South Pacific Tourism Organization Meets In Tonga

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PM Lord Tu‘ivakano: Tourism is only sector consistently growing

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Oct. 30, 2014) – Tourism plays an integral role in the economic development of our Small Pacific Island countries, so finding solutions and opportunities for sustainable development is most important, Tonga’s Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano told the 24th South Pacific Tourism Organization Council of Ministers Meeting in Nuku’alofa today.

Opening the annual gathering attended by 15 member countries, Lord Tu’ivakano said for most Pacific islands the tourism sector is a major contributor to our GDP as the only economic sector in the Pacific to grow consistently across the region over the last five years.

He said this meeting is an important platform to share best practices, experiences, challenges but more importantly identify solutions and opportunity for the sustainable tourism development of our small island developing states.

"The tourism sector has been identified by our governments as a priority for future economic growth through the attraction of foreign direct investments, the generation of foreign exchange earnings, the stimulation of indigenous entrepreneurs and creation of employment, which links to other sectors such as transport, agriculture, fisheries, arts and crafts manufacture, but more importantly offers a major potential market for all these sectors."

He said there were key constraints to tourism development in the region such as distance, our narrow resource space, our small population and susceptibility to environmental and climate change, holding back development of regional individuality and as a cohesive group.

"The key is to focus on our strengths and uniqueness and integrate our efforts given the substantial differences in tourism across the Pacific Islands. Through partnership we can offset our weaknesess and through cooperative strategic actions on key focal areas to drive our competiveness."

Tonga

Lord Tu’ivakano said that tourism has been identified as the major economic opportunity for Tonga.

"It is our industry with the biggest potential to provide employment and income generation while supporting the redemption of cultural traditions and sustainable management of the nation’s environmental asset. To reinvigorate our domestic tourism industry we have taken actions at a national level by repealing the Tourism Act and enacting the Tonga Tourism Authority Act 2012, providing for the establishment and administration of theTonga Tourism Authority with the core responsibility for destination marketing and development, he said.

He said the Act further provided for the development of tourism to Tonga and supported sustainable tourism, consistent with Tonga’s culture and traditions, and recognised the environmental aspect of tourism.

The meeting appointed a new Council Chairman, Hon. Dr Viliami Latu, Tonga’s Minister for Tourism.

The meeting organised by SPTO in conjunction with the Tongan Government began yesterday with the Tourism of Directors Meeting. It was preceded by a series of tourism workshops earlier in the week. The meeting was attended by the Hon. Ham Lini Vanuararoa, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Tourism of Vanuatu; as well as Hon. Rimeta Beniaminia from Kiribati; Hon. Thomas Heine Minister from Marshall Islands, and Hon. Loma Eden from Fiji.

Meanwhile, the Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, who was in Nuku’alofa for the meeting, was not able to attend after falling ill yesterday. He is understood to have returned to Samoa today.

Other government members that were represented by proxies included American Samoa, China, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu.

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