Christmas holiday drove the total arrivals & departures higher

International Arrivals & Departures December 2016

  Dec 16
Nov 16
Oct 16
Sep 16

Total Arrivals
16,324 7,642 14,156 8,451
Total Departures
15,208 7,657 14,583 7,896

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

Total international arrivals1 increased significantly over the month indicating a vibrant tourism sector during the month. Majority of purpose of air arrival visitors’ trip was to visit relatives and friends for the Christmas holidays, which is the usual trend for December each year as people come for the summer holiday season. In addition, there were visitors who were attending events scheduled for the month which included the 50th school anniversary of Channel College – Kelana.

Total international arrivals rose to 16,324 passengers by 113.6% during the month. Total visitors2 increased to 13,275 by 220.3% from 4,145 passengers in November 2016. Four cruise ships arrived in December which brought in 5,155 passengers. Air arrival visitors also increased to 8,108 passengers (108.9%) while yacht arrivals only recorded 12 passengers in December 2016.

The air returning residents decreased by 448 passengers (12.8%) while the resident departure of all age group increased by 1,923 passengers (52.7%). This reflected the holiday season from school and work.

Accordingly, the rise in total arrivals over the month is consistent with the 98.6% increase in total international departures to 15,208 passengers. Furthermore, the increased international arrival coincided with the significant $5.2 million (69.4%) increase in travel receipts over the month which also recorded the highest travel receipts for the year of $12.8 million.

In year ended terms, the total number of international arrivals grew by 19,392 passengers (18.6%). Air arrival visitors rose by 5,378 passengers (10.0%), followed by a 5,283 rise (16.8%) in air returning residents. Sea arrivals3 (assuming they are all visitors) increased by 8,731 passengers (46.4%) as a result of larger number of cruise ships arriving during the year. The number of celebrations and events that took place during the year to December 2016 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 $16.0 million (20.1%) increase in travel receipts recorded over the year.

The total international departures also rose by 16,887 passengers (16.0%) over the year due mainly to a rise of 8,469 passengers (9.8%) in departures by air.


The Reserve Bank remains optimistic that the tourism sector will remain vibrant in the upcoming months. The 21 cruise ships scheduled to arrive in 2017 and events will bring in 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 yatch

Download the full report: International Arrivals & Departures - December 2016

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