Tonga encourages local whale-watching operators


One of Tonga’s biggest tourism draws – whale watching – will see more local operators in the fray, with the Government issuing as many as 24 licences to firms mainly in the country’s Vava’u group of islands. <!--more-->

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This is an increase of 20 over the last season. The season runs from June to October.

The new licences will be valid for two years instead of one and the fee has now been reduced.

Several former local operators had stopped functioning following the tourism downturn due to the global financial crisis, which led to more foreign firms operating services. The Government has now made changes to facilitate getting back the interest of local businesses to operate whale-watching services.

Alisi Holani of the Ministry of Commerce, Tourism and Labour told Radio New Zealand International that the Government was in the process of drafting a set of regulations for whale-watching and whale-swimming. Conservationists have raised concerns about the increased numbers of operators, some of who may not be aware of safety and other aspects of the activity.