Celebrations were underway earlier this month in the small nation of Tonga, following the grand opening of Nuku’alofa’s new Vuna cruise ship wharf. The wharf opened on December 10, marking the beginning of a new era for Tonga and for cruise tourism in the country.
Tonga, officially known as the Kingdom of Tonga, is a sovereign state and archipelago comprised of 176 islands located across the southern Pacific Ocean. Only 52 of those islands are inhabited. However, that might all change if the cruise market begins to boom. According to Tonga’s Prime Minister, the new wharf will “become a hallmark of Tonga’s economic development.” He believes there is untapped earning potential from the cruise tourism industry, which the wharf should help to increase, in turn, helping to expand the nation and improve conditions for the people of Tonga. The Prime Minister emphasized that the Vuna wharf developments have been aimed at developing a hub of tourism activities, a “magnet for cruise ships” as well as catering to “visiting yachts” and the trade of handicrafts and tourist-related goods and services.
In addition, the Ministry of Commerce, Tourism & Labour has recognized the new wharf as an opportunity for Tonga to increase its stance as a cruise destination. The region will have a competitive edge over others that will only be further enhanced by the development of a cruise sector plan, which includes a strategy to improve cruise facilities and cruise day-to-day operations, such as passenger satisfaction and overall experience. Tonga hopes the new wharf will provide travelers with a high quality port and destination experience for cruise goers. The Ministry has included the development of the cruise sector plan in its 2013 work program and has stated it will work with the private sector to ensure that any future cruise visits are coordinated better to maximize tourism growth in the area.
A new Tonga Tourism Authority is being established that will work closely with the Ports Authority and relevant Government Ministries to ensure the new wharf will accommodate travelers’ needs as well as stimulate economic growth in the nation. At the inaugural docking of the MV Ocean Pacific, the earning potential of the new wharf was showcased. The Ocean Pacific was carrying 700 passengers when it docked in Tonga, with cruise goers taking advantage of handicraft stalls set up at the wharf and visiting different areas of the country before departing.
However, despite the possibilities the new wharf may bring for Tonga, it is important that passengers and crewmembers exercise caution when at a new port. Workers may not be completely accustomed to the new wharf and accidents might occur as a result. Our cruise ship injury lawyers have seen many occasions when port conditions caused serious injuries or fatalities. Cruise passengers can enjoy everything Tonga has to offer, while still keeping an eye out for possible mishaps.
Photo Credit: travel.nationalgeographic.com