25 May 2004

Airline grounding hurts Tonga tourism

4:08 pm on 25 May 2004

Many workers in the tourism industry in Vava'u have been laid-off due to a sharp decline in the number of tourist arrivals since Royal Tongan Airlines suspended its domestic services.

Radio Tonga reports affected employees, tour operators and tourism businesses will present a petition to the Legislative Assembly and the Government, highlighting their plight.

The petition is being distributed for signatures and calls on government to make urgent redress of their plight.

It also outlines the encouraging trend in the number of tourist arrivals in recent years when 5,000 were recorded in 2002 and 8,000 the following year.

The Vava'u Tourist Association targeted between 10,000 and 20,000 tourists would arrive in the island region this year.

The petition is expected to be sent to Nuku'alofa on Wednesday where businessman Samiu Vaipulu will forward it to the Legislative Assembly and the Government.

Meanwhile, more than 60 disgruntled people marched on Monday to the Governor's Office, led by tour operator, Kapelieli Cocker, and the Number One People's Representative to the Legislative Assembly, Trevor Guttenbeil.

The marchers aimed at stressing to government that the suspension of RTA's domestic air links has greatly affected the number of tourist arrivals to resorts, guest houses and hotels.