24 Jul 2013

Suspension of NZ tourism aid to Tonga will have long-term effects - Minister

1:36 pm on 24 July 2013

Tonga's tourism minister says he expects the effects of New Zealand's suspension of tourism aid to hit the Kingdom in the next two months.

The New Zealand government has suspended millions of dollars of tourism aid to Tonga amid concerns an MA-60 aircraft gifted to the Kingdom from China is not safe.

Viliami Latu says New Zealand provides 70 percent of total funding to the marketing and promotion of Tonga's tourism, and its pulling out will have long-term effects.

"According to the statistics that we have received it hasn't been really affected, but I'm conscious of the fact it will affect in the next two months. The tourism partnership programme that we are having with New Zealand aid is planning for the long-term, for the next three to five years. It's part of the plan to promote and market Tonga as a tourism destination. I am afraid that it will highly affect what we have planned for."

Mr Latu says the Ministry has no say on whether the aircraft should be used, and is caught between those making the decisions and the New Zealand government.

He says the MA-60 aircraft in question is not yet in service.