News 14 Jun 2018
Tonga as a tourist destination is attracting only a small share of travellers compared to leading Pacific destinations, which saw large increases in visitors in 2017, according to the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) report released last week.
Out of more than 2.13 million tourists visiting the region via air in 2017, an estimated 62,343 visitors arrived in Tonga, a share of only 2.9%
The leading tourist Pacific destination for 2017 is Fiji recording 842,884 arrivals, followed by French Polynesia 198,956, Cook Islands 161,362, Samoa 155,098, PNG 142,943, Palau 122,726, New Caledonia 120,697, Timor Leste 118,586, and Vanuatu 109,063.
Tonga is in the group of Pacific Islands which share the lowest tourist arrivals including the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) 30,060, Solomon Islands 25,709, American Samoa 19,987, Niue 9,805, Marshall Islands 6,034, Kiribati 5,663, Nauru 3,002, and Tuvalu 2,530.
In the region overall, tourist arrivals grew by 3.1%, or 65,004 from 2016 to 2017.
Tonga’s share of this growth was 3,304 rising from 59,130 visitors in 2016 to 62,434 in 2017. This represents a percentage change of 5.6%.
The report shows that Tonga is attracting more tourists from China, Japan, Europe, UK, Canada, USA, NZ and other countries, over the last few years, while Australian visitors are in decline.
Chinese tourists to Tonga increased by 688 from 1,318 in 2016 to 2,006 in 2017, the biggest growth out of visiting countries.
However, New Zealand and Australian tourists continue to top the source market for the Pacific Islands.
New Zealand tourists to Tonga have increased by 630 from 27,545 in 2016 to 28,175 in 2017.
Meanwhile Australian visitors to Tonga dropped slightly by 29 from 12,953 in 2016 to 12,924 in 2017 and other Pacific Islands visitors to Tonga also dropped by 376 from 3,560 in 2016 to 3,149 in 2017.
Tourist arrivals by sea (mainly cruise ships) in 2017 in nine Pacific destinations totalled 982,798. Unfortunately, no figures were listed for Tonga in 2017 to confirm growth or decline in visitors via sea. In 2016, tourist arrivals by cruise ship to Tonga was 20,047, and arrivals by yacht was 1,818.
New Caledonia leads the Pacific region as a tourist destination for cruise ships with 493,278 visitors recorded in 2017. Vanuatu follows with 223,551 arrivals and Fiji places third with 184,425.
Meanwhile, the total number of visitors to the region via air and sea totalled over 3.1 million in 2017.
Source: Matangi Tonga