Chitty says not only is the destination so much easier to sell now that she has been there, but she would also return. ‘I would do the whale experience again, probably more than once. It is so close to New Zealand and such an awesome experience.’ The wholesale group was hosted specifically by Scenic Hotels and flew Air New Zealand, but the effort was really a ‘pan-Tonga’ one. The agents split up to stay at small neighbouring local properties – Vakaloa and Heilala Hideaway Lodge – on the last night and visited White Sands, Sea View Lodge and Waterfront Lodge (for lunch) before catching the flight home. On previous nights they had stayed at Tanoa Dateline Hotel and Scenic Hotel Tonga. Other highlights (along with the whales) were a visit to Fafa Island Resort and a couple of tailor-made excursions with Tui’s Tiki Tours. Camille Descours, ATS Pacific AOT New Zealand, says Tonga seems to be an easy location to work with and she was impressed by the cultural aspects and historical attractions. ‘Ancient Tonga was a positive experience and the people were very informative and friendly.’
For Pacific with a difference recommend Tonga, say agents
The developing Pacific tourism destination of Tonga is a good sell for agents who have clients seeking alternatives to more frequently visited islands, say wholesale agents who have just returned from a famil there. ‘When agents ring and say that clients want something different, that’s when I would ask if they have thought of Tonga,’ says Nicole Chitty, of House of Travel product.