Tongan made handicrafts known as koloa faka-Tonga were on display at the Cruise Shipping Miami Convention Centre in Miami from 16-19 March, 2015.
These were mats and tapa cloth known as ngatu and they were among 900 stands from 125 countries which were displayed during the conference.
It was an opportunity for the Tongan tourism committee to promote its new manual that contains updated and correct tour guide information about Tonga.
Monalisa Palu, National Coordinator of the Tonga Handicrafts and Cultural Tourism Support Programme said: “Our culture is truly unique and rich and people are awed by our heritage arts so we were delighted to have brought the ngatu all the way from Tonga.”
“We decided to hang it up on our wall in the combined South Pacific Cruise Alliance booth featuring 8 Pacific islands including Tonga. It gave us a point of differentiation from our neighbouring countries and immediately drew the attention of visitors,” she added.
Monalisa said the Chairman of Tonga’s Cruiseship Steering Committee Steve Edwards presented the ngatu as a gift to Tahiti’s Minister of Tourism during the Presidents of the Member Cruise Lines Welcome Reception hosted by Tahiti.
“Again, Tonga was promoted here because we laid out the full ngatu and the process and story was explained which made it even more fascinating for the audience and in this highly competitive cruise industry with so many ports and destinations, it is important to be authentic and unique,” Monalisa said.
The conference was also an opportunity for Tonga to share its “biosecurity requirements and quality assurance manual on handicrafts developed by the Tonga Handicrafts and Cultural Tourism Support Programme which was reviewed and approved by Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, New Zealand’s Ministry of Primary Industries and Tonga’s Ministry of Agriculture & Food, Forests and Fisheries”.
Monalisa said it appeared the information currently given to tourists about Tonga were outdated resulting in lack of buying of handicrafts and local products when cruise ships arrived in Tonga.
She said: “some of them were advised on the ship not to buy and so we worked towards reducing the impediments and providing the correct information thanks to Tonga’s MAFFF, Australia and NZ”.
Monalisa also said: “Last year we met with managers in Miami and realised the issue and since this is where the decision makers come to, we had to ensure we could furnish the right information so last year we made sure we got this manual done and more importantly, reviewed by the authorities and this year for the first time, we were able to share this so that they could then pass on the correct information to their ships visiting our shores.”
The Tonga Handicrafts and Cultural Tourism Support Programme aims to Enhance the Sustainable Livelihood Opportunities for Handicrafts and Cultural Tourism Experience providers.