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New Zealand grant targets community-based tourism

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Jan. 29, 2011) - New Zealand has committed 5.2 million pa'anga [US$2.8 million] over three years to support the development of tourism in Tonga by funding the development of marketing activities and heritage sites to supporting community-based tourism association projects.

The funding agreement was signed by the New Zealand High Commissioner in Tonga HE Dr. Jonathan Austin, the Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano and the Minister of Tourism Hon 'Isileli Pulu at the Foreign Affairs office in Nuku'alofa on January 28.

Dr. Austin said the program would start immediately and the agreement was a very significant one aimed to bring about real economic development to the tourism sector in Tonga.

"This is a very significant investment and Tonga has great potential in tourism that it has not fully realized so New Zealand is very pleased to support this commitment to Tonga that would generate real benefits," he said.

Tonga's Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano thanked the New Zealand Government for funding such an important project for the tourism sector.

"This is a major commitment to Tonga and I am sure that through leadership of the Minister of Tourism and his department we will see more vigorous marketing efforts both in our key markets in New Zealand and Australia as well as product development in Tonga," he said.

The support includes allocating half a million pa'anga each in the two years of the three-year program to a Tourism Growth Fund that would make available certain amount to local and provincial tourism associations who submit project proposals to help develop tourism, particularly in the outer islands.

NZAID Manager in Tonga, Dominic Walton-France said this particular fund is targeted at community based tourism associations like that of 'Eua Tourism Association or the Whale Watching Association.

He said successful proposals could access a minimum of 20,000 pa'anga [US$10,800] while bigger projects could get 50,000 [US$26,900].

Proposals could range from an association wanting to set up rubbish bins in their area. A committee chaired by the Director of Tourism would handle the funds for the community projects, he said.

In addition other activities funded includes the development of market activities, improved licensing and regulation of operators, heritage sites development and management and better research to guide marketing.

Dominic said in the three years of the program the support would allocate 200,000 pa’anga [US$108,000] each for the development of heritage sites in Tonga. A National Tourism Taskforce would decide the priority sites, he said.

This approach to developing tourism in Tonga was developed in close consultation with the Government of Tonga and the tourism industry.

The assistance is delivered through the Ministry of Tourism in cooperation with the private sector.

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