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Tonga could join ranks of Pacific Islands with direct airline services to China


Tongan tourism authorities have been in talks with Chinese authorities about the possibility of a service operated by China Southern Airlines.

Representatives of China southern are expected in Tonga later this month.

The Ministry of Tourism said in a press release the delegation would meet with government officials.

If negotiations are successful, a weekly direct service could start later this year.

The Ministry said a direct service would bring more tourists to the kingdom and increase foreign exchange earnings.

It is understood no additional airport expansion works were being planned for Nuku’alofa airport.

The airline is Asia’s biggest carrier, with its main hubs in Guangzhou and Beijing.

If the project service to Tonga goes ahead, the kingdom will join a number of other Pacific Islands which have established direct services to the Chinese mainland.

China Southern already flies to Fiji and the Solomon Islands, as well as to New Zealand and Christchurch.

Papua New Guinea, the largest Pacific island economy, launched a direct service to Shanghai with Air Niuginui last year.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, Chinese tourists account for 21 per cent of global travel spending.

In 2017, 145 million Chinese tourists travelled overseas, the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute said.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation said the annual number of Chinese travellers was forecast to continue to grow, with overseas trips expected to almost triple to 400 million by 2030.

However, the Chinese government decides which countries are on its approved list for lucrative state-run package tours and last year banned the tiny north Pacific nation of Palau because of its support for Taiwan.

SOURCE: KANIVA TONGA NEWS/PACNEWS

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