Tonga Tourism Industry Having Problems Attracting Investment

Dialogue on state of industry held at Tanoa Dateline Hotel

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Jan. 31, 2017) – Tonga's tourism industry wants to make Tonga a highly desirable tourism destination, but has difficulty in attracting investment of the quality and scale that will help it grow, said the Minister of Tourism Hon Semisi Sika in opening Tourism Industry Day, yesterday.

Local tourism operators attended the event at the Tanoa International Dateline Hotel, engaging in dialogue on the current state of the industry, while revisiting targets and aspirations that have been set for 2020.

Hon. Sika told more than 50 tourism operators that the first of a two-day Retreat Program with stakeholders aimed for them to engage and dialogue frankly with the Ministry.
He said this will be based on a realistic review of the Tonga Tourism Roadmap, Tonga Strategic Development Framework II, and the Ministry’s Corporate Plan in relation to tourism development going forward.


Held under a theme “Tourism 2020”, the Minister revisited the targets made four-years ago, for what they aspired tourism for 2020.

The Minister said this included for tourism to be the main source of income for Tongans doubling from TOP50 million to TOP100 million per annum, to be a growing sector increasing from 15 percent to over 30 percent of national GDP, to be a primary source of employment increasing from 2000 to 4000 employed, among other goals.

At the time that these targets were formed the industry had 85 accommodation businesses of approximately 957 rooms.

Tongatapu accounted for 647 rooms, Vava’u 210, Ha’apai 83 and ‘Eua 17. The average occupancy level at 45 percent was low and less than half of the rooms were graded at three to four star level. Industry sources highlighted that there is a shortage of high quality resort accommodation and short and long term accommodation for business travellers as well as a shortage of good quality back-packers accommodation

He said today, the accommodation situation remains much the same with the exception of the Tanoa Hotel, which has successfully undergone the substantial refurbishment required. "We all look forward to this flagship hotel become an extremely successful tourism venture."

In 2010, a IFC Tourism Sector Diagnostic for Tonga also identified that a lack of an international branded product of significant size inhibits distribution by wholesalers.  In addition, a Diagnostic Travel Trade Survey showed that there is a lack of suitable accommodation and that there is a lack of tour product on all islands, as well as a quality inbound business centered hotel in Tongatapu.

The Industry Survey further highlighted that tour products and travelling around Tonga was difficult to organize, supporting the finding that there is a need for a quality inbound operation, he said.

He said based on the performance of the industry over the past four-years, it is evident that although they are fully aware of the problems and the solutions, the biggest challenge is how they can systemically overcome the barriers to Tonga, becoming a highly desirable tourism destination and how to attract investment of the quality and scale required in order for Tonga tourism to achieved the aspired goals.

"Today is about the stakeholders of tourism. The priority is on our stakeholder dialogue, so I urge you all to take the opportunity to listen, to dialogue and share ideas and best practices that will lead us to achieve our aspirations for 2020. 

"I cannot emphasize enough the value of your input as stakeholders of Tonga’s tourism industry to the success of this Retreat and moreover to our ability to re-confirm and be confident that we will collectively, as the tourism industry, achieve these agreed goals and priorities within the time-frame set.”


Christopher Cocker SPTO CEO at the forum working in partnership with the Ministry said this gathering was a good beginning for the new year for the people in the local industry to come together and consult, especially on how to move the way forward.

He said the Ministry leads the forum and SPTO will hold a tourism a statistics workshop for tourism staff to upgrade their skills as well as a private sector training with a facilitator from NZ on very good topics, he said.

We will look at SPTO priorities on a regional scale and what opportunities Tonga could tap into and hopefully the tourism retreat will re-align the local industry's targets and plans.

“My message to the stakeholder of Tonga's tourism of the importance of an unified tourism industry. Collaboration is the only way forward.”

The operators will hold a retreat on Tuesday, January 31.

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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