things a day at a time. In the longer view, we can’t predict much what will happen in the long run, bookings in June and July are low, suggesting people are staying away perhaps because they don’t want to commit to six months down the line from a fear there may be a relapse."

Still, they are pleased that even now, there are tourists who aren’t fazed by the events of November 16.

Most of the tourists who have not cancelled bookings are from Europe. Sven says this may be because the media coverage of the riots in Europe was rare. He said some of his European guests were unaware a riot took place. A lot of cancellations came from Australia and New Zealand where potential tourists followed their countries’ travel advisory against coming to Tonga. On the good side, those travel advisories are now positive.

The Tonga Visitors Bureau said they are looking forward to more tourists, although like Sven they are cautious about the coming months, particularly peak seasons like July. Even so, they said the rise in tourist numbers is an indication that there is still confidence in Tonga as a safe tourist destination – a theme strongly promoted by their team conducting a campaign in New Zealand.

Tonga Now is the website of the Reform Information Office, a unit within the Office of the Minister of Finance. The unit was established to assist the Minister of Finance in disseminating information to the public.

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