Tonga has new plans to expand tourism
Tonga plans to expand its tourism industry and accommodate more visitors.
The country's small population has swelled over the past two weeks as visitors arrived to celebrate the coronation of KingTupou VI.
An estimated 15 thousand extra people meant the capital was bursting at the seams.
Indira Moala has this report from Nuku'alofa.
About three times more people visited Tonga this month for Tupou the Sixth's coronation than for that of his brother George Tupou the fifth, held in 2008.
That's a 15 percent increase in Tonga's entire population.
The ten days worth of festivities come on top of July's usual busy calendar of events including the annual Heilala festival.
An executive at the Ministry of Tourism in Tonga, Sione Moala Mafi, says improved planning could help.
SIONE MOALA MAFI: The limitation and the capacity of accomodation in Tonga is so limited, and also the services. If we, apart from the coronation, spread out the events throughout the year so that we benefit from people travelling rather than queuing people.
The government has decided that boosting the tourism industry will be the fastest way to an economic recovery for Tonga.
Mr Mafi says it is looking at tripling the current tourism budget through aid and investment.
SIONE MOALA MAFI: We are looking at upgrading airports and airstrips in the outer islands as well as another international airport in Vava'u. We are trying to open up the airlinks and even to attract investors. We don't have to build hotels ourselves. We can attract investors to build it for us. So we are looking at reclaiming some areas in the front harbour of Nuku'alofa and so that will be most appropriate for some of the, say, 5 star hotels to be built.
Meanwhile the Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva has defended the thousands of dollars spent on an advertorial on Tonga in Forbes magazine which has been raising some eyebrows in the country.
He says it was aimed at attracting foreign investors.
AKILISI POHIVA: The interview is intended to attract and to advertise Tonga among the circle of the rich people. I think it will attract, in one way or the other, investors to come and invest here in Tonga.
The two page advertorial featured an interview with Mr Pohiva and cost the government US$150,000, which is more than a quarter of its annual tourism budget.
The government is also planning to bring in improved policies and regulations for foreign investment to develop tourism and fast track economy growth.
However it has also introduced charges on foreign exchange and a hike in the departure tax by almost 50 US dollars, to help fund the 2019 Pacific Games.
The move has sparked criticism from the Chair of the Tonga Advisory Council, Melino Maka, who says it will put off desperately needed tourists.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: