12 Mar 2012

Development conference concludes tourism best option for Tonga

4:35 pm on 12 March 2012

Tourism is seen as the best chance for Tonga to quickly improve its struggling economy but several issues need to be ironed out first.

This is one of the outcomes of last week's economic development conference called in Nuku'alofa to look at ways to turn the economy around.

Deputy opposition leader Dr Sitiveni Halapua, who attended the meeting, says issues that need to be sorted are cleaner facilities, such as public toilets, more detail on how many tourists visit, and analysis of the economic impact.

Dr Halapua says a factor in Tongan, and most Pacific tourism, is the leakage of earnings back overseas, and how to overcome this.

"If you go to restaurants, you go to the hotel here, you look at what they serve in terms of food - every tourist has to eat - a great proportion of that is actually imports, so there is a link there between tourism and agriculture but that needs to be addressed as well because I know there are a lot of tourist resort owners here in Tonga complain that they can't get what they need from local growers."