Church conferences and other events drive international arrivals higher in May

International Arrivals & Departures May 2017

  May 17
Apr 17
Mar 17
Feb 17

Total Arrivals
10,307 7,031 8,490 9,410
Total Departures
9,096 6,697 8,135 10,601

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

The occasions that took place in May drove total international arrivals1 to rise over the month by 3,276 passengers (46.6%). All categories of international arrivals increased, air arrivals rose by 2,033 passengers (30.4%), which comprised of visitors and returning residents increasing by 1,416 (36.9%) and 617 (21.6%) passengers respectively. Events that took place during the month which may have contributed to this trend include the annual church conferences as well as the “family month” with the commemoration of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day . Total sea arrivals also increased by 1,243 passengers (367.8%), owing to one cruise ship that arrived during the month which brought in 1,371 passengers, compared to the previous month with no cruise ship arrival. The start of the whale watching season also contributed to the increase in the yacht arrival passengers to 210. Majority of the visitors were from New Zealand followed by Australia and the United States of America. Most visitors were here to visit families, on holiday, followed by business trips.

The total international departures increased by 2,417 passengers (36.2%) to 9,096 passengers, in line with the increase in international arrivals, and 6,261 passengers (68.8%) were non-Tongan passport holders.

Moreover, travel receipts rose over the month by $1.9 million (27.3%) coinciding with the increase in total international air arrivals.

In year ended terms, the total number of international arrivals grew by 12,256 passengers (11.1%). Sea arrivals2 (assuming they are all visitors) increased by 8,769 passengers (44.9%) as a result of the increase in the number of cruise ships arriving and a favourable whale season during the year. Additionally, returning residents arriving by air rose by 1,860 passengers (5.4%), followed by a 1,627 (2.9%) rise in air arrival visitors. The number of celebrations and events that took place during the year to May 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 $21.9 million (26.4%) increase in travel receipts recorded over the year.

The total international departures also rose by 9,304 passengers (8.4%) over the year mainly due to the 8,332 rise in passengers (45.9%) departures on cruise ships.


The Reserve Bank remains optimistic that the tourism sector will remain vibrant in the upcoming months given the scheduled annual church conferences, and the Heilala Festival which are expected to bring in more visitors. Additionally, the whale watching season will keep the number of passenger arrivals on yachts at a high level until this season is over, approximately in October. 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


Economics Department
National Reserve Bank of Tonga

Telephone: (676) 24057
Fax: (676) 24201 

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


International Arrivals & Departures - May 2017
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