Less air arrival visitors driving total arrivals lower

International Arrivals & Departures February 2017

  Feb 17
Jan 17
Dec 16
Nov 16

Total Arrivals
9,410 10,008 16,324 7,642
Total Departures
10,601 11,812 15,208 7,657

Note: Total Arrivals & Departures including air, cruise ship and yacht arrivals & departures.
Source: Statistics Department

Total international arrivals1 continued to trend lower in February as it declined by 598 passengers (6.0%). Air arrivals decreased the most by 2,045 passengers (26.2%) driven by 1,630 (36.5%) decrease in returning residents. Additionally, there were no passengers arriving by yacht recorded for the month. However, the decline in air arrivals was partially offset by the cruise ship arrivals which rose over the month by 1,455 (66.5%) passengers.

The total international departures declined by 1,211 passengers (10.3%), in line with the decrease in total air arrivals. Air departure passengers fell by 2,660 passengers largely attributed to the 3,508 decline in non-Tongan passport holders leaving the country. It reflects the decline in air arrival visitors during the month, and the high number of visitors leaving the country in January.

Furthermore, the decreased international air arrivals coincided with the $4.0 million (39.6%) fall in travel receipts over the month. Although cruise ship arrivals increased but its has minimal impact on tourism earnings due to its usual one day stopover.

Over the year to February 2017, the total number of international arrivals grew by 16,518 passengers (15.5%). Sea arrivals2 (assuming they are all visitors) increased by 8,971 passengers (47.4%) as a result of larger number of cruise ships arriving and a favourable whale season during the year. Additionally, air returning residents rose by 3,838 passengers (11.6%) followed by a 3,709 (6.8%) rise in air arrival visitors. The number of celebrations and events that took place during the year to February 2017 supported this growth. This may have supported the transportation, trade and other sectors of the economy. The higher number of arrivals was also consistent with the $19.5 million (24.3%) increase in travel receipts recorded over the year.

The total international departures also rose by 13,921 passengers (12.9%) over the year due mainly to a rise of 8,521 passengers (48.6%) in cruise ship departures.


The Reserve Bank remains optimistic that the tourism sector will remain vibrant in the upcoming months. The remaining 17 cruise ships scheduled to arrive in the upcoming months of 2017 and events taking place in the near term are expected to bring in more visitors. Additionally, the signing of the mutual visa exemption agreement between Tonga and China, and the setting up of the Chinese group tours are expected to attract more tourists from China. The Reserve Bank will continue to closely monitor the country’s economic developments to support economic growth.

1 - Includes Tongan residents and visitors
2 - Includes cruise ship and yacht arrival passengers

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