7 Nov 2006

Tonga Tourism chief agrees change needed

12:31 pm on 7 November 2006

Tonga's Director of Tourism says he agrees with some of the conclusions of a hard-hitting report on the current situation in Tonga.

The report, entitled 'Time for a change in Tonga' was prepared by the Australian Centre for Independent Studies, and identifies tourism and land reform as offering major opportunities for growth.

The report's author, Gaurav Sodhi, says tourism could be a much bigger earner for Tonga if impediments to foreign investment, such as excessive regulation, were removed.

The Director at the Ministry of Tourism, Viaga Palu, says he agrees, but says Tonga is already moving to make the necessary changes.

"We have been going through [a] major public sector reform exercise. And included in that exercise is removal of some of the regulatory requirements, new taxation has been introduced, with the ultimate aim to enhance the growth of the industry, especially from the foreign investment point of view."

Mr Palu says that Tonga does not have a specific target for increased foreign investment in the tourist sector, but does aim to continue growing visitor numbers and foreign exchange earnings from tourism.