19 Apr 2007

Tonga plans a new approach to tourism with visitors participating in the country's culture

12:56 pm on 19 April 2007

Tonga is aiming to take a new approach to tourism, with visitors participating in the country's culture.

An economic summit this week has agreed to set up an independent national economic council, to diversify agriculture and to establish origin or show case shops overseas through which Tongan goods can be marketed.

Cabinet minister, Paul Karalus, says they also want to see changes in the tourism experience to embrace Tonga's welcoming culture.

He says they want to have visitors take part, not treat the culture as a museum piece.

"We are not a zoo. We want people to come and join with us. Go to church, join the choir, play sport, stroll on the beach, sing the lullabies, enjoy the setting sun, drink the kava, just be part of us. That's a who new approach to tourism that we would like to see because it gets to the grass roots level. Most of all Tonga has this great giving people a sense of belonging - though you come as a stranger you leave as a friend."